One of the benefits of working at a large university is all of the different faculty you get a chance to work with. In this case, I collaborated with a group led by someone I have immense respect for – Dr. Sandra Benavides. She relayed that, “Medication safety and dosing information is often poorly delineated for paediatric patients as 75% of medications demonstrate insufficient labelling for these two purposes.”  So off-label or ‘unlicensed’ use of meds in peds is very common, with accompanying safety problems exacerbated by the more narrow therapeutic window in this population. Since use of clinical decision support tools is one strategy that has demonstrated the ability to help prevent med errors in peds  and the use of mobile devices in clinical practice has expanded substantially – we decided to systematically examine the quality of medicines information in a sample of commercially available tools. The article that came out of the study was recently published in Informatics in Primary Care.
Paediatric-specific tools evaluated included: British National Formulary for Children, Harriet Lane Handbook, and Paediatric Lexi-Drugs. Generalist tools included: A to Z Drug Facts, American Hospital Formulary Service Drug Information, Clinical Pharmacology OnHand, Epocrates Rx Pro, Lexi-Drugs, and Thomson Clinical Xpert. 108 questions (e.g., Can the sudden appearance of extrapyramidal symptoms in an 11-month-old infant be attributed to administration of metoclopramide for injection?) were distributed evenly across infant, children and adolescent subgroups. Answers for the evaluative questions were sourced from established sources and (due to the high rate of off-label prescribing for which no conventional source exists) clinical guidelines.
The verdict? “The best performer [Pediatric Lexi-Drug] provided 75.9% of the answers…Databases generally performed less effectively in providing answers sourced from clinical guidelines compared with more conservative sources such as package inserts”. Obviously the article itself goes into much more detail regarding scope and completeness of the tools and their performance based on several criteria. Hopefully the article adds some useful guidance and identifies both strengths and shortcomings with which these increasingly important tools and their nextgens can be improved upon.
1. Benjamin DK, Smith PB, Murphy MD et al. Peerreviewed publication of clinical trials completed for pediatric exclusivity. Journal of the American Medical Association 2006;296:1266–73.
2. Fortescue EB, Kaushal R, Landrigan CP et al. Prioritizing strategies for preventing medication errors and adverse drug events in pediatric inpatients. Pediatrics 2003;111:722–9.
3. Benavides S, Polen HH, Goncz CE, Clauson KA. A systematic evaluation of paediatric medicines information content in clinical decision support tools on smartphones and mobile devices. Informatics in Primary Care 2011;19(1):39-46.