As demand increases for FDA-approved addiction medications to treat opioid-use disorders, potentially dangerous exposures to these medications among children are also occurring.
According to the study, "Buprenorphine Exposures among Children and Adolescents Reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers," in the July 2018 issue of Pediatrics, 11,275 children age 19 and younger exposed to buprenorphine were reported to poison control centers between 2007 and 2016, and 11 died as a result. Most exposures were among children under the age of 6 (86.1%) and were classified as unintentional (89.2%). Suspected suicide accounted for 12% of adolescent exposures.
Researchers reviewed data regarding buprenorphine exposures among U.S. children from a database of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and found and that the overall exposure rate per 1,000,000 children fluctuated during the study period, starting at 6.4 in 2007 and arriving at 12.6 in 2016 after peaking at 20.2 in 2010. Approximately 45% of children exposed to buprenorphine were admitted to a hospital and more than one-fifth had a serious medical outcome, including coma, respiratory depression, respiratory arrest, and cardiac arrest.
Researchers conclude that manufacturers should use unit-dose packaging for all buprenorphine products to help prevent unintentional exposure among young children, and health care providers should inform caregivers of young children about the dangers of buprenorphine exposure along with instructions on proper storage and disposal of medications. They caution that more research is needed on the scope of the problem because not all pediatric buprenorphine exposures are reported to poison control centers.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: