START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
2,205,308 people care about Health Policy

Confusion and Inconsistency in Children’s Liquid Medication Dosing

Confusion and Inconsistency in Children’s Liquid Medication Dosing

A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 200 top-selling over-the-counter liquid children’s medications have inconsistent or misleading dosing instructions.

If you’ve ever tried to interpret those miniscule measuring lines on the cups that sit atop the medicine bottles, this may come as no surprise. But it’s not just your eyes. The researchers who conducted the study found that almost 99 percent of over-the-counter (OTC) products that came with dosing devices had markings or instructions that didn’t match. “Among the measuring devices, 81.1 percent included 1 or more superfluous markings,” the authors wrote.

As MSNBC reported, “problems with the dosing devices included a lack of markings for the dose that was listed on the packaging; extraneous measurements; unusual abbreviations for dosing; and the use of units of measurement that parents may be unfamiliar with, such as ccs (cubic centimeters) or drams.”

Furthermore, the researchers found that many parents forgo the dosers and use regular teaspoons, which, of course can vary widely in size. “Kitchen spoons are really inaccurate,” Dr. H. Shonna Yin, lead author on the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the New York University School of Medicine told MSNBC.

The confusion has resulted in both under and overdosing of products such as Tylenol, Motrin, or Benadryl, and although rarely fatal, it’s still not acceptable.

Dr. Yin and her team are recommending consistency across the board: that a standardized measuring device with one agreed upon unit for measurement — such as milliliters — be included with all over-the-counter liquid products.

The researchers conducted the study in anticipation of the Food and Drug Administration’s release last November of new, voluntary guidelines for labeling children’s medications, so it’s really too early to know if the guidelines have taken full effect.

“This study is intended to establish baselines. The plan is to take another look in a year or so to see if changes have been made,” Dr. Yin said.

In the meantime, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group for 95 percent of the OTC medicine manufacturers issued a statement in response to the JAMA study and stated “It is our goal that all OTC medicines will fully follow the guidelines by the end of 2011.”

MSNBC reported that in an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Darren DeWalt, an assistant professor in the department of medicine and clinical epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, wrote the problems were troubling because when researchers have looked at people’s use of dosing instructions, error rates have been as high as 50 to 60 percent.

But Dr. DeWalt told MSNBC: “I don’t think the current FDA guidance is clear enough, and more work needs to be done to get the error rate lower.”



Read more: , , , , , ,

Photo by conskepical

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
2:51PM PDT on Mar 20, 2011

Medicine should NOT be part of a free market system!

7:52PM PST on Dec 15, 2010

Thanks for important informations.

5:03PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

I agree with Maddie. it doesn't make any sense. our medicine system needs to be changed.

5:38AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

In Europe, dosing is based on per weight basis (usually kg) and a syringe is given in the medication box (cough syrup, liquid tylenol etc.) to measure the accurate dose/amount. Seems to work fine here. I'm surprised North America is so far behind on this! It doesn't make sense that a small 5 yr old would take as much medication as a large 10 yr old when he/she might weigh almost half the amount!

10:49AM PST on Dec 5, 2010

The misleading instructions or accuracy of the measuring cups is not good for anyone. Is this more big pharm making oodles of cash from the public? Why has is been allowed to go on for so long? Our children need to be protected.

3:52PM PST on Dec 4, 2010


2:23AM PST on Dec 4, 2010


7:31AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

I agree, Marilyn. VERY laughable! xD

9:37PM PST on Dec 2, 2010

Thanks for info

8:47PM PST on Dec 2, 2010

other than the guy commenting on the different sizes of household table/tea spoons instead of realizing there is an actual measurement tool for tea/table spoons. I found the article very on top. The units need to be changed. They need a spectrum as to dosage. A large fat child compared to a thin child would need a different amount of medicine. They need a chart, including weight, age, and level of sickness. Then you figure out the proper amount for you kid.

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Now science has "proved" something we've all known for literally years, will breed-specific legislation…

Oh my God, what sickness pervades the minds of people who could do such horrific things to poor, defenseless…

meet our writers

Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!