Using Herbs and Drugs with Children

What Doctors Don’t Tell You published 2 posts a couple of weeks ago, which highlight the lack of objective evaluation that health regulators have in assessing medications suitable for children:

 

Echinacea cold remedies are ‘dangerous’ for small children….

 
 
Health regulators have taken the first steps towards a total ban of natural products that contain Echinacea, campaigners fear.  UK and Irish authorities have this week warned parents against giving young children natural cold remedies that contain the herb.
 
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Irish Medical Board (IMB) say Echinacea can cause severe allergic reactions in children under the age of 12.  Product labelling will have to incorporate the warning.
 
Astonishingly, the warning is based on almost no evidence, other than one study.  The herb is considered to be safe by the authoritative European Medicines Agency.
 
The Alliance for Natural Health, which campaigns against restrictions on natural health products in Europe, believes the MHRA is testing the waters.  If there is no outcry to the warning, it may push on with a complete ban of the herb, it fears.
 
Send your protest to: richard.woodfield:mhra.gsi.gov.uk, or write to him: Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy, MHRA, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 1SZ.
 
(Source: ANH website: http://anh-europe.org/news/anh-intl-campaign-feature-uk-authorities-go-after-echinacea-for-kids)
 

…but powerful antipsychotics are fine

 
 
While it’s ‘dangerous’ for children to take natural cold remedies that contain Echinacea, it’s apparently safe to give a three-year-old a powerful antipsychotic drug.  Doctors certainly think so, and are ignoring all the health warnings to hand out more and more prescriptions to small children.
 
In fact, the ‘off-label prescribing’ of antipsychotics to children is increasing by around 60 per cent a year.  In the US alone, more than 350,000 children and adolescents are now regularly taking an antipsychotic.
 
Although the drugs are supposed to be used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, most of the prescriptions were written for children with an ADHD (attention-deficit, hyperactive disorder) diagnosis.  
 
Researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who researched the dramatic increase in antipsychotic prescribing, are concerned that the drugs may cause more harm than good.  They can cause serious metabolic side effects in children, such as diabetes and weight gain.
 
Instead of reaching for the prescription pad, doctors could be thinking of non-drug alternatives to treat ADHD, such as counselling, the researchers say.
 
(Source: Health Services Research, 2012; 47: 836-60).
 
 
It is important to note that if you are on a programme to address gut ecology it may not be helpful incorporate Echinacea into your supplement programme.  This is because Echinacea may bring added support to the immune system which means that the immune system may be able to fight a yeast over-growth more comprehensively, leading to a rapid increase in ‘die-off’ (Herxheimer) symptoms as the yeast is killed. Taking the more gentle approach of supporting the immune system with a tailor-made programme of nutritional supplements may well bring about some initial die-off but then its purpose is to support the body as other supplements get on with the work of addressing gut ecology – to encourage a balance of microbes in the gut. However, Echinacea may well be a herb that you keep at hand for use with the family – as long as they are over 12 years old.
I would also like to comment in relation to the use of antipsychotics with children.  I wouldn’t want to disagree with a doctors treatment protocol but it is worth knowing that research links food (both deficiencies of beneficial foods and excesses of unhelpful food stuffs), and gut ecology to child mental health and behaviour. Do email me at nutrition@emma-cockrell.com for more information. Never take a child off antipsychotic medication without the approval and advice of their doctor.