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AimsTo comprehensively investigate the incidence, nature and risk factors of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in a hospital-based population of children, with rigorous assessment of causality, severity and avoidability, and to assess the consequent impact on children and families. We aimed to improve the assessment of ADRs by development of new tools to assess causality and avoidability, and to minimise the impact on families by developing better strategies for communication.Review methodsTwo prospective observational studies, each over 1 year, were conducted to assess ADRs in children associated with admission to hospital, and those occurring in children who were in hospital for longer than 48 hours. We conducted a comprehensive systematic review of ADRs in children. We used the findings from these studies to develop and validate tools to assess causality and avoidability of ADRs, and conducted interviews with parents and children who had experienced ADRs, using these findings to develop a leaflet for parents to inform a communication strategy about ADRs.ResultsThe estimated incidence of ADRs detected in children on admission to hospital was 2.9% [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.5% to 3.3%]. Of the reactions, 22.1% (95% CI 17% to 28%) were either definitely or possibly avoidable. Prescriptions originating in the community accounted for 44 out of 249 (17.7%) of ADRs, the remainder originating from hospital. A total of 120 out of 249 (48.2%) reactions resulted from treatment for malignancies. Off-label and/or unlicensed (OLUL) medicines were more likely to be implicated in an ADR than authorised medicines [relative risk (RR) 1.67, 95% CI 1.38 to 2.02; p  48 hours, the overall incidence of definite and probable ADRs based on all admissions was 15.9% (95% CI 15.0 to 16.8). Opiate analgesic drugs and drugs used in general anaesthesia (GA) accounted for > 50% of all drugs implicated in ADRs. The odds ratio of an OLUL drug being implicated in an ADR compared with an authorised drug was 2.25 (95% CI 1.95 to 2.59; p ConclusionThe Adverse Drug Reactions In Children (ADRIC) programme has provided the most comprehensive assessment, to date, of the size and nature of ADRs in children presenting to, and cared for in, hospital, and the outputs that have resulted will improve the management and understanding of ADRs in children and adults within the NHS. Recommendations for future research: assess the values that parents and children place on the use of different medicines and the risks that they will find acceptable within these contexts; focusing on high-risk drugs identified in ADRIC, determine the optimum drug dose for children through the development of a gold standard practice for the extrapolation of adult drug doses, alongside targeted pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies; assess the research and clinical applications of the Liverpool Causality Assessment Tool and the Liverpool Avoidability Assessment Tool; evaluate, in more detail, morbidities associated with anaesthesia and surgery in children, including follow-up in the community and in the home setting and an assessment of the most appropriate treatment regimens to prevent pain, vomiting and other postoperative complications; further evaluate strategies for communication with families, children and young people about ADRs; and quantify ADRs in other settings, for example critical care and neonatology.FundingThe National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research programme.


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Institute of Child Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK