Kids get codeine in ER despite risks, guidelines: study

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The painkiller codeine can be prescribed to young patients with coughs, but a new study says too many children are receiving the narcotic when alternative treatment methods are available. (Photo: PIX11)

CHICAGO (AP/PIX11) —Emergency rooms are prescribing the painkiller codeine to children too often, despite known risks associated with the narcotic, according to a new study.

The authors of the study said young patients with coughs, colds and injuries are receiving the drug even when alternatives are available, such as dark honey for cough.

Codeine is prescribed for children in at least half a million emergency room visits each year, the study — published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics — found.

It’s not rampant. The 10-year study finds just 3 percent of kids’ ER visits resulted in a codeine prescription in 2010. But with more than 25 million ER visits by children each year, the authors say that’s still too much.

Codeine is an opiate and a genetic variation makes some people metabolize it too quickly.

The Food and Drug Administration issued its strictest warning last year about a rare risk for life-threatening complications or death in children.

Another genetic variation makes the drug ineffective for pain relief in as many as a third of patients.