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Premature medicine 'could be harmful'

New research has raised concerns over the medication given to premature babies.
Drugs prescribed to premature babies could prove harmful, a new study from the University of Leicester has suggested.

A team of researchers from the university and Leicester Royal Infirmary found that the liquid medicine typically given to babies born before full-term could contain potentially harmful chemicals.

The team looked at the non-drug elements included in liquid medicines to chart the impact on babies. These additional ingredients – or excipients - add to the absorption rate of liquid medicine and improve their taste.

However, the chemicals used for this could have a negative impact on premature babies. The drugs expose babies to the same levels of ethanol, sorbitol and colouring agent Ponceaau 4R as found in three pints of beer a week.

Dr Andrew Currie, consultant at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, reminded parents that the results of the study should not give rise to unnecessary concern.

"Parents should not panic about these findings," he said. "These chemicals can be found in foods all around the world."

"It is often necessary that these chemicals are added to medications, and in the majority of cases it improves the way the drugs work, but we should be taking more of an interest in them and their effects," he added.

Dr Hitesh Pandya, who led the investigation, is to carry out further research into any possible cause and effect of the chemicals, explaining that this study did not find any medical problems caused by the additional ingredients.

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