Healthy babies being given dangerous, unneeded prescription drugs

Thursday, October 20, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: babies, prescription drugs, health news

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(NaturalNews) The American Academy of Pediatrics is now encouraging the diagnosis of so-called Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in preschool age kids and calling for the drugging of those little ones with drugs like Ritalin if they don't respond to "behavior management techniques." Yes, if a four year old runs around too much and doesn't want to sit still and study his or her ABCs, it may well be time to drug the child into submission, according to the new guidelines.

But that's not the only disturbing news about Big Pharma and mainstream medicine's push to put younger Americans on potentially dangerous drugs. Now comes a warning from Dr. Eric Hassall, Staff Pediatrician Gastroenterologist at Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco, that tiny babies less than a year old are being over-prescribed acid-suppressing drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

It used to be considered just a normal part of being an infant if a baby cried and spit up sometimes. Not anymore. Now it is a "condition" needing treatment with drugs that are fraught with potential dangers even in adults.

In a statement to the media, Dr. Hassall pointed out that the use of PPI drugs in babies less than a year old has increased enormously over the last decade. And it's a change in medical practice, he said, that is not based in medical science.

Big Pharma pushes drugging of infants

If giving an infant drugs isn't based on real need or science, how could this be happening? Dr. Hassall stated in a commentary just published in The Journal of Pediatrics that the rise of these prescriptions for babies is primarily the result of Big Pharma's aggressive direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs, such as its promotion of the misleading term "acid reflux," frequent self-misdiagnosis, and demand for medication.

"It is recognized that more advertising leads to more requests by patients for advertised medicine, and more prescriptions. The term 'acid reflux' as used in the marketing of PPIs to adults, has simply trickled down to infants," Dr. Hassall noted. He added that most "reflux" in infants is not caused by "acid" at all. In fact, it can't be caused by acid because the stomach contents in babies have been buffered by frequent feedings.

What's more, randomized, controlled studies have shown that PPIs are no better than placebo for most babies who spit up, cry for no apparent reason or seem irritable. Dr. Hassall explained that spitting up in otherwise healthy, thriving infants is absolutely normal. Known technically as "physiological reflux," it goes away on its own and doesn't need prescription drugs.

Obviously, little babies have a limited range of responses to stimuli. Irritability or unexplained crying, with or without spitting up, is simply most often just a normal developmental phenomenon -- especially in infants 2-5 months old, Dr. Hassall stated. While it's true when some babies start crying, they may have trouble calming themselves and need rocking or other soothing by parents or caretakers. But this isn't a medical condition needing drugs. It is a normal part of the early life of a baby and it improves with maturation and age.

In his recently published article, Dr. Hassall said the state of being new in the world and getting used to new body sensations, such as gas, also may contribute. If there is severe unexplained crying in otherwise healthy infants, prevalent causes include sensitivity to cow's milk protein or other dietary components. He added that non-drug measures, such as simply a change in diet, letting time pass and reassurance, usually solve the problem.

GERD mania and pushing PPIs

"In the absence of better information and physician guidance, being fed by advertising and misinformation on the Internet, parent blogs have increasingly promoted the 'my-baby-has-acid-reflux-and-needs-drugs' concept. Parents, concerned by their infant's symptoms of apparent suffering, take their concern to doctors, who very frequently comply and prescribe acid-suppressing medications for symptoms and signs that in most cases are not GERD. GERD-mania is in full cry, so to speak," Dr. Hassall concluded.

As NaturalNews has previously reported, Big Pharma's hugely profitable PPI drugs (such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex and Protonix) are pushed for indigestion because they are supposedly stronger and faster acting than other older acid suppressing and acid neutralizing meds.

But according to a series of reports published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, not only are PPIs being over-prescribed and over-used but they are fraught with health dangers, including a 74 percent increase in infections due to Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a bacterium that can cause life-threatening diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, and a dramatic risk in bone fractures in women (

In his new paper, Dr. Hassall pointed out that gastric acid is an early line of defense against infection, and important for nutrition. By prescribing acid suppressing medications, especially PPIs, to infants without GERD, pediatricians are putting babies at a higher risk for infections like pneumonia and gastroenteritis. Giving PPIs to babies can also lead to abnormalities in the levels of essential minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B12.

"We are putting a medical spin on what is normal," Dr. Hassall asserted in his paper. "In most infants, these symptoms are life, not a disease, and do not warrant treatment with drugs, which can have significant adverse effects."

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