Background: KidsMeds is a Plymouth, Mass., nonprofit that helps parents understand drugs prescribed to children. Launched several years ago by pediatric pharmacist Heidi Belden, the site is funded by a grant from the American Pharmaceutical Assn., as well as donations from individuals and corporations.
What Works: The best feature is Pediatric Pharmacist Online, which promises an answer to any question about your child's medicine within 24 hours. In response to a colleague's question asking whether a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder could inhibit growth, for example, Belden shot back an e-mail saying that yes, it could. "To minimize the potential, a pediatrician may recommend drug holidays--a period of time when the child does not take the medication ... or a different type of medication." She attached two pages of further information on the drug, all very readable. The site highlights recently approved--and recalled--drugs, as well as tips on how to get kids to take medications. Discussing drugs' effects on children, as KidsMeds does, drives home the notion that most drugs affect them differently than they do adults.
What Doesn't: For all the expertise of its authors, the site itself is pretty thin. There are only three pharmacists minding the shop, two of them part time, and it shows. You will not find any good discussion of which drugs most often cause kids problems; which are most commonly prescribed incorrectly and why; or whether drugs are being prescribed to kids unnecessarily, or prematurely. Every year hundreds of thousands of kids get sick by taking some drug they shouldn't or overdosing, and it would be nice to have some overview of the problem. In some of its postings on drugs, also, KidsMeds pharmacists strike a skeptical tone about product claims--but never question them outright. Parents are left to wonder: What do they really think?