Children have a right to medicine that goes down easily

Image by Anna Pecherskaia via Shutterstock

OPINION – As a retired pharmacist who owned and operated two Sacramento-area pharmacies for nearly 40 years, I have seen my share of parents desperate for medicine to relieve their children from a wide range of suffering – ear infections, sore throats, high fevers, bronchitis, and the flu. 


Historically, a common frustration for these parents was the inevitable battle they would have with their children refusing to swallow their medicine. As a parent, I also have had my share of these difficult and stressful experiences. 


Medicine only works if taken properly. Children are more likely to take the recommended dose when the bitterness of the medication is masked with some flavoring. 


As pharmacists, one of our main goals is medication adherence by making sure that the patient takes their recommended medication dosage for better health outcomes and to avoid the disease from returning. Improving the taste of the medication is a great way to help young patients receive the best results from their prescribed medicine. 


Unfortunately, my generation of pharmacists didn’t have the benefit of being able to automate the flavoring of medicines – a remarkable breakthrough the profession has had for the past decade. 


Let’s face it – medicine can only be effective if it gets into the system. For parents and children, bubblegum, strawberry, and other flavorings have been a godsend, especially now. 

Medication flavoring occurs at more than 40,000 pharmacies nationwide each year as a point-of-care service focused on increasing mediation adherence by improving the taste and palatability of children’s liquid medicine.


Let’s face it – medicine can only be effective if it gets into the system. For parents and children, bubblegum, strawberry, and other flavorings have been a godsend, especially now. 


Imagine what it must be like for a child growing up in the age of the COVID pandemic. Masks, Isolation. Controversy about vaccines. There must be an incredible amount of fear surrounding health and medicine. In this environment, flavored medicine is a welcome and friendly approach that allows children to have some role and choice in the process. 


Today, typical flavoring agents are independently tested, manufactured in FDA-registered facilities, and chemically inert. The process is now highly automated, allowing prescriptions to be filled with greater speed, efficiency, and accuracy than ever before – and more flavors than ever. 


Medicine adherence with our children will become significantly more complicated if the California State Board of Pharmacy follows through on possible plans to limit medication flavoring only to compound pharmacies and takes it away from local community pharmacies. This means that you will need to find one of the few compounding pharmacies across the State to flavor your children’s medication as opposed to your local, retail pharmacy.


More than 98 percent of children between the ages of 0-11 live in a State that does not consider flavoring of medications to be compounding, including 6 million children in California. For almost a decade, more than 3,000 California community pharmacies have offered flavoring to their customers. 


For something that hasn’t posed a risk, why do we now need more unnecessary regulations that will create additional burdens for your children’s health? It’s hard enough to get children to take medication. Now, our state government wants to make your job harder as parents by making you find one of few compounding pharmacies across the state to flavor your child’s medication. It’s simply unnecessary.  


Dean McDaniel is a retired Sacramento pharmacist who owned and operated the Rio Linda and McAnaw’s local pharmacies. 

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