Today’s guest post comes from Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., senior vice president and U.S. medical leader at Lilly. An adjunct professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Pescovitz is a former president of the Society for Pediatric Research, the nation’s largest pediatric research organization. She also serves on the National Institutes of Health Advisory Board for Clinical Research.
Our children are our future. That statement may sound cliché, but it’s undoubtedly true, and I’ve felt it every day since my first child was born more than thirty years ago. Like any parent, I’ve always wanted the best for my children: to give them a great education, to help them find opportunities to grow and succeed, and to keep them healthy.
As a pediatrician, and the former CEO of Riley Hospital for Children, I’ve had the privilege of helping thousands of children stay healthy over the years. Much of my career has been spent as a clinical researcher, working with children who participated in pediatric clinical trials. These research studies evaluate how a medicine works in children, including identifying the correct dosage, potential side effects, and determining a medicine’s overall safety.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews every medicine currently available to patients, not every medicine is developed with children in mind. In fact, most medicines prescribed to children—as many as 70%—have only been tested in adults. However, we cannot simply think of children as “small adults.” Basing a child’s medical treatment on an adult’s treatment could prove ineffective or even harmful. After all, children’s minds and bodies are in a state of constant development; they change and mature, requiring adjustments in treatment to ensure a medicine still works.
Pediatric clinical trials offer other benefits, as well. Participating children receive high-quality, comprehensive monitoring from the team of medical professionals involved in the study. Trials centered on conditions that occur only in children, or that manifest differently in children than adults, give researchers information they simply couldn’t obtain from an adult clinical trial. Most importantly, pediatric trials may give children access to new medicines that could be safer or more effective than existing treatments—and they ensure that future generations of children have medical options we know are safe and appropriate for their age.
As I always told my patients and their parents, clinical trials offer children the best of what we know today, compared to what we hope will be a better treatment for tomorrow. We cannot know what the results of a clinical trial will be, but we can hope that every potential medicine will result in a new safe and effective option—making the future shine a little brighter for all our children.