This is part of the America's Future series airing on FOX News Channel, looking at the challenges facing the country in the 21st century.
DURHAM, N.C. — With pediatricians treating kids for high blood pressure and dangerous cholesterol levels, some doctors are worried about the damage adult medications could be doing to children.
In doctor's offices and medical centers across the country, kids are being prescribed drugs like Zantac for stomach problems, Lipitor for high cholesterol and even Zyprexa — a drug prescribed to aging patients suffering from bi-polar disorder.
Doctors say prescribing adult medicines to kids is nothing new, but more research needs to be done into any potentially damaging effects such drugs could have on a child’s present and future health.
"Studies need to be done on these drugs in relation to growth and development and what are the long-term effects of being on a drug for perhaps many decades," Duke Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Li said.
Li said that drug companies need to develop pediatric products — which will require clinical trials on children.
"Children just aren't little adults, and they have different biology and the drug is absorbed different and metabolized different and it may work differently in a growing and developing child," Li said.
Despite any potential risks, one North Carolina family says the adult drug Plavix is giving their son a fighting chance at life. Two-year-old Brittan Allison was born with a heart condition and rare blood condition that make him prone to clots.
The toddler already has had three strokes, leaving him paralyzed on his right side. So his pediatrician prescribed Plavix, a blood-thinning drug used to prevent clots in adult heart attack patients and the elderly.
Paige Allison, Brittan's mother, said that despite any risks they have no choice, given the ever-present threat that her son will suffer another debilitating stroke.
“He probably would have died (without the drugs)," she said. Doctors "really felt strongly that if he had another stroke that it would be devastating or fatal."
Instead, with continued use of the drug, the little boy’s parents are hopeful, if cautious, for their son’s future.