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REYE's SYNDROME AGE OF ONSET IN U.K. APPEARS LOWER THAN IN U.S.

Executive Summary

REYE's SYNDROME AGE OF ONSET IN U.K. APPEARS LOWER THAN IN U.S., according to a June 10 letter to U.K. pharmacists and health professionals from Britain's Cmte. on Safety of Medicines. The letter states that "preliminary results of a risk factor study . . . indicate that the epidemiology of Reye's syndrome in Britain differs from that in the U.S. The age of onset here (median 14 months) appears to be substantially lower than in the U.S. and 93% of reported British cases relate to children aged under 12 years." The risk factor study, which is not yet completed, is being undertaken as part of a Reye's syndrome "surveillance scheme set up jointly by the British Poediatric Assn. and the Public Health Laboratory Services Commicable Diseases Surveillance Center," the letter notes. The study is evaluating "reports of 229 cases of Reye's syndrome in the British Isles in the four years between August 1981 and the end of July 1985." Results, the letter states, "are in line with the U.S. experience of a possible association between Reye's syndrome and aspirin use." The letter was sent out to notify health professionals that pediatric aspirin products are voluntarily being withdrawn from the U.K. market and to announce an advertising campaign advising parents not to give aspirin to children under 12 years age. Cmte. Chairman Sir Abraham Goldburg explained in the letter: "The cmte. has considered the available evidence and concluded that, while the causes of Reye's syndrome are not clearly defined, aspirin may be a contributory factor to the causation of Reye's syndrome in some children. Since paracetamol is an effective alternative treatment for fever in children we consider that it is prudent to avoid giving aspirin to children under 12 years old unless specifically indicated." Therefore, the letter continues, it is "important for doctors and other health professionals to advise families that aspirin is not a suitable medicine for children with minor illnesses." The letter notes that the pharmaceutical industry is taking the following steps to inform the public about the risks of aspirin use in children under 12: "(1) pediatric aspirin products will be withdrawn from sale; (2) press advertisements will advise parents not to give aspirin to children under 12; (3) adult aspirin labels will be changed, by early 1987, to warn against giving aspirin to children; (4) posters will be available from family practitioner committees and health authorities for display in GP surgeries, pharmacies and child health clinics." In a June 10 release, Britain's Aspirin Foundation, which represents aspirin mfrs. in the U.K., said it "acknowledges the concern that there may be a link -- although it is not a proven link -- between aspirin use in children and this very rare childhood illness." In view "of this concern and the potential seriousness of this rare disease," the foundation said, "we decided on our part that stopping the supply of children's aspirin medicines altogether would be the most sensible response." The release adds that the foundation, "in close cooperation with the Dept. of Health and Social Security," has "produced a public information campaign featuring advertisements in the national press to advise parents of the precautions being taken."
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