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Stanford Report, March 8, 2000

New consortium aims to improve treatment of children  

BY MIKE GOODKIND

Stanford School of Medicine and Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH) will share an $8 million, two-year grant with four other institutions to make sure that when it comes to medical care, children aren't treated like adults.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation announced Wed., March 8, the creation of the Glaser Pediatric Research Network. The five national medical centers -- each with a strong pediatric orientation -- will collaborate on clinical studies, public policy and physician education to address a wide range of clinical issues involving children.

"This collaboration will help alleviate one of the greatest difficulties involved in pediatrics today: the ability to fine-tune medical treatments to the specific needs of children," said Harvey J. Cohen, MD, professor and chair of pediatrics and chief of staff at Packard Children's Hospital.

"Children are not 'small adults,' " said Paul Glaser chairman of the board of the Glaser Foundation. "Yet today nearly 80 percent of all drugs used in children have not been specifically tested in children," Glaser added.

Because children are growing, they may not respond to medications the same way adults do, said Cohen, so dispensing pediatric drugs effectively involves more than just adjusting dosages.

For example, Cohen noted that in past years a drug used to treat leukemia was found to cause damage at avoidable levels in adults but could harm children more easily, even when dosages were adjusted for the smaller patients' size and weight. "We believe this was caused by higher sensitivity of the child's developing heart," he said.

"This consortium will work with the pharmaceutical industry and will, for the first time, allow us to make sure we are using the best drugs and treatments safely for children with immune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes and children's lung diseases," said Cohen.

Stanford researchers are particularly interested in developing collaborations to test new drugs and treatments for eating disorders and for developmental and behavioral problems, as well as for pediatric AIDS.

"We are potentially talking about new medications as well as new ways of using established drugs in kids," Cohen said.

Cohen said the Glaser Foundation money will also be used at Stanford/Packard to develop an immunization program that might eventually allow children to receive immunizations at birth, eliminating costly and sometimes unsuccessful school-based follow-up efforts to ensure that children receive important immunizations.

Other institutions involved in the network include Children's Hospital-Boston/Harvard Medical School; Mattel Children's Hospital/University of California, Los Angeles; Texas Children's Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine; and the University of California, San Francisco.

The grant represents an expansion of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, founded in 1988 to coordinate research on the clinical impact of AIDS on children at a time when little if any pharmaceutical testing of drugs for pediatric AIDS was being done. Since then, the foundation has raised more than $85 million to help children with HIV/AIDS, including nearly $14 million in 1999 alone. SR