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Could 'flow restrictors' help reduce medication overdoses?

Senator Charles Schumer calls for safer packaging for children’s medicine bottles in effort to help prevent emergency room visits.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Jan. 19 said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission should use “flow restrictors” on children’s medicines to help prevent an estimated 10,000 annual emergency room visits.


The Associated Press/The Wall Street Journal post quoted Schumer as saying, “Flow restrictors will save lives, save money from reduced emergency room visits and cost almost nothing to implement, so the question is, why on earth wouldn’t we require they be used? We believe the FDA and CPSC have the authority to get this done, and they need to get started right away.”


The restrictors cost less than 10 cents/bottle, Schumer noted in the article, although it’s unclear if that’s the cost to manufacturers who would add the safety valve into the neck of the bottle to slow the release of the liquid medicine, or if that was a cost for the consumer.

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The story referred to a recent Consumer Reports/ProPublica investigation, with the topic reported by T. Christian Miller and Jeff Gerth. In the article, the authors describe the flow restrictor as a “small plastic device [that] fits into the neck of a medicine bottle and slows the release of fluid, providing a backup if caregivers leave child-resistant caps unfastened or kids pry them off.”


The article points out brands that do incorporate a flow restrictor, providing an historical perspective on the topic. The story quotes Dr. Daniel Budnitz, a scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Medication Safety Program: “I want to believe that before my kids have kids of their own, we will have made more progress to improve child safety packaging. …More can be done.”


On Jan. 20, the Consumer Healthcare Products Assn. issued the following statement in response to Schumer’s call:


“CHPA and its member companies share a goal of ensuring that parents and caregivers have access to the best medicines possible as well as resources to use them safely, appropriately, and in a cost-effective manner. 

“We are involved in a number of long-term efforts targeted at preventing accidental, unsupervised ingestion of medicines by young children. The most impactful solution is locking the child-resistant closure and storing all medicines up and away and out of children's reach. This is why we educate parents and caregivers to store medicines up and away and out of sight through a campaign led by CHPA’s Educational Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s PROTECT Initiative.

“Our member manufacturers have voluntarily added flow restrictors to infants’ and children’s liquid acetaminophen products. Flow restrictors are one tool for parents that industry employs to reduce the amount of medicine a child who defeats the child-resistant packaging might ingest. Because medicines are meant to be accessible, flow restrictors aren’t sufficient to prevent accidental, unsupervised medicine ingestions, but safe and appropriate storage is.


“While there is currently no regulating authority over flow restrictors, child-resistant packaging is regulated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission. We continue to study and advance child-resistant packaging technologies."


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