Kids get codeine in ER despite risks, guidelines

CHICAGO (AP) - The authors of a study on prescribing the painkiller codeine to children say it happens too often when alternatives are available, such as dark honey for cough.

The study finds that codeine is prescribed for children in at least half a million emergency room visits each year.

It's not rampant. The 10-year study finds just 3 percent of kids' ER visits resulted in a codeine prescription in 2010. But with more than 25 million ER visits by children each year, the authors say that's still too much.

Codeine is an opiate and a genetic variation makes some people metabolize it too quickly. The Food and Drug Administration issued its strictest warning last year about a rare risk for life-threatening complications or death in children.

Another genetic variation makes the drug ineffective for pain relief in as many as a third of patients.

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