The New York
BY DANA CANEDY
trying a new approach in treating children, are selling over-the-counter
remedies that are as tasty and chewy as soft candy and bubble gum
or could be mistaken for ordinary lollipops. These products, though,
are not meant to treat a sweet tooth but instead are for ailments
like colds, sore throats and even asthma.
The maker of
Children's Tylenol now makes a chewy version of its widely used
pain reliever in bubble gum, fruit and grape flavors. Another company
is introducing Kids-eeze bubble gum (yes, it actually makes bubbles)
next month for relief of cold symptoms. A unit of American Home
Products is selling Get Better Bear lollipops for sore throats.
There is even a product called Lolliasthma for sucking during an
More of these
products are showing up on drugstore and supermarket shelves next
to the cough medicine and baby aspirin. Manufacturers say they are
the next generation of easy-to-take remedies for the young. And
the child-friendly formulas, manufacturers and some doctors say,
enable parents to medicate more easily a toddler with a fever or
a hacking cough. "It's kind of like the Mary Poppins thing
- a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down," said
Sid Good, president of Good Marketing Inc., which specializes in
marketing to children.
Critics of these
products take a far more skeptical view, contending that while some,
like the chewy Tylenol, have clear medicinal value, others offer
no more therapeutic benefit than, say, chicken noodle soup. Among
them are Kids-eeze bubble gum, which promises in some promotional
material to cut the severity of a common cold, and Get Better Bear,
which the manufacturer says soothes sore throats.
some doctors and child health specialists say that treating any
medicine as if it were candy is confusing and potentially dangerous
for children. Teaching youngsters that medicine tastes good, they
fear, could lead them to reach for the valium or codeine in the
bathroom cabinet just as they would the lollipops or jelly beans
in the kitchen cabinet.
a very dangerous trend and precedent," said Dr. Sara O'Heron,
a maternal child health specialist at Emory University in Atlanta.
"The problem is, on one hand we are trying to make kids distinguish
between medicine and candy or food, and now we're blurring that
distinction. I think it's a good marketing ploy but it's scary."
She and other
critics also say some of the medicines contain potent ingredients
that can be harmful to children who mistake them for candy and take
have been adding cherry flavor to cough syrup and aspirin for years,
but the new products go further, making medicines so fun and flavorful
that youngsters look forward to taking them.
Goodwin, a 3-year-old who once had to be force-fed medicine. The
last time he had a cold his mother gave him Get Better Bear, lollipops
for sore throats that taste so much like candy that the toddler
later faked a coughing fit to get more, his mother, Carolyn Goodwin,
of like having to weigh the lesser of two evils," said Mrs.
Goodwin, an executive at the CBS television affiliate in Tucson,
Ariz. "Do you get medicine he absolutely won't take or stuff
that he just loves?"
The choice is
one that many parents will find themselves making more often as
a growing number of candy-like children's remedies come to market.
Parents may wonder if they are confusing their children on the differences
between medicine and candy or whether such products are the most
effective among over-the-counter treatments. The problem, critics
say, is that the marketing muscle behind these remedies may cloud
the issues in the minds of many consumers.
"are exploiting the market and consumer reasoning," said
Dr. Sumner J. Yaffe of the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development in Bethesda, Md.
Sales of children's
remedies are growing slightly faster than the $17 billion over-the-counter
drug market in general. While the overall market is growing at a
sluggish 2 percent a year, according to David Buck, an analyst with
Sands Brothers & Company, an investment firm, the children's
category, fueled by product innovation, is growing at 3 to 4 percent
Like all over-the-counter
drugs, the children's remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug
Administration, which requires that the packages list active ingredients,
recommended doses and warnings.
manufacturers are mostly free to promote products for proven relief
of specific symptoms, no matter how minimal the medicinal benefit.
And some of the remedies, like Kids-eeze and Coughco Inc.'s Cough
Pops for colds, are classified as herbal or natural dietary supplements
because they include natural ingredients such as zinc or compounds
derived from plants.
supplements are regulated by a looser set of standards than nonprescription
medication because the passage in 1994 of the Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act stripped the F.D.A. of most of its authority
to regulate this class of products.
manufacturers were prohibited from making claims about the potential
benefits of their products. But the revised guidelines now allow
companies to advertise the health effects of the products - without
having to prove their effectiveness - so long as the wording does
not suggest that the products cure or prevent a disease. As a result,
companies have a wide latitude in what they can promote.
Bubble gum for
a cold, and lollipops for a sore throat?
The maker of
Lolliasthma, Energique Inc. in Woodbine, Iowa, promotes that product
as a homeopathic medical treatment for young asthma sufferers that
is "for the temporary relief of constriction of the chest or
asthma." And Whitehall-Robins Healthcare, a unit of American
Home Products that makes Get Better Bear, uses the name recognition
of its cough medicine to remind parents that the lollipop was "from
the makers of Dimetapp."
Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit, which recently introduced
Tylenol SoftChews, says in promotions to customers that they "taste
so great and dissolve so fast that kids won't mind taking this medicine.
And the Quigley
Corporation, the company behind Kids-eeze, the zinc-based cold gum,
contends that the product reduces the duration and severity of the
common cold. The gum is being manufactured for Quigley by Amurol
Confections - a candy company and unit of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.
which are promoting the products in commercials and magazine and
newspaper ads as well as on Web sites, say the remedies are serious
medicine that should be taken only with adult supervision. "We
truly wanted to create a more palatable delivery system for kids
and adolescents," said Guy Quigley, the chief executive of
Quigley. "But it will definitely be on the cough and cold cure
aisle because it is not candy."
As such, parents
should treat them like any other products that should be kept out
of the reach of children, manufacturers and health care professionals
caution. Indeed, while an overdose of products like Coughco's Tummypops,
essentially an antacid on a stick, may do little more than cause
further stomach upset, Energique's Lollicough pop contains belladonna,
a plant derivative that can be toxic in large quantities, said Dr.
Robert Ward, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee
some of these products should be thought of as remedies is another
matter, however. Dr. Yaffe of the National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development criticized Get Better Bear, saying that promoting
it as a Dimetapp product falsely suggests to parents that it offered
the same medicinal value as cough medicine. "It's like saying
'buy this car, it's from the maker of Cadillac,'" Dr. Yaffe
contains ingredients that are clinically proven to suppress coughs,
he said, while Get Better Bear, whose package boasts "Soothing
Relief for your Child's Sore Throat," is simply sugar and pectin
- the same ingredients in jelly beans.
contends that unlike Dimetapp, Get Better Bear is not marketed for
coughs, but that advertising reminds parents it is from a company
they know and trust. The pectin in the lollipop, the company adds,
coats the throat; therefore, "we are positioning it for soothing
the throat, not positioning it for giving to children as candy,"
said Carol Dornbush, a company spokeswoman.
In the case
of zinc-based children's cold medicine, a recent study concluded
that zinc was "not effective in treating cold symptoms in children
and adolescents." The study, conducted by the Cleveland Clinic
and the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, used lozenges provided
Quigley - the same company that markets Kids-eeze.
the distributor of Cough Pops, which also contain zinc, say the
lozenges used in the study contained too little zinc and that the
study was riddled with procedural errors. One of the doctors who
worked on the research, Dr. Michael Macknin, the chairman of the
department of general pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic, said the
lozenges did contain a lower dose of zinc than is in Kids-eeze,
but said the study was not flawed and that he stood by the results.
Despite questions over their benefits, products like child zinc
gum or pectin lollipops are generally harmless, according to the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
What is troubling.
the academy and the N.I.H.'s child health unit say, are products
that promise relief of symptoms of serious medical conditions, in
single one of those ingredients are active ingredients used to treat
asthma," Dr. Ward of the American Academy of Pediatrics said
of the herbal compounds in the lollipop. "I would be very concerned
that they are making a claim of treating a medical disorder."
stands by its various medicinal lollipops, saying they are safe
and contain effective homeopathic ingredients. "They are quite
powerful," said Joyce Beach, a co-owner of Energique. "They
should be treated as medicine."
The F.D.A. does
not take a position on these remedies, as long as they adhere to
labeling requirements. But agency officials acknowledge that consumers
often have a false sense of security about them, wrongly assuming
that if the products are on the market they are guaranteed to be
safe and effective.
advise consumers to do is to talk to a health care professional,
whether it's a doctor, pharmacist or nurse," said Tom McGinnis,
deputy associate commissioner of health affairs at the F.D.A. and
also a pharmacist. "A health care professional will be able
to see what's in there."
1998 by The New York Times
Company. Reprinted by permission.