By Jaivon Grant
No matter the culture or point in history, caring for a sick child is one of the most challenging and emotionally draining experiences that parents and caregivers can go through.
An Ohio State study from 2022 found that 66 percent of working parents in the United States suffer from parental burnout, which can negatively impact working parents’ overall wellbeing and their ability to empathize with their children. The mental and physical demands can lead to extreme fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression, and it “increases the likelihood that parents may insult, criticize, scream at, curse at and/or physically harm their children,” according to the study.
The United States Pharmacopeia, a non-governmental organization that establishes pharmaceutical compounding standards, issued a guidance document In November 2022 defining that “adding components (such as flavors) not stipulated in the labeling to conventionally manufactured products is compounding.” Consequently, the California Board of Pharmacy is looking to only permit flavored medicine at compound pharmacies and take away the option from community pharmacies.
Every parent I spoke to about this consideration showed and felt pure frustration. If pharmacists couldn’t provide this service for pediatric patients, some parents might use unsafe alternatives to help their children take unpalatable medications.
One Riverside resident, Abigale Lopez, recalls many long and sleepless nights worrying about her son’s agonizing discomfort.
“It’s a heart-wrenching experience. No matter how strong I try to be, caring for my son when he is sick often leaves me feeling helpless, frustrated, and overwhelmed,” said Lopez. “There are many days I have to find a creative way to get my son to take his medicine because he absolutely hates the taste. Parents shouldn’t have to deal with a sucky decision that only makes taking care of their kids unnecessarily more difficult.”
Bellflower resident Cyrus Sattarzadegan, parent of three children, says, “Having to search for a compound pharmacy, travelling farther, and checking if the new place accepts our insurance is an unnecessary burden to us parents.”
“When one of my children gets sick, that pretty much means all of them will. They’re already picky, so the last thing I want to worry about when dealing with three screaming children is having to go miles out of my way to find a medicine that will take to make them feel better.”
34 states have adopted specific language that expressly exempts medication flavoring from its definition of compounding, allowing local retail pharmacies to perform the flavoring. Only one state currently has explicit language that defines medication flavoring as compounding.
Sonya Frausto, a frontline pharmacist and pharmacy owner of Ten Acres Pharmacy in Sacramento, explains that she encounters dozens of parents daily who share the desperate and pleading look in their eyes of “please help me, my child is sick and needs medicine now!”
“Pharmacists like me are calling for the California State Board of Pharmacy to continue to exempt flavoring from the regulation of compounding pharmacies, as it has for the past decade,” says Frausto. “Without this exemption, California’s pharmacies will likely begin phasing out of their flavoring services to avoid unnecessary, time-consuming, expensive, and historically unrequired regulations. This will ultimately affect out business and, more importantly, the health and wellbeing of our youngest patients.”
The bottom line: the medicine that pharmacists provide will only work if children take it. The last thing parents want to worry about is the medicine they are giving their children to make them feel better. Until the California State Board of Pharmacy makes its decision, we can only hope it is the right one.