A new anaesthetic formula that makes bad-tasting medicine taste nice has been developed by Australian researchers, who say it has the potential to make it easier to treat sick children.
The team from the University of Western Australia now hope to see the formula, which tastes of chocolate, be introduced across the world.
“Our hope is that this formula could result in child-friendly medicine becoming universally available”
They found that the majority of children who were given the new chocolate-tasting medicine would take it again, unlike the standard treatment, while they still experienced the same beneficial effects.
In their study, 150 children aged three to 16 years were randomly assigned to receive the drug midazolam either as the novel formulation or an intravenous solution given orally.
Midazolam was “one of many bitter drugs where provision of a suitable oral paediatric formulation, particularly in the pre‐anaesthetic setting, remains a challenge”, noted the researchers.
The time the drug took to take effect was no different between the groups, they said in Anaesthesia, the official journal of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.
“A medicine no matter how powerful will not be effective if a child refuses to take it”
The study authors also found that the novel formulation had “significantly improved tolerability scores from children, parents and nurses”.
“We conclude that the novel chocolate‐based formulation of midazolam provides improved tolerability while remaining efficacious with suitable pharmacokinetics when used as a pre-medicant for children,” they stated in the journal.
They said the formula’s other benefits included its accuracy in dosing compared to liquid medicines, the ability for it to be chewed or melted for children with swallowing difficulties and its long storage life without refrigeration.
After the success of the trial, a second medicine using the new formula is showing similar positive preliminary results in an ongoing study in Perth Children’s Hospital, said the researchers.
They added that they also planned to develop other medications using the formula, including antibiotics.
Lead study author Dr Sam Salman highlighted that the poor taste of many drugs, such as midazolam, a sedative used prior to surgery, presented a real difficulty in effectively treating children.
“Many children struggle with taking medicine, including medicine used at the time of surgery that has an extremely bitter taste that is often hard to mask,” said Dr Salman.
New drug formula that tastes of chocolate helps children take anaesthetic
Source: University of Western Australia
“This can result in distress for the sick child, their parents and the healthcare team and ultimately risks reducing the effectiveness of medicines and ongoing poor health,” he said. “A medicine no matter how powerful will not be effective if a child refuses to take it.”
“Unfortunately though, creating a nice tasting medicine is not as simple as melting a chocolate bar and putting it into medicine,” he noted.
“It requires a skilfully crafted formula that can mask the taste, have a long shelf life and not reduce the effect of the medicine, amongst other things,” he said.
The researchers said they believed the formula could now be rolled out to patients, adding that they were now looking for industry partners to help introduce it internationally.
“The study shows the success of this new formula, with five times more children liking the taste of chocolate form, which is also supported by parents and nurses,” Dr Salman said.
He added said: “Our hope is that this formula could result in child-friendly medicine becoming universally available and remove a common struggle when it comes to treating sick children.”