Giselle Matlis, Axendia
MEDdesign

‘Children Are Not Small Adults’. Kids Need Pediatric Devices

By Giselle C. Matlis
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Giselle Matlis, Axendia

Most devices are still developed in a moment of need and not in advance like adult devices.

Imagine you are trying to get one of the tiny screws out of a remote control so you can change the batteries. You walk over to your tool kit and find that the only screwdriver you have is a #2, good for regular sized screws. While the screwdriver technically works, since it has a Philips head, it will probably strip the tiny screw and make it even more difficult to take out next time.

What’s your next move? You use the #2 screwdriver you have for now, but tomorrow you will go buy a small Philips head so that the next time you can take out the screw without any problems. The solution is simple—get a smaller screwdriver.

Now imagine this tiny screw is not in your remote control, but instead, needs to hold an internal fixator in a child.

One of the biggest issues with medical devices today is that they “…are designed and studied for adults, with no consideration to the needs of pediatric patients,” says Linda C. Ulrich, MD, OOPD, FDA. Children’s bodies are different than adults—they heal much faster and are more resilient. This is why we need more research behind pediatric medical devices. Currently, most devices are developed in a moment of need and not in advance like adult devices.

Right now, devices designed to be used on adult bodies are used or hastily modified to work on children because there aren’t any specially designed for children’s sizes. And just like the screwdriver, the adult device doesn’t always work and can sometimes cause unintended damage or complications in children.

Federally regulated developments in drugs for kids have been happening since the 1990s. However, only in September 2007, with the Pediatric Medical Device Improvement Act (PMDIA), did FDA receive authority to regulate and promote pediatric medical device creation.

PMDIA also created the FDA’s Pediatric Device Consortia (PDC) Grants Program. The goal is to facilitate the development, production and distribution of pediatric medical devices through funding of nonprofit consortia to be implemented around the United States. PDC’s are intended to encourage, fund and increase pediatric medical device development by connecting innovators with a network of interdisciplinary professionals to move them from idea to product. This program is for all kinds of pediatric devices—not just the extremely rare cases.

Since their inception in 2009, PDC’s have awarded $14 million to fund projects. These projects are currently all in the early stages of development and working with different teams around the country. Including one right here in the Philadelphia area, which just expanded to include all of Pennsylvania.

“Kids Aren’t Just Small Adults”, so we need to stop treating them like they are. I hope this will encourage us to not only have a regular #2 Philips head screw driver, but also to be prepared with a smaller, specially designed, version for the people that matter most—our children.

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Giselle Matlis, Axendia

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