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The Department of Health has pledged to fund the publication and distribution of a children's British National Formulary as part of a new paediatric medicines strategy.

The department also plans to waive fees for licensing paediatric drugs after growing fears over the prescribing of off-licence drugs to children.

A recent study in Drug Safety estimated there could be as many as 50,000 paediatric dosing errors a year in England alone. The Medical Defence Union said up to one in 10 medication errors were in children, most commonly involving analgesics, antibiotics, vaccinations and steroids.

GPC prescribing sub-committee chair Dr Peter Fellows welcomed the news, saying that prescribing drugs off-licence was 'a tricky game' and the new BNF would provide GPs with valuable guidance.

Dr Fellows, who practises in Lydney, Gloucestershire, said: 'The dosage of drugs in children is a problem as we tend to extrapolate back from adults and that doesn't always work.'

The MDU said the new BNF, due next June, would be a 'back-up' for GPs rather than a legal safeguard.

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