A new report released by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that 219 medicines are currently in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration to help meet the special healthcare needs of children.

The treatments include 39 for cancer which, the PhRMA report notes, is still the leading cause of death by disease among American children between 5 and 24 “despite significant progress” made in this disease area. Some 26 drugs are being developed for genetic disorders, including medicines for cystic fibrosis.

Another 16 treatments are being developed for neurologic disorders such as epilepsy, which affects more than 300,000 school children under age 14 in the USA, while 14 are for respiratory problems like asthma, “the leading serious chronic disease among children, which affects some 6.2 million children,” the report adds.

The study also found that in addition to creating medicines specifically to meet the needs of children, biopharmaceutical companies are testing many existing drugs to determine safe and effective dosage levels for the little ones. “The importance of testing medicines in children is underscored by current legislation up for reauthorisation this year,” says PhRMA, which noted that in 2002, President Bush signed the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, as a result of which, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, “more than 120 medicines contain new safety, efficacy, dosing and risk information for children and teenagers in their labelling.”

“A child born today can expect to live an average of 30 years longer than a child born a century ago and medicines and vaccines have played a large role in expanding overall life expectancy and improving the quality of life for children,” concluded PhRMA chief executive Billy Tauzin.