Medication dosage in overweight and obese children

Kelly L. Matson, University of Rhode Island
Evan R. Horton, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Amanda C. Capino, University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy


Approximately 31.8% of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 years are considered overweight or obese. This creates significant challenges to dosing medications that are primarily weight based (mg/kg) and in predicting pharmacokinetics parameters in pediatric patients. Obese individuals generally have a larger volume of distribution for lipophilic medications. Conversely, the Vd of hydrophilic medications may be increased or decreased due to increased lean body mass, blood volume, and decrease percentage of total body water. They may also experience decreased hepatic clearance secondary to fatty infiltrates of the liver. Hence, obesity may affect loading dose, dosage interval, plasma half-life, and time to reach steady-state concentration for various medications. Weight-based dosing is also a cause for potential medication errors. This position statement of the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group recommends that weight-based dosing should be used in patients ages < 18 years who are < 40 kg; weight-based dosing should be used in patients ≥ 40 kg, unless, unless the recommended adult dose for the specific indication is exceeded; clinicians should use pharmacokinetic analysis for adjusting medications in overweight/obese children; and research efforts continue to evaluate dosing of medications in obese/overweight children.