Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Frank E. Young will launch a "strong educational campaign" next month to alert parents about Reye's Syndrome, a rare but sometimes fatal childhood disease, and its possible link with products containing aspirin.
In his first interview since taking office in August, Young said he has no plans to put a warning label on aspirin products, pending completion of government studies.
But Young said scientific data indicates a connection between the use of aspirin to treat some childhood illnesses, particularly chicken pox and flu, and an increased risk of developing Reye's Syndrome.
Young said he recommends that parents use caution -- and seek medical advice -- before giving their children aspirin to treat flu or chicken pox since those illnesses tend to clear up without medication.
The FDA also will alert parents to get immediate medical help if their child shows symptoms of Reye's Syndrome, which can start with persistent vomiting, sleepiness or sluggishness and lead to central nervous system damage or death.
The FDA is being sued by a consumer group for backing off from a 1982 proposal to put warning labels on aspirin.
But an industry-backed group of pediatricians, which disputes the reported link with Reye's Syndrome, has pressed the government to drop references to aspirin in this year's campaign. It has countered with its own public service announcements about the disease.