Category Archives: Prescription drugs
CDC: Reducing High-risk Antibiotic Prescriptions Could Also Reduce Deadly Infections
The most recent Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that if prescriptions of high-risk antibiotics in hospitals were reduced by just 30 percent, then there could be as many as 26 fewer cases of deadly diarrhea infections with Clostridium difficile. “Improving antibiotic prescribing can save today’s patients from deadly infections and protect lifesaving antibiotics for tomorrow’s patients,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Health care facilities are an important part of the solution to drug resistance and every hospital in the country should have a strong antibiotic stewardship program.” As part of its ongoing efforts to improve antibiotic prescribing, the CDC has release a checklist of seven core elements for hospitals:
- Leadership commitment: Dedicate the necessary human, financial, and IT resources.
- Accountability: Appoint a single leader responsible for program outcomes. Physicians have proven successful in this role.
- Drug expertise: Appoint a single pharmacist leader to support improved prescribing.
- Act: Take at least one prescribing improvement action, such as requiring reassessment of prescriptions within 48 hours to check drug choice, dose, and duration.
- Track: Monitor prescribing and antibiotic resistance patterns.
- Report: Regularly report prescribing and resistance information to clinicians.
- Educate: Offer education about antibiotic resistance and improving prescribing practices.
Read more on infectious diseases.
Poorer Women Most Likely to Be Caught in ‘Vicious’ Caregiving, Financial Well-being Cycle
Low-income women are at increased risk of finding themselves caught in a “vicious cycle” of parental caregiving and financial well-being, according to a new study in The Journals of Gerontology. While women of better financial means can afford additional caregiver assistance and better health care for aging parents, poorer women lack those options. "People who had less household income and less financial resources were more likely to take care of their parents so there is this cycle that they cannot get out of—they are poor, then taking care of parents, then being poor and taking care of their parents—there's this kind of cycle," said lead author Yeonjung Lee, a researcher and professor at the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, according to Reuters. Read more on aging.
Young Skin Cancer Survivors at Heightened Risk for Other Cancers
Younger skin cancer survivors are at increased risk for additional cancer types later in life, according to a new study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. A review of data of more than 500,000 people with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer found that while all age groups were at heightened risk for melanoma and other types of cancers, the increase was especially significant for people under the age of 25, who were 23 times more likely to develop cancer than people who had never had nonmelanoma cancer. The risk was 3.5 times higher for nonmelanoma survivors ages 25-44, 1.74 times higher for those ages 45-59 and 1.32 times higher for those older than 60. The types of cancer they are at risk for include melanoma skin cancer, and cancers of the breast, colon, bladder, liver, lung, brain, prostate, stomach and pancreas. Read more on cancer.
Under Tobacco Control Act Authority, FDA Orders Stop to Sale, Distribution of Four Tobacco Products
For the first time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to order a stop to the continued sale and distribution of four tobacco products. The FDA ruled that Sutra Bidis Red, Sutra Bidis Menthol, Sutra Bidis Red Cone, and Sutra Bidis Menthol Cone were not “substantially equivalent” to products commercially available as of Feb. 15, 2007. The FDA determined that Jash International did not identify a product by which to assess substantial equivalence, as well as other required information. “Companies have an obligation to comply with the law—in this case, by providing evidence to support an SE application,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in a release. “Because the company failed to meet the requirement of the Tobacco Control Act, the FDA’s decision means that, regardless of when the products were manufactured, these four products can no longer be legally imported or sold or distributed through interstate commerce in the United States.” Read more on tobacco.
NGA Releases Report on Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
As part of the National Governors Association’s (NGA) 2014 Winter Meeting, NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley have released a report, Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse: Lessons Learned from an NGA Policy Academy, detailing their year-long look on how to reduce the growing epidemic; prescription drug abuse is the United States’ fastest growing drug problem and the second most-common type of drug abuse for youth ages 12-17. Among the findings:
- Leadership matters
- Prescribing behavior needs to change
- Disposal options should be convenient and cost-effective
- Prescription drug monitoring programs are underused
- Public education is critical
- Treatment is essential
- Data, metrics and evaluation must drive policy and practice
“The abuse of prescription drugs continues to be seen in communities across the nation,” said Hickenlooper. “This initiative helped states develop effective strategies to help decrease the number of individuals who are misusing or abusing prescription drugs and the resulting number of people who are harmed or die.” Read more on prescription drugs.
HHS Issues Proposals for Next Edition of EHR Technology Certification Criteria
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued proposals for the next edition of the electronic health record (EHR) technology certification criteria. “The proposed 2015 Edition EHR certification criteria reflect ONC’s commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, national coordinator for health IT. “We will continue to focus on setting policy and adopting standards that make it possible for health care providers to safely and securely exchange electronic health information and for patients to become an integral part of their care team.” Compliance with the 2015 Edition would be voluntary (if EHR developers are in compliance with the 2014 Edition, they would not need to recertify) and the final rule will be issued later this summer. Read more on technology.
Caring for the millions of people acquiring health coverage under the Affordable Care Act will require many more primary care providers than are currently available. At a session today on New Models and Workforce Innovations for Primary Care Access at the 2014 National Health Policy Conference convened by AcademyHealth, presenters talked about emerging specialists for primary care, including nurses, physician assistants and care coordinators, who are also known as community health workers.
Pharmacists are also included in that provider model. Jeffrey Kang, MD, MPH, senior vice president of health and wellness at Walgreens, presented data on a model program the pharmacy chain has at more than a dozen hospitals which is helping reduce hospital readmissions. Walgreens has pharmacies at dozens of hospitals across the United States and with its pilot program, called WellTransitions, works with hospital discharge staff on medicine instructions and then follows up with phone calls once patients are home.
Kang said a key question is whether someone is taking the right medicine. In the medication orders system there is no procedure, other than patient initiative, for stopping a previously prescribed medication. For example, if a patient had been taking a blood pressure medication before a hospital stay and then is prescribed a new one in the hospital, they may still have vials of the drug at home, and studies show they commonly continue taking the drug, either instead of, or in addition to the drug prescribed during the recent hospital stay.
With the WellTransitions program, drugs are delivered to the patient before discharge, avoiding a trip to the pharmacy, and pharmacists follow up at 9 days and 25 days.
Walgreens launched the program in 2012 and released data late last year that showed that early results indicate that within the first 6 months that WellTransitions was operational in five hospitals, the 30-day readmission rate for patients in the program was 9.4 percent, compared with 14.3 percent for patients not participating in the program.
FDA Looking to Revise Nutrition Fact Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking to revise nutrition fact labels for the first time in more than two decades. The changes should reflect our improved understanding of nutrition, according to nutritionists. "The food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed," said Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. "It's important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn't become a relic." For example, there is now more of a focus on calories and better understanding of the different types of fats. Nutrition experts also have called for more prominent calorie counts, as well as information on added sugar and the percentage of whole wheat in the food. The FDA has sent its proposed guidelines to the White House. Read more on nutrition.
Study: ERs Need to do More to Cut Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions
Despite growing concerns over antibiotic resistance, emergency departments are not decreasing their inappropriate use of antibiotics, according to a new study in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Researchers analyzed data from 2001 to 2010, finding no decrease in emergency department use of antibiotics for adults with respiratory infections caused by viruses, which are not affected by antibiotics. There are approximately 126 million emergency department visits for acute respiratory infections each year in the United States. Halting excessive and unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in emergency departments is especially critical because many uninsured people also look to them for primary care. "The observed lack of change...is concerning," study co-author Henry Wang, MD, vice chair for research in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "This may indicate that efforts to curtail inappropriate antibiotic use have not been effective or have not yet been implemented in all medical settings." Read more on prescription drugs.
CDC: Strategies on Reducing Sodium Levels in Restaurants
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes strategies on how health departments and restaurants can work together to lower the amount of sodium in foods. The report, “From Menu to Mouth: Opportunities for Sodium Reduction in Restaurants,” appears in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease. While the U. S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the general population limit sodium to under 2,300 mg a day, meals from fast food restaurants contain an average of 1,848 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories and foods from dine-in restaurants contain 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories. The strategies include:
- Health department dietitians help restaurants analyze the sodium content of their foods and recommend lower-sodium ingredients.
- Restaurants clearly post nutrition information, including sodium content, at the order counter and on menus or offer lower-sodium items at lower cost.
- Health departments and restaurants explain to food service staff why lower sodium foods are healthier and how to prepare them.
“The bottom line is that it’s both possible and life-saving to reduce sodium, and this can be done by reducing, replacing and reformulating,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they choose to use, healthier options become routine for customers.” Read more on the CDC.
TFAH: Not Enough Americans are Getting the Flu Vaccine
Only a little more than a third of U.S. adults ages 18-64 got their flu shot last season, according to a new analysis by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). The report also found that 66.2 percent of adults ages 65 and older and 56.6 percent of children ages 6 months to 17 years were vaccinated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all American above the age of 6 months be vaccinated each year. “The trend of low vaccination rates among younger adults is particularly troubling this year, when they are more at risk than usual for the effects of the H1N1 strain of flu that’s circulating,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. The overall vaccination rate came out approximately 45 percent for the 2012-13 flu season, which while still far short of CDC goals surpassed the previous season’s overall rate of 41.8 percent. Read more on influenza.
FDA: New Regulations on Acetaminophen to Help Curb Liver Toxicity
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making changes to regulations on acetaminophen to help combat the dangers of liver toxicity, calling for manufacturers of prescription combination products to limit the amount of acetaminophen to no more than 325 milligrams in each tablet or capsule, as well as update the labels on those drugs to warn about the potential risk for severe liver injury. Acetaminophen is found in opioids such as codeine (Tylenol with Codeine), oxycodone (Percocet), and hydrocodone (Vicodin). “FDA is taking this action to make prescription combination pain medications containing acetaminophen safer for patients to use,” said Sandra Kweder, MD, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Overdose from prescription combination products containing acetaminophen account for nearly half of all cases of acetaminophen-related liver failure in the United States; many of which result in liver transplant or death.” Read more on prescription drugs.
Study: Specialized School Health Programs Also Improve Healthy Behaviors at Home
Broad school health programs can improve children’s health and healthy behaviors at both school and in the home, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers tailored programs for the specific needs of individual elementary schools in ten disadvantaged neighborhoods in Edmonton, with activities such as yoga and dance classes, and then tracked their activity compared to kids at schools without the programs. They found that students with the health programs increased their average daily steps during a typical week by 21 percent, compared to 7 percent for the kids without the programs. "It shows that if you deliver a school program well, kids not only will be active more during the school hours when they are in the hands of the teachers but they're also being trained and understand that it's important to be physically active at other times," said Paul J. Veugelers, who worked on the study at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health in Edmonton. Read more on physical activity.
Tips on Staying Warm During the ‘Polar Vortex’
As much of the country faces record lows due to a polar vortex, with many areas suffering through below-zero temperatures, experts are offering advice on how to stay warm and healthy. The first tip is staying indoors. "It's best to limit your outdoor activity as much as possible, since prolonged exposure can lead to frostbite and hypothermia," said John Marshall, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. "Both of these conditions can become serious, and even life-threatening if untreated." However, when you must go outside, follow these tips:
- Dress warmly — Layer clothing to retain body heat, and a non-permeable outer layer will help against strong winds.
- Protect your extremities — Wear extra socks. Also go with mittens over gloves, since fingers stay warmer when they’re next to each other.
- Wear a hat — And cover the ears and nose if possible.
- Wear properly fitted winter boots — If they’re too tight they can cut off circulation. Also go for a pair that’s insulated with treads.
- Stay hydrated — Drink fluids to replenish the energy your body spends to stay warm.
- Stay dry — Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
Read more on preparedness.
Study: Health Care Spending Remained Low as Economy Struggled
Health care spending has now stayed relatively steady—and low—for four consecutive years, rising by 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion. according to a new analysis from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The study, published in Health Affairs, found that faster growth in hospital, physician and clinical services was somewhat offset by slower growth in prescription drug and nursing home services prices. Spending growth and growth in private health insurance for Medicaid were also near historic lows. "The low rates of national health spending growth and relative stability since 2009 primarily reflect the lagged impacts of the recent severe economic recession," said Anne B. Martin, an economist in the Office of the Actuary at CMS and the study’s lead author. "Additionally, 2012 was impacted by the mostly one-time effects of a large number of blockbuster prescription drugs losing patent protection and a Medicare payment reduction to skilled nursing facilities." Read more on budgets.
Study: Newer Antidepressant Drugs All Carry About Equal Risk of Suicidal Thoughts
New antidepressants all come with about the same level of risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Previous studies identified the increased risk, especially within the first few weeks of treatment, but there were still questions of whether some drugs came with higher risks. The study analyzed the medical histories of almost 37,000 children, average age 14, enrolled in Tennessee's Medicaid program between 1995 and 2006. Each child was a new user of one of six antidepressants: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro or Effexor. The study found little difference in the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts before and after they began the medications. However, they did note that children on multiple medications were at higher risk, though that could also be a result of more severe depression. Read more on mental health.
Infographics, public health news and innovative efforts to improve community health were the topics of the most widely read posts on NewPublicHealth this year.
Take a look back at our most popular posts:
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America will release new recommendations on early childhood education and improving community health on Monday January 13. Earlier this year, new city maps to illustrate the dramatic disparity between the life expectancies of communities mere miles away from each other. Where we live, learn, work and play can have a greater impact on our health than we realize.
- Three of the infographics created for the NewPublicHealth series on the National Prevention Strategy, a cross-federal agency emphasis on public health priorities, were among the most popular posts of 2013. Stable Jobs = Healthier Lives, the most widely viewed NPH infographic, tells a visual story about the role of employment in the health of our communities. One example: Laid-off workers are 54 percent more likely to have fair or poor health and 83 percent more likely to develop a stress-related health condition.
- Better Transportation =Healthier Lives, another 2013 infographic, tells a visual story about the role of transportation in the health of our communities. Consider this important piece of the infographic as we head into 2014: The risk of obesity increases 6 percent with every additional mile spent in the car, and decreases 5 percent with every kilometer walked.
- Top Five Things You Didn’t Know Could Spread Disease was the best read of the very well read stories on NewPublicHealth during Outbreak Week—an original series created by NPH to accompany the release in late December of Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Disease, a pivotal report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health.
- Better Education=Healthier Lives, another widely viewed—and shared—infographic on NewPublicHealth, shared the critical information that more education increases life span, decreases health risks such as heart disease and—for mothers who receive more years in school—increases the chance that her baby will die in infancy.
- How Healthy is Your County? In 2014 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will release the fifth County Health Rankings, a data set more and more communities rely on to see improvements—and room for change—in the health of their citizens. NewPublicHealth’s 2013 coverage of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps included posts on the six communities that won the inaugural RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize for their innovative strategies to create a culture of health by partnering across sectors in their communities.
- The Five Deadliest Outbreaks and Pandemics in History, was our seventh best read post of the year. Read it again and ask: Are we prepared as a nation for the next big outbreak?
- What does architecture have to do with public health? Visit the Apple Store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Texas’ Red Swing project, or....view our post from earlier this year.
- Less than a month after the shootings in late 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the Harvard School of Public Health held a live webcast town hall meeting on gun violence on the legal, political, and public health factors that could influence efforts to prevent gun massacres. And toward the end of 2013, NewPublicHealth sat down with former Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, MPH, to talk about the role of research in preventing gun violence.
- NewPublicHealth covered the release of a report by Trust for America’s Health that found that most states are not implementing enough proven strategies to prevent prescription drug abuse. But the year ended with some better news on the critical public health issue. An NPH news roundup post reported on a study funded by the National Institutes of Health which found that rates of prescription drug abuse by high school students have dropped slightly.
Close runners up included How Do You Transform a Community After a Century of Neglect?, which looked at how Bithlo, Fla. is working to bring much-needed services to its main street through the “Transformation Village” initiative, as well as ‘Unprecedented Destruction’: Ocean County Public Health Continues to Respond to Hurricane Sandy, which brought together a NewPublicHealth video and a Q&A to illustrate how public health officials and departments worked together to help their regions recover from the devastating superstorm. Also in the top 20 for year was an interview with New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, on the release of the 2013-17 Prevention Agenda: New York State’s Health Improvement Plan—a statewide, five-year plan to improve the health and quality of life for everyone who lives in New York State.
BSR: More and More, Private Sector Being Asked to Improve Population Health
Traditionally, health efforts fall under the purview of human resources—not corporate social responsibility (CSR)—in the business world. However, companies are playing an increasingly important role in not only health improvement efforts for their own employees, but also in population health for their larger communities. Increasingly, consumers are demanding this from companies to support their CSR work, as reported by Fast Company. That's also the subject of a BSR report, A New CSR Frontier: Business and Population Health. The report looked at the role of businesses in overall public health for more than 350 major companies, including Coca-Cola, Walmart, Microsoft, Chevron, and General Mills. The report found three major trends:
- Society expects companies to play a bigger role in population health
- Companies are responding to those expectations, but primarily with employees and customers
- Health and wellness are still largely the domain of human resources, even though departments such as philanthropy, marketing and research & development should be involved
"The pullback of government as an influence for population health has created gaps and stakeholders are expecting more from the private sector," said Mark Little, director of health care advisory services at BSR. "The overarching single headline is that business now has new responsibilities that are recognized by stakeholders. We do believe there is a new frontier for CSR."
Support for this report was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read more on business.
AAP Offers New Guidelines to Reduce Risk of Antibiotic Resistance
This week is “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released new guidance that would limit the over-prescription of antibiotics that is contributing to the growing public health issue of antibiotic resistance. The guidance, formulated in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focuses on the three common upper respiratory tract infections in children that are unlikely to be helped by antibiotics: ear infections, sinus infections and sore throats. The report includes clinical criteria to help physicians determine whether an upper respiratory tract infection is viral or bacterial, which will improve care while limiting opportunities for bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. “Our medicine cabinet is nearly empty of antibiotics to treat some infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “If doctors prescribe antibiotics carefully and patients take them as prescribed we can preserve these lifesaving drugs and avoid entering a post-antibiotic era.” Read more on prescription drugs.
Study: Half of Teens with Mental Disorders Receive No Treatment
Despite ever-increasing knowledge about psychiatric conditions and their links to other health issues, more than half of American teenagers with psychiatric disorders do not receive treatment, according to a new study in the journal Psychiatric Services. The study found that treatment rates varied by disorder. For example, adolescents with ADHD received care more than 70 percent of the time, while adolescents with phobias or anxiety disorders were the least likely to receive mental health care. The analysis also found racial disparities, with white youths far more likely to receive care than black youths. The lack of qualified child mental health professionals also hinders access to care, with pediatricians, school counselors and probation officers being asked to provide care for which they are not actually trained, according to E. Jane Costello, a Duke University professor of psychology and epidemiology and associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. "We need to train more child psychiatrists in this country," she said. “And those individuals need to be used strategically, as consultants to the school counselors and others who do the lion's share of the work." The study included data from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, as well as a survey of more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers. Read more on mental health.
Study: Acetaminophen Use and Even Light Drinking Dramatically Raises Kidney Dysfunction Risk
Acetaminophen use when paired with even moderate or light drinking can increase the risk of kidney dysfunction by 123 percent, according to a new study released today at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting in Boston. Using data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers analyzed data on more than 10,000 people who were asked questions about their alcohol consumption, use of acetaminophen and health conditions. “Pain is the most common symptom among the general public and is also most frequently self-treated with acetaminophens,” noted Harrison Ndetan, lead researcher of the study. “Where this becomes a greater concern is among young adults, who have a higher prevalence of alcohol consumption. These findings highlight a serious concern among health professionals who deal frequently with pain patients, particularly those with mild pain who are more susceptible to consuming both.” Read more on substance abuse.
Flight Attendants: Expanded Use of Electronic Devices In-flight Needs Reworked Safety Messaging for Flyers
The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week to let passengers use electronic devices—but not make cell phone calls—during all phases of a flight has flight attendants concerned that the ruling could compromise passenger safety if flyers are distracted by the devices when the cabin crew makes its safety announcements before takeoff.
Most airlines will introduce the new rule on devices by the end of the year. To qualify they have to assure the FDA that their fleet’s airplanes can tolerate any potential radio interference from the devices. Flight attendants would like heavy devices stored under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing for added safety. In a statement released just after the FAA ruling, the Association of Flight attendants said “AFA will work diligently alongside the FAA and industry to find creative, science-based approaches to ensure that passengers comply with the new operator policies and that their attention is not diverted from the important safety information provided by cabin crew during routine pre-flight briefings and unexpected emergencies, and that risks posed by loose items in the cabin are safely managed during the most critical portions of [a] flight.” Read more on injury prevention.
Two Questions Could Help Diagnose Strep, Reduce Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions
“Do you have a cough and have you had a fever in the last 24 hours?” These two simple questions could help people determine whether they need to see a doctor for strep throat, which could in turn limit unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. While high fevers can indicate strep, coughs do not. The study found the questions, when paired with an accounting of how common strep infections were in a particular area, where nearly as effective as lab tests at determining whether a patient actually had a strep infection. "This enables us to use the test of time," said co-study author Dr. Kenneth Mandl, a professor of bioinformatics at Harvard. "If we determine that you're low risk and most cases will not have an important complication from strep anyway, then you can be followed clinically rather than come in for a test right away, and you may improve." About 15 million people in the United States see a doctor for a sore throat each year, with 70 receiving antibiotics; estimates indicate that only 20-30 percent of children and 5-15 percent of adults actually benefit from the medications. Read more on prescription drugs.
CDC: U.S. Malaria Cases Reached 40-year High in 2011
U.S. malaria cases reach a 40-year high in 2011, with 1,925 total cases and five associated deaths, according to a supplement of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The 2011 total was a 14 percent increase over the 2010 statistic. According to the CDC, the vast majority of the U.S. cases were acquired overseas, with about 69 percent coming from Africa, and 63 percent of those cases from West Africa. “Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.” Preventative measures include antimalarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets, and protective clothing. Read more on infectious disease.
FDA Proposes New Rules to Combat Prescription Drug Shortages
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday proposed a new plan to combat drug shortages by requiring drug and biotechnology firms to immediately notify the FDA of any potential disruptions in the supply of medically important drugs. These drug shortages can delay or even deny care to patients in critical need. There were 117 drug shortages in 2012, down from 251 in 2011, when the White House issued an executive order to solve the public health problem. The new plan calls for companies to promptly notify the FDA of a permanent discontinuance or a temporary interruption likely to disrupt the supply of a prescription drug. Early notification enables the FDA to work with manufacturers to investigate the reasons for disruptions; identify other manufacturers who can help make up for the shortfall; and expedite inspections and reviews of drugs that could help mitigate a shortage. The FDA also released a strategic plan that “highlights opportunities for drug manufacturers and others to prevent drug shortages by promoting and sustaining quality manufacturing.” “The complex issue of drug shortages continues to be a high priority for the FDA, and early notification is a critical tool that helps mitigate or prevent looming shortages,” said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA continues to take all steps it can within its authority, but the FDA alone cannot solve shortages. Success depends upon a commitment from all stakeholders.” Read more on prescription drugs.
March of Dimes: U.S. Preterm Birthrate at 15-year Low, But Country Still Gets a ‘C’ Grade
The U.S. preterm birthrate fell to a 15-year low of 11.5 percent in 2012, according to a new report from the March of Dimes. While that’s also a six consecutive year of lower rates, the national still received a “C” on the report card when compared to other countries. "Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation's preterm birth rate from historic highs, the U.S. still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country. We must continue to invest in premature birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life," said Jennifer Howse, MD, president of the March of Dimes. Only six U.S. states received an “A” on the annual report card: Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont. An infant is premature if they are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy; the potential health complications include breathing problems, developmental delays, cerebral palsy and even death. Read more on maternal and infant health.