Category Archives: Prescription drugs

May 16 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 16

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FDA Requires Lunesta Manufacturer to Lower Recommended Dosage
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring the manufacturer of Lunesta to lower the current recommended starting dose. The current recommended dose of the sleep drug, also known as eszopiclone, may be high enough to impair activities that require alertness the following morning, even if the user feels fully awake, according to the agency. Any patient currently taking the 2 mg or 3 mg doses should contact their physician for instructions. “To help ensure patient safety, health care professionals should prescribe, and patients should take, the lowest dose of a sleep medicine that effectively treats their insomnia,” said Ellis Unger, MD, director, Office of Drug Evaluation I in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Read more on prescription drugs.

CDC: Nearly 5,000 Preventable Injuries Related to Pool Chemicals in 2012
There were nearly 5,000 emergency department visits related to preventable injuries from pool chemicals in 2012, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost half of the injuries were to children and teenagers; the injuries were most common during the summer swim season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  The CDC provided these tips to help pool owners and operators prevent pool chemical injuries:

  • Read and follow directions on product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals.
  • Keep young children away when handling chemicals.
  • NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.
  • Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.
  • Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemicals.

“Chemicals are added to the water in pools to stop germs from spreading. But they need to be handled and stored safely to avoid serious injuries,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. Read more on injury prevention.

Study: Hookahs Not a Safe Alternative to Smoking
Hookahs produce significant amounts of nicotine and compounds that can cause cancer, heart disease and other health problems, according to a new study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. "Water pipe smoking is generally perceived to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, even for children and youths. Our study shows that water pipe use, particularly chronic use, is not risk-free," said study author Gideon St. Helen, a postdoctoral fellow in the division of clinical pharmacology and the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, according to HealthDay. In the study, researchers examined the urine of 55 men and women, who were regular hookah smokers, once after they avoided all smoking for a week and then again after an evening of smoking hookahs. After that single evening the found that the urine samples had: 73 times higher nicotine levels; four times higher levels of cotinine; two times higher levels of NNAL, a breakdown product of a tobacco-specific chemical called NNK; and 14 percent to 91 percent higher levels of breakdown products of volatile organic compounds such as benzene and acrolein. Read more on tobacco.

May 14 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: May 14

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CDC: Half of Americans Reported Prescription Drug Use in the Past Month
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics takes a comprehensive look at the use of prescriptions drugs in the United States from 2007 to 2010. Prepared for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the report compiled health data from state health agencies, federal health agencies and the private sector. Among the findings:

  • About half of all Americans in 2007-2010 reported taking one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days
  • Cardiovascular agents (used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease) and cholesterol-lowering drugs were two of the most commonly used classes of prescription drugs among adults aged 18-64 years and 65 and over in 2007-2010.
  • The use of antidepressants among adults aged 18 and over increased more than four-fold, from 2.4 percent to 10.8 percent between 1988-1994 and 2007-2010.
  • Drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics among those aged 15 and over more than tripled in the past decade, from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 1999-2000 to 6.6 in 2009-2010.
  • The annual growth in spending on retail prescription drugs slowed from 14.7 percent in 2001 to 2.9 percent in 2011.

Read more on prescription drugs.

Study: Emergency Department Visits for TBIs Jumped Nearly 30 Percent from 2006 to 2010
Emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) jumped nearly 30 percent from 2006 to 2010, with researchers pointing to increased awareness as a potential explanation for the increase, according to a new study in JAMA. The past few years has seen growing awareness about the dangers and realities of TBIs, including public campaigns and legislation to help prevent injuries. Researchers used data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database, finding that in 2010 there were approximately 2.4 million emergency department visits for TBIs, up 29 percent from 2006, with children younger than three and adults over the age of 60 seeing the highest increases. Researchers noted that this disparity may indicate that current TBI awareness and prevention efforts do not benefit the very young and the old. Read more on injury prevention.

WHO: MERS-CoV Not Yet a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
While saying that its concerns have greatly increased, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) does not yet constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, according to a statement released today by a World Health Organization’s emergency committee. According to the statement, their concerns center on the “recent sharp rise in cases; systemic weaknesses in infection prevention and control, as well as gaps in critical information; and possible exportation of cases to especially vulnerable countries.” Thirteen countries have reported cases since December 2013: Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Yemen. The United States has so far reported two cases—both this month. Read more on global health.

Apr 24 2014
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Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

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This Saturday, April 26, is The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an effort led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for the eighth time in three years to safely dispose of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs.

Last October, Americans turned in more than 647,000 pounds of prescription drugs at more than 4,100 sites operated by the DEA in partnership with state and local law enforcement offices. More than 3.4 million pounds of pills have been collected since the initiative began. The goal is to help reduce the huge cache of prescription pills that pose a risk of poisoning and death for young children, as well as the potential for abuse, overdose and death by the millions of people who take prescription drugs not prescribed for them in an effort to get high.

Every state has put resources into reducing prescription drug abuse in the last few years and recent surveys indicate abuse rates are dropping—though the problem is still significant. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that that 5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in the past month, similar to rates in several previous years, but lower than 2009, when 6.4 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.

DEA studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, often from home medicine cabinets. Contributing to the pileup is the fact that people are advised not to put many drugs in the trash or down the toilet so as to avoid contaminating water supplies and harming animals.

New laws are being proposed in many states to help families and facilities more easily get rid of unused drugs. Health departments in many communities, including the State of Colorado, can refer people to sites that will accept some unused prescription pills—though often not narcotics—at various times of the year for disposal.

>>Bonus Links:

Apr 24 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 24

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FDA Proposes Rule for Regulation of E-cigarettes
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released its long-expected proposed new rule that would expand its authority to include the regulation of e-cigarettes. Under the proposed rule, FDA would also be able to regulate products that meet the statutory definition of a tobacco product, including cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine gels, waterpipe (or hookah) tobacco and dissolvables not already under the agency’s authority. “This proposed rule is the latest step in our efforts to make the next generation tobacco-free,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Read more on tobacco.

Study: 1 in 13 U.S. Kids Take Prescription Drugs for Emotional or Behavioral Issues
One in 13 U.S. schoolchildren take medication for emotional or behavioral issues, with more than half of the parents of these children reporting that the drugs have helped “a lot,” according to a new report from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Only about one in five parents said the medication had not helped at all. The report also found that among youth ages 6-17 years, a higher percentage of children insured by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program used such prescribed medication than did children with private health insurance or no health insurance, and that a higher percentage of children in families having income below 100 percent of the poverty level used prescribed medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties than did children in families at 100 percent to less than 200 percent of the poverty level. Read more on prescription drugs.

Study: Genetic Risk for Obesity Rises as Kids Age
The genetic risk for obesity rises as children age, according to a new study in the journal Obesity. Researchers analyzed data on 2,556 pairs of twins in England and Wales at ages 4 and 10, finding that the influence of genetic variants rose as they got older, with genes accounting for about 43 percent of the difference in size among the four-year-olds, but 82 percent of the difference at the age of 10. "Our results demonstrate that genetic predisposition to obesity is increasingly expressed throughout childhood," said study co-leader Clare Llewellyn, MD, of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in a release. "This underlines the importance of intervening at an early age to try to counteract these genetic effects and reduce childhood obesity.” Read more on obesity.

Apr 21 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 21

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Study: Monday the Best Time to ‘Reset’ and Improve Personal Health Regimens
People are more likely to think about their health earlier in the week, which could help researchers and officials determine how to better improve public health strategies, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers from San Diego State University (SDSU), the Santa Fe Institute, Johns Hopkins University and the Monday Campaigns analyzed Google searches that utilized the term “healthy” and were health-related in the United States from 2005 to 2012, finding searches for healthy topics were 30 percent more frequent at the beginning of the week than later in the week; Saturday saw the fewest searches. The findings correspond with previous research indicating Mondays offered the opportunity for a “heath reset”—a chance to get back into healthy habits. "Many illnesses have a weekly clock with spikes early in the week," said SDSU's John W. Ayers, lead author of the study. "This research indicates that a similar rhythm exists for positive health behaviors, motivating a new research agenda to understand why this pattern exists and how such a pattern can be utilized to improve the public's health.” Read more on prevention.

Despite Recommendations Against, Codeine Still Prescribed to Many Kids During ER Visits
Codeine is often prescribed by emergency room physicians to treat coughs and other pains for children, even though the powerful opioid is not recommended for use in children by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. For the new study, the researchers used data from 189 million ER visits by children and teens between the ages of three and 17 years old. The visits took place between 2001 and 2010. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data from 189 million ER visits for youth ages 3-17, finding that while emergency room prescriptions were down slightly from 2001 to 2010, as many as 877,000 children are still taking the drug each year. Codeine can slow breathing and breaks down differently in children of different ethnicities, increasing the chance of overdose. Read more on prescription drugs.

Rates of Childhood Obesity Keeps Rising, Especially Among the Most Obese
A recent study out of the University of North Carolina (UNC) finds that childhood obesity is up for all classes of obesity in U.S. children over the past 14 years, with more severe forms of obesity—a body mass index (BMI) 120 to 140 percent higher than the averages—seeing the greatest increase. The study appeared in JAMA Pediatrics. “An increase in more severe forms of obesity in children is particularly troubling,” said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine, in a release. “Extreme obesity is more clearly associated with heart disease and diabetes risk in children and adolescents, and is more difficult to treat.” Researchers analyzed data on 26,690 children ages 2-19 years from 1999 to 2012 collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Read more on obesity.

Apr 8 2014
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Recommended Reading: FDA Approves Handheld Treatment for Prescription Drug Overdose

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In an effort to combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and overdose, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a small, easy-to-use injector—similar to an EpiPen—that can be used to revive people who have stopped breathing or lost consciousness from an opioid drug overdose. The device, called Evzio, provides a single dose of naloxone, which is the standard treatment for opioid overdoses but up until now was mostly only available in hospitals and other medical settings.

The device, expected to be available starting this summer, will enable early intervention that increases the chances of survival. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control , nationally, sales of prescription painkillers per capita have quadrupled since 1999—and the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers has also quadrupled.

The FDA’s approval comes at a critical time. In October of last year, Trust for America’s Health released a report that found that a very small number of states are implementing more than just a few promising strategies that have been identified to help combat the widespread drug abuse that continues to increase across the United States. The report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, which was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, showed that only two states—New Mexico and Vermont—have implemented all ten strategies. TFAH also released an interactive tool with state-by-state prescription drug overdose death rates and state scores on the 10 key steps to curb abuse.

Carl R. Sullivan III, MD, director of the addictions program at West Virginia University, said the FDA’s approval of Evzio “is a big deal, and I hope [it] gets wide attention,” according to The New York Times. “It’s pretty simple: Having these things in the hands of people around drug addicts just makes sense because you’re going to prevent unnecessary mortality.”

Read the full story from The New York Times.

Apr 8 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 8

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HHS: Significant Improvement on Leading Health Indicators that Influence Reduction in Preventable Disease and Death
A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Healthy People 2020, finds that the country’s health is importing in more than half—14 of 26—of the critical measures known to have a major influence in reducing preventable disease and death. The Leading Health Indicators include categories such as access to care; maternal and child health; tobacco use; nutrition; and physical activity. “The Leading Health Indicators are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population,” said Howard Koh, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, in a release. “Today’s LHI Progress Report shows that we are doing just that.” Among the indicators that been met or are improving:

  • Fewer adults smoking cigarettes
  • Fewer children exposed to secondhand smoke
  • More adults meeting physical activity targets
  • Fewer adolescents using alcohol or illicit drugs

Read more on HHS.

Study: Americans Twice as Likely to Get Food Poisoning from Restaurants than at Home
Americans are twice as likely to get food poisoning from food at a restaurant than they are from food at home, according to a new study from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The organization analyzed “solved” outbreaks over a ten-year period, finding that 1,610 outbreaks in restaurants sickened more than 28,000 people while 893 outbreaks linked to private homes sickened approximately 13,000 people. The study also determined that of the 104 outbreaks linked to milk, about 70 percent were caused by raw milk—meaning that while less than one percent of consumers drink raw milk, they account for 70 percent of the illnesses caused by milk-borne outbreaks. The researchers also expressed concern over the 42 percent drop in reported outbreaks from 2011 to 2012. "Underreporting of outbreaks has reached epidemic proportions," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "Yet the details gleaned from outbreak investigations provide essential information so public health officials can shape food safety policy and make science-based recommendations to consumers. Despite the improvements in food safety policy in the past decade, far too many Americans still are getting sick, being hospitalized, or even dying due to contaminated food." Read more on food safety.

Study: Antipsychotic Medications for Foster Care Youth Remain High
Use of antipsychotic medications for unlabeled indications such as treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is increasing among youth in foster care, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Researchers from the University of Maryland, Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions analyzed data on 266,590 youth ages 2-17 years and continuously enrolled in a mid-Atlantic state Medicaid program in 2006, finding that approximately one-third of the ADHD-diagnosed foster care youth included in the assessment received atypical antipsychotics. This study adds critical hard data to our understanding of a persistent and unacceptable trend in pediatric psychiatry," said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, and President, Child Mind Institute, in a release. "Our poorest, most vulnerable children, lacking access to evidence-based care, are receiving potentially harmful treatment with little oversight. The highlight of Burcu et al.'s paper for any reader should be the simple but necessary recommendations for antipsychotic prescribing and monitoring in these populations." Read more on prescription drugs.

Mar 21 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 21

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Study Finds Dramatic Increase in Opioid Prescriptions by Emergency Rooms
The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in opioid analgesic prescriptions by emergency rooms, despite only a modest increase in pain-related complaints, according to a new study in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine. Using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) from 2001 and 2010, researchers found that there was a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for potentially addictive narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Approximately 12 million Americans abused prescription painkillers in 2010 and approximately 15,000 die annually due to overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on prescription drugs.

Study: Many Chronically Ill Adults Forced to Decide Between Medicine, Food
Chronically ill adults who due to financial instability lack consistent access to food are far more likely to underuse or even skip their medications completely, according to a new study in The American Journal of Medicine. Researchers analyzed data of 9,696 adults with chronic illness who participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), finding that 23.4 percent reported cost-related medication underuse, while 18.8% percent reported food insecurity and 11 percent reported both. Hispanic and non-Hispanic blacks were at the highest risk. "The high overall prevalence of food insecurity and cost-related medication underuse highlights how difficult successful chronic disease management in the current social environment is," said lead investigator Seth A. Berkowitz, MD, Division of General Internal Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in a release. "These findings suggest residual unmet needs for food-insecure participants and thus have clear implications for health policy." Read more on health disparities.

FDA Approves Implantable Device for Adults with a Certain Type of Hearing Loss
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first implantable hearing device for adults with severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss of high-frequency sounds in both ears, but who can still hear low-frequency sounds with or without a hearing aid. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss and can be caused by aging, heredity, exposure to loud noise, drugs that are toxic to the inner ear and certain other illnesses. “Hearing loss greatly impacts the education, employment, and well-being of many Americans,” said Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a release. “This device may provide improved speech recognition for people with this kind of hearing loss, who have limited treatment options.” Read more on technology.

Mar 18 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 18

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Study: Prescriptions for Opioids Steadying After Nearly Tripling over Two Decades
After nearly tripling from 1991 to 2010—from 76 million annually to 210 million annually—prescriptions for opioid analgesics in the United States are stabilizing, according to a new reporting in the journal Public Health Reports. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health attributed much of the success to stopping the soaring number of prescriptions to state-implemented prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). “We found that PDMPs administered by state health departments appeared to be more effective than those administered by other government agencies, such as the bureau of narcotics and the board of pharmacy, ” said senior author Guohua Li, MD, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention. Read more on prescription drugs.

Study: Mother’s Monitoring of Kids’ Media Consumption Tied to Changes in Weight
Children whose mothers pay more attention to their kids’ media habits—how much time they spend watching television or playing video games—are more likely to weigh less than children who do not receive the same sort of supervision, according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers found that kids with mothers who monitored their media consumption were thinner at age seven and gained less weight over the following few years. While the authors said they cannot point to the exact reason for the relationship, possibilities include vigilant mothers who encourage more physical activity and the fact that the kids are exposed to fewer food advertisements. The study used a questionnaire to asses 112 mothers, 103 fathers and their 213 children; media monitoring by fathers was not linked to weight gain or loss. Stacey Tiberio, the study's lead author from the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, told Reuters Health that the results emphasize the important role that early adolescence plays with weight.  "It's basically a one-way door," she said. "If you are obese by middle childhood, you have an increased likelihood of staying in that group." Read more on obesity.

Finding Unlisted Milk Protein, FDA Announces Recall of Certain Simply Lite Chocolate Products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a recall of certain lots of Simply Lite brand dark chocolate bars after finding significant amounts of milk protein, which the product does not list as an ingredient. FDA testing found more than 3,500 parts per million of milk protein in single 3-ounce bars of the chocolate—or the equivalent found in about 4 teaspoons of whole milk. People with milk allergies or sensitivity to milk could have serious or even life-threatening reactions to the product. Consumers with questions about food safety can contact the FDA at 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Go here for complete information on the recall. Read more on food safety.

Mar 14 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: March 14

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Teens who Leave Gangs Still Face Consequences as Adults
A new study in the American Journal of Public Health finds that joining a gang during teen years has significant consequences in adulthood beyond criminal behavior, even after a person leaves the gang.

The study authors followed 808 fifth-grade students from 18 elementary schools in high-crime neighborhoods in Seattle, beginning in 1985. Participants were interviewed every year until the age of 18, then every three years until the age of 33.

Researchers used 23 risk factors, including poverty and associating with kids with problem behaviors, to calculate a child’s propensity for joining a gang, and then compared 173 youth who had joined a gang with 173 who did not but showed a similar propensity for doing so. The average age of joining a gang was just under 15 years old and the majority (60 percent) were in a gang for three years or less.

The study found that subjects between ages 27 and 33 who had joined a gang in adolescence were:

  • Nearly three times more likely to report committing a crime,
  • More than three times more likely to receive income from illegal sources
  • More than twice as likely to have been jailed in the previous year
  • Nearly three times more likely to have drug-abuse problems
  • Nearly twice as likely to say they were in poor health
  • Twice as likely to be receiving public assistanÎ
  • Half as likely to graduate from high school.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institute on Mental Health.

Read more on poverty

Stroke Survivors May Lose a Month of Healthy Life for Every 15-Minute Delay in Treatment
Every 15-minute delay in delivering a clot-busting drug after stroke takes away about a month of a healthy life for stroke survivors, according to a new study in the journal Stroke. Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia analyzed data from clot-busting trials and applied the time to efficacy to over 2,000 stroke cases in Australia and Finland to calculate what the patient outcomes would have been if they had been treated faster or slower. They found that for every minute the treatment could be delivered faster, patients gained an average 1.8 days of extra healthy life. The researchers also found that while all patients benefited from faster treatment, younger patients with longer life expectancies gained more than older patients

Read more on access to health care

One in Five Older Americans Take Medications that Work Against Each Other
More than 20 percent of older Americans take Medicines that work at odds with each other, and in some cases the medication being used for one condition can actually make the other condition worse, according to a new study in the online journal PLUS One by researchers at Oregon State University and the Yale School of Medicine. The study was conducted by researchers from OSU and Yale with 5,815 community-living adults over a two year period.  

“Many physicians are aware of these concerns but there isn’t much information available on what to do about it,” says David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy. “As a result,” says Lee, “right now we’re probably treating too many conditions with too many medications. There may be times it’s best to just focus on the most serious health problem, rather than use a drug to treat a different condition that could make the more serious health problem even worse.”

The chronic conditions in which competing therapies are common include coronary artery disease, diabetes, COPD, dementia, heart failure, hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis and others.

Read more on prescription drugs