Public Health News Roundup: January 10
Boston Declares Public Health Emergency over Flu
The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency in response to the severe flu season. Approximately 700 people are believed to have contracted the flu since October 1—up dramatically from the total of 70 cases for the entirety of last flu season. The Boston Public Health Commission is offering free vaccination clinics this weekend. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a release. “It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.” Read more on influenza.
FDA Releases Draft Guidance on Abuse-Resistant Opioids
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft guidance to help the pharmaceutical industry develop new formulations of opioid drugs that are less likely to be abused. Included in the guidance is information on studies the agencies would like to see that demonstrate that a formulation has “abuse-deterrent properties,” how those studies will be evaluated by the FDA and what labeling claims may be approved based on the results of the studies. “The FDA is extremely concerned about the inappropriate use of prescription opioids, which is a major public health challenge for our nation,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “This draft guidance is an important part of a larger effort by FDA aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse.” According to the FDA, abuse-deterrent formulations target the known types of opioid abuse, such as crushing in order to snort or dissolving in order to inject, for the specific opioid drug substance in that formulation. The science of abuse deterrence is relatively new, and both the formulation technologies and the analytical, clinical and statistical methods for evaluating those technologies are developing quickly, according to the agency. “Our nation is in the midst of a prescription drug abuse epidemic,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “While there are no silver bullet solutions to this public health and safety challenge, abuse-deterrent formulations of powerful prescription opioids can make a difference in addressing this epidemic.” Read a NewPublicHealth interview with director Kerlikowske.
Report Says Cost-Cutting Measures Now Could Save $2 Trillion in Health Care Costs
Implementing cost-cutting measures now could help the United States save $2 trillion on health care over the next 10 years, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund. The plan calls for using gross domestic product per capita to determine overall healthcare spending growth, which would include Medicare, Medicaid, other government programs and private insurers. Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said the proposal is an alternative to some of the possibilities being floated for the upcoming deficit talks, which could end up cutting entitlement programs. "In comparison with what some of those proposals advocate, we think that some of what we're proposing will look like an escape valve." Read more on access to health care.