Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

Immunization rates for Washington kids improve over last year

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From the Washington State Department of Health

child wincing while be given a shot injectionImmunization rates for Washington toddlers have improved from last year, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The survey says 71 percent of kids under three years old in Washington got a series of recommended vaccines in 2013.

The state’s rate for the same series of vaccines in 2012 was 65 percent.

Pertussis vaccination still low and concerning in light of recent epidemic

Although rates have improved, they’re still below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent, leaving many kids unprotected.

For all vaccines counted, rates increased across the board except for DTaP, the vaccine that prevents pertussis (whooping cough).

This is especially concerning because of our state’s whooping cough epidemic in 2012. Continue reading

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NIH to test Ebola vaccine in humans

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From the US National Institutes of Health

Trial will evaluate vaccine’s safety

Initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent Ebola virus disease will begin next week by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

ebola

The early-stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults.

The pace of human safety testing for experimental Ebola vaccines has been expedited in response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The study is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials that will examine the investigational NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine and an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp.

The others are to launch in the fall. These trials are conducted in healthy adults who are not infected with Ebola virus to determine if the vaccine is safe and induces an adequate immune response. Continue reading

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FAQ: Administration’s new contraception rules explained

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Photo: Matthew Bowden

Photo: Matthew Bowden

The Obama administration has released new rules they say will give employees of  religiously affiliated organizations a way to obtain contraceptive services as part of their health insurance coverage while respecting the religious beliefs of their employers.

The announcement follows a controversy that has dogged the administration as religiously affiliated employers objected to efforts to expand contraceptive options for women under the health law.

Under the accommodation, an eligible organization does not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage

.The latest regulations seek to satisfy complaints about earlier guidance on contraception coverage that instructed these employers to notify their insurers or third-party administrators if they did not want to comply with the law’s contraception coverage based on religious objections.

The regulations unveiled Friday would allow religiously affiliated employers to notify the government – rather than their insurer – of their objections to the law’s coverage of birth control.

The government will then notify the insurer to provide the contraception coverage. Continue reading

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State’s whooping cough epidemic did not boost vaccination rates

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child wincing while be given a shot injectionExperts have long believed that when the risk of a disease is high, people are more likely to accept a vaccine to prevent that disease. But recent research suggests that might not be uniformly true. Dr. Elizabeth Wolf, an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, led a study that determined Washington’s recent pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic did not influence the number of infants who were vaccinated against the disease.

via Infectious Disease Epidemics May Not Influence Vaccination Rates.

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Some insurers refuse to cover contraceptives, despite health law requirement

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nuvaring contraceptiveBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they’ll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut?

Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying.

Kaiser Health News readers still write in regularly describing battles they’re waging to get the birth control coverage they’re entitled to.

“We’ve seen this happen, plenty.”

In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing.

This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina, works for three weeks at a time by releasing hormones similar to those used by birth control pills. Continue reading

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Cut the Crapshoot | RAND

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From the RAND Corporation:

U.S. policymakers need to counteract the perverse financial incentives that induce inventors and investors to bet big on new medical technologies that offer the highest payouts without substantially improving health.

Dice pair

Costly new technology is a primary driver of health care spending. This should come as no surprise, because all players in the dicey U.S. market for new medical technologies — inventors, investors, payers, providers, and patients — face long odds if they want to put money on products that could curb health spending while also boosting health.

The rules of the game need to change.

via Cut the Crapshoot | RAND.

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Q&A: Experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola – CDC

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Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

ebola

Ebola virus

Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is ZMapp?

ZMapp, being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is an experimental treatment, for use with individuals infected with Ebola virus.

The product is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus.

It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness

How effective is the experimental treatment?

It is too early to know whether ZMapp is effective, since it is still in an experimental stage and has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.

Some patients infected with Ebola virus do get better spontaneously or with supportive care.

It’s important to note that the standard treatment for Ebola remains supportive therapy.

This consists of the following measures: Continue reading

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Suspicious HIV drug prescriptions abound in Medicare

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propublica thumbnailThe inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicare spent tens of millions of dollars in 2012 for HIV drugs there’s little evidence patients needed. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.

By Charles Ornstein
ProPublica

Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report set for release Wednesday.

The report offers a litany of possible fraud schemes, all paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D.

Among the most egregious:

In Detroit, a 77-year-old woman purportedly filled $33,500 worth of prescriptions for 10 different HIV medications. But there’s no record she had HIV or that she had visited the doctors who wrote the scripts.

A 48-year-old in Miami went to 28 different pharmacies to pick up HIV drugs worth nearly $200,000, almost 10 times what average patients get in a year. The prescriptions were supposedly written by 16 health providers, an unusually high number.

And on a single day, a third patient received $17,500 of HIV drugs — and none the rest of the year. She got more than twice the recommended dose of five HIV drug ingredients. Continue reading

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Women’s health week – 48: Drugs

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

As with many other diseases, the likelihood of becoming addicted differs from person to person, and between males and females.

For substance abuse overall, men are about twice as likely as women to be dependent on most illicit drugs and/or alcohol.

When someone first begins using drugs, addiction does not seem like a dangerous disease, and a person may perceive what seem to be positive effects of drug use. Continue reading

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New hepatitis C treatments – FDA Consumer Update

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fda-logo-thumbnailFrom the US Food and Drug Administration

At the approval of several new drugs for hepatitis C is  welcome news for baby boomers—who make up three of four adults with the hepatitis C virus—and millions of other Americans, many of whom don’t yet know they are infected and carriers, says the US Food and Drug Administration in this Consumer Update.

Hepatitis C can be cured, and today’s drug therapies are very effective and easier for patients to take, says Jeffrey S. Murray, M.D., the deputy director of the Division of Antiviral Products in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Murray is an internist who specializes in infectious diseases.

A Preventable and Curable Disease

Continue reading

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Error: You have no payments from Pharma

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Data GlobeDoctors checking a soon-to-be-unveiled federal website that will publicly list drug company payments are encountering error messages if they have not accepted industry money.

by Charles Ornstein
ProPublica

The federal government has a word for physicians who don’t have financial relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers: “Error.”

This week, the government began allowing doctors to log into a secure website to check the payments attributed to them by drug and device makers.

Doctors who were expecting the site to clearly confirm that they don’t have relationships with pharmaceutical companies have met with a surprise.

This information will be made public later this year under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

In advance, if doctors believe the material about them is wrong, they can contest it.

But early reports suggest the new site has some glitches. Doctors say it is taking them as long as an hour, sometimes longer, to verify their identities and log in. (Because the information is not yet public, doctors have to go through several steps to prove they are who they say they are.)

Once they get that far, doctors who were expecting the site to clearly reflect that they don’t have relationships with pharmaceutical companies have met with a surprise.

“You have the following errors on the page,” the Open Payments website tells them. “There are no results that match the specified search criteria.” Continue reading

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How to protect your children from cancer – CDC

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Cancer Prevention Starts in Childhood

Tips from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo of two parents and three children sitting outside

You can reduce your children’s risk of getting cancer later in life.

Start by helping them adopt a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and plenty of exercise to keep a healthy weight.

Then follow the tips below to help prevent specific kinds of cancer. Continue reading

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Measles cases up sharply

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Washington has had more measles cases so far this year than in the past five years combined. State health officials are sounding the alarm to remind people that vaccination is the best protection against the spread of this serious disease.

Alert IconFrom the Washington State Department of Health

So far in 2014 there have been 27 measles cases in Washington, up from the five reported in 2013.

The most recent cases reported in the past month have been in King County (11 confirmed cases) and Pierce County (two confirmed cases).

This is the third measles outbreak in our state this year and the number of cases so far is the highest reported in any year since 1996. Continue reading

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Some plans skew drug benefits to drive away patients, advocates warn

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The insurers say they’re in compliance with the law.

Four Florida insurers allegedly discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS by structuring their prescription drug benefits so that patients are discouraged from enrolling, according to a recent complaint filed with federal officials. Continue reading

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