Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

Whooping cough outbreak growing in Washington

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Department of Health urges everyone, especially pregnant women, to get Tdap vaccine

From the Washington State Department of Health

Alert IconWhooping cough is on the rise in Washington and state health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the disease, especially pregnant women.

So far in 2015 there have been 319 cases of whooping cough reported compared to 49 reported cases during the same time in 2014.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and is spread by coughing and sneezing.

Rates of whooping cough are continuing to rise in several areas around the state, which is a concern to health officials.

While everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated against the disease, newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated are at high risk for severe disease.

That’s why it’s especially important that pregnant women get vaccinated during each pregnancy, toward the end of their pregnancy, to best protect their newborn.

“Women who are pregnant should be sure to talk to their health care provider, doctor, or midwife about getting their Tdap vaccine before they give birth,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, communicable disease epidemiologist for the state Department of Health “It’s also important that everyone else in the family is vaccinated to keep babies safe.” Continue reading

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Lead-warning for children’s herbal cold and flu remedy from China

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From the Washington Department of Health

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent out an alert regarding Bo-Ying Compound after traces of lead were found in the product. Bo-Ying Compound is used to treat a wide variety of conditions in infants and children.

boying (1)

The Washington State Department of Health received an alert regarding lead found in Bo-Ying Compound manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong).

This product is also manufactured by other companies and may also contain lead so people are urged not to use any Bo-Ying Compound products. Continue reading

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Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD

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Blue Pregnant BellyUse of prescription narcotic painkillers is common in pregnancy and increases the likelihood a baby will be born small or early, or go through painful drug withdrawal, a new study finds.

These prescription painkillers, also called opioids, include drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin), codeine and morphine.

Nearly 30 percent of the Tennessee mothers-to-be in the new study used at least one of these drugs while pregnant, and the associated risks went up if they also smoked or took antidepressants.

via Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD.

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U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleU.S. spending on prescription medicines jumped 13 percent to $374 billion in 2014, the biggest percentage increase since 2001, as demand surged for expensive new breakthrough hepatitis C treatments, a report released on Tuesday showed.

Demand for newer cancer and multiple sclerosis treatments, price increases on branded medicines, particularly insulin products for diabetes, and the entry of few new generic versions of big-selling drugs also contributed to the double-digit spending rise in 2014, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc found.

via U.S. prescription drug spending rose 13 percent in 2014: IMS report | Reuters.

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Most Common Drug Ingredient in the US Kills Emotions

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Three red and white capsulesCommonly found in pain relievers, acetaminophen gets rid of more than just physical agony – it also diminishes emotions.

“Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever,” lead researcher said in a news release.

via Most Common Drug Ingredient in the US Kills Emotions.

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Coalition pushes for health care cost and quality transparency

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Lisa Gillespie
KHN

As consumers increasingly are being asked to pay a larger share of their health bills, a coalition of insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and provider and consumer advocacy groups launched Thursday a new push for greater transparency regarding the actual costs of services.

The group includes AARP, Novo Nordisk, the National Consumers League, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, the National Council for Behavioral Health and Aetna.

Transparency means all consumers have the information they need to estimate cost and quality of health services.

Health care transparency, long a buzz word, means all consumers — whether they are covered by Medicare, work-based insurance or without coverage at all — have access to information enabling them to estimate accurately the cost of health services, and compare physician quality rankings and outcomes.

The initiative, “Clear Choices,”  will add to private and government efforts already underway to get more such information to patients, including Medicare’s Physician Compare, and the Health Care Cost Institute’s ‘Guroo,’ which culls data from private insurers to provide average prices regionally.

The group’s first priority is advancing the Medicare doctor payment legislationp ending in the Senate because it includes a provision requiring Medicare to release for broader use a substantial amount of data on claims at the provider level.

The group’s other objectives include:

  • Improving quality measures for doctors and hospitals so that patients will be armed with more comparative information.
  • Requiring hospitals to be clearer regarding what may or may not be included in their cost estimates for care.
  • Creating better tools for consumers to make medical decisions based on price, quality and safety of medical services.

Continue reading

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States ask U.S. Congress to launch inquiry of herbal supplements | Reuters

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Ginkgo bilobaA group of 14 state attorneys general on Thursday asked the U.S. Congress to investigate the herbal supplements industry after a New York probe of the products turned up ingredients that were not listed on labels and raised safety concerns.

via States ask U.S. Congress to launch inquiry of herbal supplements | Reuters.

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Measles vaccinations jump after scare, public dialogue | The Seattle Times

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionFueled in part by growing reports of measles cases nationwide — including a high-profile Disneyland outbreak — vaccinations to prevent the highly contagious disease jumped by 27 percent in Washington state this winter, compared with the same December-through-February stretch a year ago.

via Measles vaccinations jump after scare, public dialogue | The Seattle Times.

 

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Measure kids’ medicines in metric units, not spoonfuls, doctors say | Reuters

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SpoonsChildren’s liquid medicines should only be measured in metric units to avoid overdoses common with teaspoons and tablespoons, U.S. pediatricians say.

Tens of thousands of kids wind up in emergency rooms after unintentional medicine overdoses each year, and the cause is often badly labeled containers or unclear directions, said Dr. Ian Paul, a pediatrician at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital and lead author of new metric dosing guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

via Measure kids’ medicines in metric units, not spoonfuls, doctors say | Reuters.

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The Cost of a Cure: Medicare Spent $4.5 Billion on New Hepatitis C Drugs Last Year

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Charles Ornstein
ProPublica.

This story was co-published with the Washington Post.

Medicare spent $4.5 billion last year on new, pricey medications that cure the liver disease hepatitis C 2014 more than 15 times what it spent the year before on older treatments for the disease, previously undisclosed federal data shows.

The extraordinary outlays for these breakthrough drugs, which can cost $1,000 a day or more, will be borne largely by federal taxpayers, who pay for most of Medicare’s prescription drug program.

The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending.

But the expenditures will also mean higher deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket costs for many of the program’s 39 million seniors and disabled enrollees, who pay a smaller share of its cost, experts and federal officials said.

The spending dwarfs the approximately $286 million that the program, known as Part D, spent on earlier-generation hepatitis C drugs in 2013, said Sean Cavanugh, director of Medicare and deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The most-discussed of the new drugs, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, accounted for more than $3 billion of the spending. Spending on another drug, Harvoni, hit $670 million even though it only came on the market only in October. Bills for a third drug, Olysio, often taken in conjunction with Sovaldi, reached $821 million.

Medicare also spent $157 million on older hepatitis C drugs in 2014, bringing the total spending for the category to more than $4.7 billion.

The spending surge is unlike anything Part D has seen. The nine-year-old program has benefited in recent years from a slowdown in prescription drug costs as several blockbusters, including the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, have lost patent protection and have faced competition from generics. Continue reading

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More states demand notification of use of biosimilars

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Three red-and-white capsulesBy Michael Ollove
Stateline

Without the medicine Rachelle Crow takes for her rheumatoid arthritis, the 29-year-old Michigan woman’s face would frequently feel as if it were engulfed in flames. She would barely be able to crawl out of bed. She would have trouble opening or closing her fists or lifting her 3-year-old daughter.

Crow can do all those things thanks to Cimzia, one of a highly complex, usually expensive class of drugs known as biologics that derive from living organisms. Cimzia is recommended for women, like Crow, who are trying to get pregnant.

Notification laws require that patients and doctors are told whenever “biosimilar” imitations are substituted for brand-name biologics

.What keeps her up at night is a fear that a pharmacy could substitute a cheaper, not-quite identical drug for Cimzia without her or her doctor’s knowledge. It’s not only a return of her worst symptoms that she worries about. “If another medicine were substituted without telling me or my doctor, it could put my pregnancy at risk,” she said.

Fears like Crow’s have helped propel legislative attempts in many states this year to make sure that patients and doctors are notified whenever imitations deemed “interchangeable” by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are substituted for brand-name biologics.

biosimilars

 

Already, Colorado has passed a notification law, and Utah has revised its earlier law. More than a dozen states are considering comparable measures.

Notification bills began popping up in states two years ago, but most were defeated in the face of opposition from manufacturers of biologic copies, which are called biosimilars, and from organizations representing pharmacists, who objected to the extra workload notification requirements might entail.  Continue reading

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Vashon parents try to get along despite deep divide over vaccination | The Seattle Times

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Vashon island mapEvery few years, stories appear about Vashon Island and its high percentage of unvaccinated kids. It happened again a few weeks ago in the wake of reports of measles outbreaks nationwide. Then the temporary publicity fades and this island of 11,000 goes back to the same old, same old. Which is: a deep divide between the pro and con camps that in most other ways are so much alike. Except that this time it got pretty vitriolic.

Vashon parents try to get along despite deep divide over vaccination | The Seattle Times.

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High-priced hepatitis C drugs largely cost-effective in U.S.: study | Reuters

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleNew hepatitis C drugs that shorten treatment times are largely cost-effective despite their hefty U.S. price tags, according to two new analyses.

The widespread use of a combination of drugs that include Gilead Sciences Inc’s Sovaldi, known generically as sofosbuvir, will nonetheless be a significant cost for the U.S. healthcare system, researchers wrote.

via Gilead’s hepatitis C drugs largely cost-effective in U.S.: study | Reuters.

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Specialty drugs save lives, come with daunting price tags – AP

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleDoctors hail many of these therapies as breakthroughs, since they can conquer or control diseases that were once almost untreatable.

But they can cost more than $80,000 for a single course of treatment and bury patients in debt, even those with insurance.

Patient advocates expect the problem to worsen as insurance coverage shrinks and use of specialty treatments grows.

via News from The Associated Press.

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