Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

Vaccine rates leave many Washington toddlers at risk

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Alert IconFrom Washington State Department of Health

New immunization rates show many toddlers across the state aren’t getting vaccinated for certain diseases on time, if at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The annual survey reports that children between 19 and 35 months of age weren’t any more protected against serious and potentially fatal diseases than the year before. About 67 percent of toddlers in 2014 were fully vaccinated by 3 years of age.

This overall rate is about 3 percent lower than 2013, but statistically the two rates are not significantly different.Washington’s immunization rates for 2014 did not improve for most recommended vaccines for young children.

The lone exception was the dose of hepatitis B vaccine given at birth. Coverage rates for the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine exceeded national coverage rates, increasing to almost 80 percent.

“The data show that we’re not protecting all of our kids as well as we should,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “We’re disappointed that our rates aren’t higher. When kids aren’t fully protected, it puts those kids and the wider community at risk of disease. The recent spike in measles cases and the ongoing whooping cough outbreak highlights the need for high vaccination rates.” Continue reading

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States look for more effective ways to encourage vaccinations

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

When kids start school this fall, it’s a sure bet that some won’t have had their recommended vaccines because their parents have claimed exemptions from school requirements for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

Following the much publicized outbreak of measles that started in Disneyland in California in December, these exemptions have drawn increased scrutiny.

That outbreak, which eventually infected 147 people in seven states, was a wake-up call for many parents, who may not have realized how contagious or serious the disease can be, and for states as well, say public health officials.

“States are beginning to realize that they have effective measures to combat these outbreaks, and philosophical exemptions are eroding these protections and resulting in significant costs to states,” says Dr. Carrie Byington, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Continue reading

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Americans favor government action on drug prices – poll

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KHN

Most Americans value the prescription products the drug industry produces, but they sure don’t like the prices and want the federal government to take action, according to a new survey.

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: August 2015

Just over half of Americans (54 percent) are currently taking a prescription drug. While most say their drugs are easy to afford, consumers in general (72 percent) believe drug costs are unreasonable, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent part of the foundation.)

More people (51 percent) think competition would do a better job of controlling prices than federal regulation (40 percent).

But large majorities said they would favor allowing Medicare to negotiate with companies on prices and allowing people to buy medicines imported from Canada. Continue reading

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Cost of diabetes drugs often overlooked, but shouldn’t be

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GlucometerBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

When it comes to treating chronic conditions, diabetes drugs aren’t nearly as sexy as say, Sovaldi, last year’s breakthrough hepatitis C drug that offers a cure for the chronic liver infection at a price approaching six figures.

Yet an estimated 29 million people have diabetes — about 10 times the number of people with hepatitis C — and many of them will take diabetes drugs for the rest of their lives. Cost increases for both old and new drugs alike are forcing many consumers to scramble to pay for them.

“Every week I see patients who can’t afford their drugs.”

“Every week I see patients who can’t afford their drugs,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, an endocrinologist who’s director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Many people with diabetes take multiple drugs that work in different ways to control their blood sugar. Although some of the top-selling diabetes drugs like metformin are modestly priced generics, new brand-name drugs continue to be introduced that act in different ways.

They may be more effective and have fewer side effects, but it often comes at a price. For the fourth year in a row, spending on diabetes drugs in 2014 was higher on a per member per year basis than it was for any other class of traditional drug, according to the Express Scripts 2014 Drug Trend Report. Less than half of the prescriptions filled for diabetes treatments were generic. Continue reading

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After years of study, FDA endorses safety device for giving children acetaminophen

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ppmb_budnitz_demo_560x373_131227By T. Christian Miller and Jeff Gerth
ProPublica, Aug. 12, 2015, 8 a.m.

The Food and Drug Administration has endorsed the use of a safety device for bottles of children’s medication containing liquid acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

Called a flow restrictor, the device fits into the top of a bottle to prevent kids from inadvertently squeezing or sucking out too much liquid. In high doses, acetaminophen can result in liver damage and even death.

While the FDA guidance released earlier this month does not require use of the devices, it is a strong signal to manufacturers that flow restrictors are considered an important safety feature to help reduce accidental overdoses.

“This is definitely significant,” said Dr. Dan Budnitz, a scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is leading an effort to make children’s medicine safer.

The move comes 20 months after ProPublica and Consumer Reports reported on the devices, which have been shown to greatly reduce the liquid dose that children can accidentally remove from a bottle.

About 10,000 children each year visit the emergency room for overdosing on liquid medicines, many of them containing acetaminophen, studies show.

PHOTO: Bryan Meltz for ProPublica

Continue reading

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Employers look to tighten control costs of expensive drugs

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Lisa Gillespie
KHN

More than half of large employers in 2016 will aim to more tightly manage employees’ use of high-priced specialty drugs, one of the fastest-growing expenses in their health plans.

Despite those efforts, companies still expect the cost of specialty drugs that are carefully administered to treat conditions such as cancer, HIV and hepatitis C to continue rising at a double-digit annual rate — well ahead of the pace for traditional pharmacy drugs or companies’ overall spending on health benefits, according to the National Business Group on Health.

55% of employers plan to direct employees to specialty pharmacies if they need high-cost drugs

.The group released a survey Wednesday that found 55 percent of employers next year plan to direct employees to specialty pharmacies if they need drugs that can cost thousands of dollars for a single treatment. That share was up from a third in the group’s survey a year ago on companies’ plans for 2015 health plans.

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More companies also say they will require employees to get prior authorization before buying specialty drugs under the employer’s health plan — 53 percent vs. 29 percent a year ago. Continue reading

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Event: Back to school and type 1 diabetes

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JDRF Logo
Teen/College Pre Events

Back to School and T1D

Friday, August 21, 2015 6:00-7:30pm

Join us at Seattle Children’s Hospital to discuss best practices to successfully manage type 1 diabetes through the next school year. This event includes a panel of knowledgeable professionals that will address your questions and concerns from a variety of perspectives.  Please RSVP by August 14.

Our panel includes:

  • Lindy MacMillan, JD — Attorney with the Washington Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Paul Mystkowski, MD–Endocrinologist, Clinical Faculty, University of Washington
  • Cathryn Plummer, MSN, ARNP, FNP-C–Former school nurse and T1D mom
Seattle Children’s Hospital, Main Campus–River Entrance
4800 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
To register, please visit www.backtoschool-t1d.eventbrite.com or contact Karine Roettgers kroettgers@jdrf or 206.708.2240
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Uncoordinated patient transfers spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria – CDC video

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A growing number of infections are antibiotic resistant. Antibiotic-resistant infections are spreading between healthcare facilities, even those that are practicing infection control and antibiotic stewardship. By adopting a coordinated approach, however, where multiple facilities in an area work together to improve infection control and stewardship activities, we can reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections and protect patients.

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Pain patients say they can’t get medicine after crackdown on illegal Rx drug trade

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gotbaum-pain-meds-570

Lesley Young testified that she has driven 100 miles to try to find a pharmacy that would fill painkiller prescriptions for her husband Chris. (Photo by Jessica Palombo/For KHN)

By Rachel Gotbaum
KHN

The accident happened 10 years ago when Chris Young was 35.

He owned a salvage yard in Maui, Hawaii, and his employee had hoisted a junker on a machine called an excavator when the hydraulics gave out.

The car fell on him from above his head, smashing his spine.

“He was crushed accordion-style,” says his wife Lesley.

The accident left Young with a condition known as “partial paraplegia.” He can’t walk and he needs a wheelchair, but he does have some sensation in his legs. Unfortunately for Young, that sensation is often excruciating pain.

“It feels like electric shocks, like lightning bolts going down my legs. And when it gets down to the bottom, it feels like someone is driving a big metal spike up my legs,” says Young.

To control the pain, Young, who has since moved to Florida, needs high doses of narcotic painkillers, but he can’t always fill his doctor’s prescription.

He is not alone. In what may be an unintended side effect of a crackdown on prescription drug abuse, Young and other legitimate chronic pain patients are having increasing trouble getting the medicine that allows them to function on a daily basis. Continue reading

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Feds call from more scrutiny of Coumadin use in nursing homes

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Inspectors are being asked to pay greater attention following analysis showing mistakes resulting in injuries and deaths

RedBloodCellsBy Charles Ornstein
ProPublica, Aug. 3, 2015
This story was co-published with The Washington Post.

The federal government is asking health inspectors nationwide to be on the lookout for errors by nursing homes in managing the blood thinner Coumadin, including those that lead to patient hospitalizations and deaths.

In a memo sent last month to state health departments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a report by ProPublica and The Washington Post that focused on the harm caused by homes’ failure to manage the drug.

In some cases, homes gave residents too much of the drug, which caused internal bleeding. In other cases, they gave residents too little, leading to blood clots and strokes.

The analysis of government inspection reports found that, between 2011 and 2014, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died after errors involving Coumadin or its generic version, warfarin.

In some cases, homes gave residents too much of the drug, which caused internal bleeding. In other cases, they gave residents too little, leading to blood clots and strokes. Continue reading

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