Category Archives: Drugs & Medicines

Time for those back-to-school shots

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Immunization update time for kids is now — beat the back-to-school rush

Boy gets shot vaccine injectionFrom the Washington State Department of Health

While kids across Washington are squeezing every ounce of fun out of summer, many parents are already looking forward to the beginning of the school year and planning for all that must be done before the first day of school.

Now is the time to get kids in to see their health care providers for required immunizations, yearly well-child checks, and sports physicals. Families can cut down on back-to-school stress by getting the right immunizations for their students well before school starts. Students who aren’t in compliance with required vaccines may be kept out of school if a disease epidemic occurs.

Parents can find the immunization requirements to start school and attend child care online. There are new changes to the requirements this year for the chicken pox vaccine. It’s also important that kids are current on their whooping cough shots. The disease is spreading in Washington and everyone can play a part in stopping it. Continue reading

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How much acetaminophen a day is safe? Canada may decide it’s less

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Badge - Canadian flag canadaBy T. Christian Miller and Jeff Gerth
ProPublica

Canada’s top health agency is considering lowering the maximum recommended daily dose of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and other pain relievers.

Citing the risk of liver damage from overdosing on the popular pain medication, Health Canada announced it will review changes to labels, the creation of an educational awareness campaign and possible revisions to dosage recommendations.

Acetaminophen is considered safe when taken at recommended doses. Tens of millions of people use it weekly with no ill effect. But in larger amounts, especially in combination with alcohol, the drug can damage or even destroy the liver. In severe cases, acetaminophen overdose can cause death.

“Our goal is that we will have fewer effects on liver, less hospitalization, less instances of unintentional overdose, and we have more people that are informing themselves about all the products that they use, not just acetaminophen,” Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser for Health Canada’s Health Product and Food Branch, told the Toronto Star, in an interview. Continue reading

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Edible pot intoxications up among kids in King County

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From Public Health – Seattle & King County

An increasing number of King County residents are being poisoned by eating edible marijuana products, and health officials warn that children are particularly at risk.

According to the Washington Poison Center (WAPC), the number of marijuana edible intoxications reported in King County in 2014 was 73% higher than in 2013, and there is an upward trend in 2015.

“Marijuana edibles left lying around on the coffee table or next to snacks can easily fall into the hands of young kids.“

Children 5 years of age and younger accounted for roughly 30% of all edible marijuana intoxication reports in 2014. Seventy-three percent of children required evaluation at a hospital.

“Edible marijuana poisoning is an emerging health risk to children in our community that demands attention,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Edible marijuana consumers, sellers and health care providers should all take steps to prevent children from getting access to these products.”

Most intoxications among children occur when a child finds marijuana-containing products such as candy, chocolate or baked goods left unattended in the home. Continue reading

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California, Oregon to allow hormonal contraceptives without prescription

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By Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

California and Oregon will be the first states in the nation to allow women to get birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives directly from their pharmacists – without a doctor’s prescription.

As California officials were busy finalizing regulations on a state  law passed in 2013, Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed a similar bill into law last week.

The two measures were hailed by women’s health advocates. They noted that men have long had an easier time getting birth control, simply purchasing condoms over the counter.

Ken Thai, part-owner and manager of the El Monte Pharmacy Group, says he is excited about the new regulation that will allow him to directly prescribe birth control in his pharmacies in California (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Ken Thai, part-owner and manager of the El Monte Pharmacy Group, says he is excited about the new regulation that will allow him to directly prescribe birth control in his pharmacies in California (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

“We support efforts like these that remove barriers to women gaining access to birth control and other reproductive health care,” said Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California,  in a written statement.

She added that hormonal contraception has been widely studied and shown to be safe – “so safe that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that it be available over the counter.“

The contraceptives won’t be available like cough drops or antacids, however. In California, pharmacists can only dispense them after providing a health screening to women and taking their blood pressure. Oregon will also require a health screening, but the state’s specific rules haven’t been developed. Continue reading

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FDA strengthens warning of heart attack and stroke risk for non-steroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs

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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death.

fda nsaid drug factsFrom the US Food and Drug Administration

Next time you reach into the medicine cabinet seeking relief for a headache, backache or arthritis, be aware of important safety information for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

FDA is strengthening an existing warning in prescription drug labels and over-the-counter (OTC) Drug Facts labels to indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death.

Those serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs. (Although aspirin is also an NSAID, this revised warning doesn’t apply to aspirin.)

The OTC drugs in this group are used for the temporary relief of pain and fever. The prescription drugs in this group are used to treat several kinds of arthritis and other painful conditions.

Because many prescription and OTC medicines contain NSAIDs, consumers should avoid taking multiple remedies with the same active ingredient.

The risks and what’s new

Continue reading

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Obamacare birth control coverage saves women significant money

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CONTRACEPTIVEBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a study released Tuesday.

But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers.

The study, in the July issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect.

The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs.

“These are healthy women and this on average is their No. 1 need from the health care system,” said Nora Becker, an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “On average, these women were spending about 30 to 44 percent of their total out of pocket (health) spending just on birth control.” Continue reading

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States move to limit patient costs for high-priced drugs

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By Michael Ollove
Stateline

As more expensive specialty drugs come on the market to treat some of the most serious chronic diseases, more states are stepping in to cushion the financial pain for patients who need medicine that can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Continue reading

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Use only approved prescription ear drops, FDA warns

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ucm453229FDA consumer update

For years health care providers and pharmacies have sold ear drops that contain ingredients like benzocaine and hydrocortisone that have not been evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Now the FDA notifying companies to stop marketing 16 unapproved prescription drugs labeled to relieve ear pain and swelling.

FDA wants to make sure that the next time your child has ear pain requiring a prescription drug, the product has been approved by FDA as safe and effective.

“If we don’t know whether these drugs have any benefits, we should not accept any possible risk of side effects,” says FDA’s Charles E. Lee, M.D. Continue reading

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Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years

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From Washington State Department of Health

Tragic outcome for immunocompromised patient shows need for community protection

Measles Virus

The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy.

The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County.

She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles.

The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system.

The last confirmed measles death in the United States was reported in 2003.

She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.

This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles. Continue reading

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California’s tough new law overcomes distrust of vaccines

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Boy gets shot vaccine injectionBy April Dembosky, KQED

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed into law a requirement that nearly all children be vaccinated in order to attend school.

With the stroke of a pen, California went from being a state with relatively lax vaccination rules to one of the most strict in the country — joining Mississippi and West Virginia as states where even exemptions for religious beliefs are not allowed.

As the bill worked its way through the legislative process, it faced strong, consistent, vocal opposition from some parents, including a small group of protesters who stood vigil outside the Capitol in Sacramento for days before it was clear Brown would sign the bill.

The protesters are passionate, inflamed mainly by discredited beliefs that vaccines are linked to autism. But opposition to vaccines is far from new. Continue reading

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Fraud still plagues Medicare drug program, watchdog finds

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by Charles Ornstein ProPublica,

This article has been corrected.

Fraud and abuse continue to dog Medicare’s popular prescription drug program despite a bevy of initiatives launched to prevent them, according to two new reports by the inspector general of Health and Human Services.

The release follows the arrests of 44 pharmacy owners, doctors and others, who last week were accused of bilking the program, known as Part D.

The reports issued Tuesday provide more insight into the extent of the fraud, as well as steps federal regulators should take to stop it. The first, which covers data from last year, found: Continue reading

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