Health Tips & Articles

Monday January 6th

There have been at least 1,300 influenza deaths in the U.S. so far this season, CDC estimates CNN (12/13/19) Bonifield, John; Gumbrecht, Jamie

CDC reported Friday that at least 1,300 people have died from influenza already this season, including 10 children. The preliminary estimate also said there have been at least 2.6 million influenza illnesses and 23,000 influenza-related hospitalizations. Experts have cautioned that influenza is hitting the United States early this season, and there are concerns that the early season could indicate a particularly harsh season ahead. For the week ending December 7, influenza spread significantly in all states except Alaska, CDC said. There is widespread influenza activity in 23 states, with both the eastern and western parts of the country being hit hard. Most influenza activity is being caused by influenza B/Victoria viruses, according to CDC, though influenza A/H1N1 viruses are increasing in proportion relative to other influenza viruses in some regions. CDC stressed the importance of getting vaccinated against seasonal influenza, noting that it is not too late even if influenza is circulating in your area.

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Monday January 13th

Survey: 37% of Americans plan to skip influenza vaccine this season The Hill (12/03/19) Hellmann, Jessie

More than a third of U.S. adults say they do not plan to get vaccinated against influenza this year, a new survey shows. According to the survey from NORC at the University of Chicago, these individuals expressed concern about adverse effects from the vaccine or believe it does not work very well. "Widespread misconceptions exist regarding the safety and efficacy of flu shots," said Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of Public Health Research at NORC at the University of Chicago. She noted, however, that "because of the way the flu spreads in a community, failing to get a vaccination not only puts you at risk but also others for whom the consequences of the flu can be severe." Data from early November show that 44% of adults said they had been vaccinated against influenza and 18% more said they still plan to get vaccinated. CDC notes that influenza vaccines are the best protection against the virus, which takes the lives of thousands of Americans every year.

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Monday January 20th

Minnesota woman rejected for the morning-after drug by pharmacist Washington Post (12/13/19) Shepherd, Katie

A severe snowstorm was brewing in McGregor, MN when Andrea Anderson called her doctor after a condom mishap left her in need of an emergency contraceptive to prevent an unwanted pregnancy last January. Her gynecologist told the 39-year-old mother of five she should take ella, the prescription-only morning-after medication, and sent the prescription to the only pharmacy in McGregor. The pharmacist at the Thrifty White Pharmacy allegedly told McGregor he would not fill the prescription because of a personal objection. Anderson filed a lawsuit Monday in Minnesota's Ninth Judicial District Court alleging that pharmacist George Badeaux told the woman he would not give her the morning-after drug because of his "beliefs," a practice allowed by state regulations. As part of the lawsuit, Anderson is suing Badeaux, Thrifty White, and an unnamed CVS pharmacist, who also refused to provide the morning-after drug. Anderson said the pharmacy's owner, Matt Hutera, told her that Badeaux had refused to fill prescriptions based on his personal beliefs before, and let her know that the pharmacist was also a pastor at a local church, the lawsuit said. Anderson drove about 20 miles to a CVS pharmacy in a neighboring town, where another pharmacist declined to fill her prescription. Ultimately, she got the medication from a pharmacist at a Walgreens and made it home safely after driving more than 100 miles through a blizzard. She did not get pregnant.

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Monday January 27th

The hidden drug epidemic among older people New York Times (12/16/19) Brody, Jane E.

Polypharmacy is common among older adults, according to research. Individuals aged 65-69 years take an average of 15 prescriptions a year, while those aged 80-84 years take an average of 18 prescriptions annually, the American Association of Consultant Pharmacists reports. Plus, many take OTC products, herbal remedies, vitamins, and minerals as well. Among people older than age 65 years, 44% of men and 57% of women take five or more nonprescription and/or prescription drugs a week, while 12% take 10 or more. Contributing to the issue is that some physicians do not routinely ask patients about their use of nonprescription remedies, and patients may not volunteer such information unless questioned directly. Many such products may not be necessary or are used incorrectly, and that can potentially cause dangerous adverse effects. Experts recommend that patients maintain an up-to-date list of all their medications, including what conditions the drugs are intended to treat, their generic and brand names, dose, frequency, and method of administration. Patients should also keep a list of all OTC products and supplements they take and bring both lists to each medical visit so their health care provider can review them.

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Monday February 3rd

Pharmacy assessment of penicillin allergies finds safe, less-expensive options Medical Xpress (12/10/19)

Research presented at a recent meeting of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists revealed that among patients with reported penicillin allergies, more than one-half were able to take antibiotics from the same drug class instead of costlier substitutes. This move saved one hospital nearly $21,500 by switching 43 patients in just 3 months. Up to 10% of the population reports having penicillin allergies, but researchers believe that true penicillin allergies are rare, with an overall estimated frequency of less than 1%. Rita Chamoun, PharmD, clinical staff pharmacist at Baptist Hospital of Miami and lead author of the study, says: "Working together, pharmacists and other medical professionals can find alternatives that work for some patients. A multi-disciplinary approach is key to optimizing therapy in patients with a reported penicillin allergy." In the study, Baptist Hospital pharmacists interviewed patients with reported allergies and then thoroughly evaluated their medication history before verifying orders for substitute antibiotics. Penicillin belongs to a class of antibiotics known as beta-lactams, and patients who report allergies to penicillin typically are treated with broad-spectrum, non-beta-lactam alternatives that usually cost more and are associated with more adverse effects. After evaluating patient histories during a 3-month span, researchers found that 68% of patients with reported penicillin allergies had previously successfully used other beta-lactams, such as cephalosporins. Pharmacists advised switching to a beta-lactam antibiotic with 100% prescriber acceptance.

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