HEALTH

CDC: Of the 105 flu-related pediatric deaths this season, 9-in-10 did not get a flu shot

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — An early look at this season’s reports indicates that about 90% of flu-related pediatric deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday. 

The number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to the CDC during the current season surpassed 100 as an additional 6 deaths were reported in FluView last week. To date, this brings the total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to the CDC to 105 for the 2012-2013 season.

The review also indicated that 60% of deaths occurred in children who were at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications. The proportions of pediatric deaths occurring in children who were unvaccinated and those who had high-risk conditions are consistent with what has been seen in previous seasons.

According to CDC survey data, only about 40% of children had received a 2012-2013 influenza vaccine by mid-November of 2012. The final estimated vaccination rate among children during the 2011-2012 season was 52%.

Across all age groups, this season’s vaccine was found to be about 60% effective in preventing medically attended influenza illness. This number was lower among people 65 and older, but flu vaccination reduced a child’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by more than 60%.

CDC recommends annual flu vaccination as the first and best step in preventing influenza. CDC recommends antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against flu for those people who are seriously ill and those who are at high risk of flu complications, even if they have been vaccinated.

 

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Boiron owner publishes homeopathy desktop reference

BY Michael Johnsen

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Boiron owner Michèle Boiron recently published a book on homeopathy for healthcare professionals titled "Homeopathy and Pharmaceutical Care," the company announced. In April 2013, she and co-author François Roux will host lectures in Philadelphia and New York. 

"As patient and healthcare professional interest in homeopathic medicines grow, this concise desk reference fills the gap between advanced technical references for prescribers and book on self-treatable conditions for lay people," the homeopathic company stated. 

A brief introduction covers homeopathic pharmacology basics and provides guidelines for dosage, storage and general use of these medicines. Afterward, the therapeutic section lists the protocols that can be used for more than 56 conditions where homeopathic medicines can be simply and reliably recommended. Each section begins with a short physio-pathological synopsis. Symptoms are listed next along with corresponding medicines and dosages for an easy assessment of the treatment. The authors clearly indicate the conditions that require physician intervention, thus remaining in the safe scope of consulting.

Purchasers of this book will be given the option to and instructions on creating a free online account to access updates. Protocols in the book will be hyperlinked to a summarized version of The Materia Medica and drug facts for branded medicines. Prescribers can therefore easily toggle between the information. Additionally, prescribers can create a customized recommendation template with their business information and print it as a convenient take-away for patients.

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Senators introduce bill restricting sale of DXM cough-relieving ingredient to adults

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., on Friday introduced the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments Act of 2013, which would require retailers to restrict the sale of dextromethorphan-containing products to adults. The bill also would restrict the sale of raw, bulk DXM to FDA-approved entities. 

Many retailers have age restrictions on the sale of DXM products already in place; and similar legislation to this has been enforced in California since 2012. 

“By addressing teens’ easy access to cough syrup, the main cause of the harmful trend of its abuse, my bill will help keep our children safe and lessen the strain cough syrup abuse has put on families, hospitals and law enforcement,” Casey stated. “My common-sense legislation will prevent kids from purchasing a drug that has dangerous consequences when abused to get high, while also ensuring it is available to those with a legitimate need for it.” 

“Our association works to raise national awareness about this troubling behavior, and we are grateful to Sens. Casey and Murkowski for championing this issue on Capitol Hill,” stated Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “An age restriction on the sale of dextromethorphan would give parents a tool to prevent abuse, as teens who report abusing DXM can easily purchase it themselves. We encourage all parents to monitor the medicines in their homes, to take notice if medicine goes missing and to talk to their teens about the risks of abusing all medicines, including OTC cough medicine.”

The association representing the independent pharmacy community expressed some reservations, however. 

“Community pharmacies support and actively contribute to practical efforts to reduce the abuse of DXM-containing products and other medicines," commented John Coster, SVP government affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association. "We remain concerned, however, that this legislation will in fact ultimately place unfunded burdens on small pharmacies," he said. Placing age restrictions on DXM products may prompt many pharmacies to move DXM products behind the pharmacy counter, Coster suggested. 

As many as 5% of teenagers report having intentionally taken large doses of DXM for effects that include hallucinations, confusion, blurred vision and loss of motor control. There have been reported cases of abuse of the raw form of DXM, which is extremely potent and sold in “bulk” to manufacturers. In 2005, five teenage boys from three different states died after ingesting DXM powder that they had bought in bulk from an online source. The PACT Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use.

In addition to CHPA, the bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the National Consumers League, Partnership at DrugFree.Org, Safe Kids Worldwide and the National Association of School Nurses.

CHPA, the trade association representing the makers of OTC medicines and dietary supplements, has long supported an age restriction, as well as national educational efforts, to curb teen OTC cough medicine abuse through its StopMedicineAbuse.org education campaign. “We are working closely with CHPA on a digital and social media-based prevention effort targeting those teens who actively search online for information on how to abuse DXM,” noted Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “By embracing an integrated approach, one that underscores the importance of parent-to-teen communication about the risks of medicine abuse, stresses the need to safeguard medicines at home, limits children’s access at retail points and employs innovative teen intervention strategies online, we can help curb teen abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine.”

 

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