UNUSED CANCER DRUGS COST $3 BILLION ANNUALLY. It would almost be too easy for drug companies to step back and realize that distributing smaller vials of costly cancer drugs would make sense for patients and the rising costs in health care. But, as a New York Times report notes, most drugmakers only sell one-size-fits-all vials of cancer drugs. Eighteen of the top 20 cancer medicines are sold in one or two vial sizes, ensuring that an average of 10 percent of the volume of cancer drugspurchased by doctors and hospitals is thrown away. And safety protocol only allows nurses to use drug leftovers in other patients within six hours and in specialized pharmacies only. “Drug companies are quietly making billions, forcing little old ladies to buy enough medicine to treat football players, and regulators have completely missed it,” said Peter Bach, M.D., co-author of the study cited in the New York Times article.
WELCOME TO GROWING OLD 101. There’s a new course being taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, that teaches freshman what it’s like to get old — physically, emotionally and financially. A Kaiser Health News story reported on the Frontiers in Human Aging class, which discusses ageism and Social Security and holds lectures on anxiety, genetics and dementia with its 120-plus students enrolled, and seeks to inspire them to one day work with the elderly. And a few months into the program, students have the option to volunteer at one of several visiting agencies that serve the elderly. Many students report a sense of satisfaction from the class and work with the elderly, and with more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, there is certainly a need.
‘GOING GRAY’ GENE FOUND. For all the George Clooneys and Morgan Freemans who have seemingly embraced their gray locks, there are many more who would do anything to keep the smallest tinge of pigment in their hair. And according to a CNN report, researchers may finally have found the "going gray" culprit. IRF4 is the gene responsible for telling hair follicles to gradually stop producing the pigment in our hair follicles. And while we would love to point the finger at the bad genes inherited from our parents, it might not be that simple because “the study confirms that [going gra
y] is at least a mix of genes and environment,” said Paradi Mirmirani, M.D., a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente.
NEW ZIKA TEST APPROVED. Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell approved an emergency use authorizationfor a test that can detect Zika antibodies in the blood from four days to 12 weeks after infection. The test will be distributed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to qualified domestic and international labs within its Laboratory Response Network.“As with any test, it is important that health care providers consult with their patients about test results and the best approach to monitoring their health,” the CDC said.
HACKERS AFTER MORE THAN PATIENT INFORMATION. There’s no question hackers will continue to seek out health records that sell up to five times the cost of credit card info on the black market, but as The Hill notes, it is “embarrassingly easy” to hack medical devices and put patient lives at risk. Many medical devices take from 18 months to 10 years to develop and may be used for up to 15 years — much too long to combat the speed at which cybersecurity is moving. And while hackers haven’t tapped into drug infusion pumps (a common vulnerable device) to harm patients, Billy Rios, a security researcher and “white hat hacker”commonly invited by hospitals to ID security vulnerabilities, says “we would have to be naïve to think that people won’t take advantage of the unique things in health care.”