Will these 3 questions help to solve the opioid crisis?

Scott Gotllieb OpioidsAs the opioid epidemic intensifies in both small towns and metropolitan areas across the nation, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., “will bring together some of the agency’s most senior career leaders” to look for solutions. To start, Gottlieb is asking the new Opioid Policy Steering Committee to consider three questions: (1) should health care professionals undergo mandatory education about the risks of prescribing certain drugs and how to steer addicts into treatment; (2) should the FDA find a way to make sure that the supply of a medication prescribed to an individual does not exceed the total overall dosage for the duration that’s actually needed — for instance, prohibiting doctors from prescribing a 30-day supply of pills when only three days’ worth are needed to treat a patient’s condition; and (3) is the FDA sufficiently evaluating new opioid drugs before allowing them to go to market?

Pharmacy giants await Amazon’s next move

Amazon PharmacyThere are signs that Amazon might try to disrupt the pharmaceutical industry, USA Today reports. Those signs include market testing, staffing moves and annual meetings on home delivery of drugs. Some analysts say Amazon could challenge established online prescription services like Express Scripts and Health/Optum RX, as well as brick-and-mortar pharmacy giants such as Walgreens and CVS. One big question is whether enough consumers would be willing to trade face-to-face contact with a pharmacist for the convenience of home delivery. So far, mail-order prescriptions account for only $106 billion of the nation’s $465 billion in annual prescription sales.

Speedier sepsis care saves lives

Sepsis response timesHospitals and other providers are speeding up their response times when they suspect that a patient may have sepsis, and research published in the New England Journal of Medicine underscores why that is critical. As reported by AP, researchers found that the odds of death caused by sepsis increase 4 percent for “every additional hour it takes to give antibiotics and perform other key steps.” The researchers examined patients treated in New York, which was the first state to require hospitals to take aggressive steps to treat suspected sepsis cases. Illinois has a similar mandate. Hospitals in other states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, have formed sepsis care collaborations to fight the condition, which strikes more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. every year and kills more than 250,000. Experts also say that public awareness must be raised; in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of sepsis cases began outside of hospitals.

Transgender surgeries climb 19 percent

More than 3,200 transgender procedures were performed last year by members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. These gender confirmation surgeries ranged from facial and body contouring to gender reassignment. Male-to-female confirmation surgeries rose 27 percent; female-to-male surgeries rose 10 percent. A society spokesperson noted that surgery is just one component of treating gender dysphoria, and “it takes a team of experts across different disciplines working together to provide comprehensive care.” Public acceptance; heightened awareness by health care professionals; increased research and expertise; and better health care coverage have helped more patients “address the incongruity between their bodies and the gender they know themselves to be,” according to a society news release.

Public service or product placement on ‘General Hospital’?

General Hospital Product PlacementIt’s not unusual for soap opera characters to suffer through life-threatening diseases. It ups the melodrama meter and enables some amusing overacting. But when a physician in Oregon heard that a character on “General Hospital” had been diagnosed with a rare bone marrow cancer, his ears perked up, according to Vox.com. After some investigation, he found that the pharmaceutical company Incyte had persuaded “General Hospital” producers to weave the story line into their plots. It so happens that Incyte produces the only FDA-approved drug to treat the cancer, polycythemia vera. Representiatives for the company and the soap opera call it “disease awareness.” Some health care professionals are less sanguine.