Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Hospitals Facing More Drug Shortages
Medication shortages in the United States tripled over the past
five years, reaching a high of 211 last year and delaying or
altering treatment for illnesses such as cancer, infertility and
heart attack, the
Associated Press reported Tuesday.
"It's just a matter of time now before we call for a drug that we need to save a patient's life and we find out there isn't any," Dr. Eric Lavonas of the American College of Emergency Physicians told the AP.
The problem is getting worse, experts said. In the first three
months of this year, 89 shortages occurred, with injectable
medications used in emergency rooms, cancer treatment and intensive
care units most often in short supply, according to the University
of Utah's Drug Information Service, which tracks drug availability
for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
Causes of the shortage include difficulty importing raw
materials, increased demand, and recalls of contaminated products.
Also, fewer pharmaceutical companies make the cheaper, older
generic drugs, especially the injectable ones, leaving fewer drug
makers available to fill any gaps, Valerie Jensen, who heads the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's shortage office, told the
A shortage of a sedative used for executions has been widely
publicized, but other drugs in short supply include: injectable
nutrients needed by some premature babies and critically ill
patients; thiotepa, used for bone marrow transplantation;
norepinephrine injections for septic shock; the cystic fibrosis
drug acetylcysteine; injections for certain types of cardiac
arrest; and leuprolide hormone injections used to treat
infertility, the news service said.
E. Coli Outbreak Claims 2 More Lives
E. coli outbreak in Europe claimed two more lives in recent
days, bringing to 16 the total number of deaths attributed to
tainted vegetables in Germany, officials reported Tuesday.
In all, more than 1,150 people are reported infected. Germany's
national disease center said 373 people had hemolytic uremic
syndrome -- the most severe form of the infection that is typically
associated with the bacteria
E. coli. On Monday that figure was 329, the
Associated Press reported.
Another 796 people have become ill with enterohaemorrhagic
E. coli, also known as EHEC bacteria, said Susanne Glasmacher, a spokeswoman for the Robert Koch Institute. In other European countries, hundreds of people have gotten sick, but no deaths had been reported outside of Germany until Tuesday.
In Bora, Sweden, a woman in her 50s who had traveled to Germany
reportedly died of the bacterial infection, and an 87-year-old
woman in Paderborn, Germany, also died from the outbreak, the
Cucumbers from the Spanish regions of Almeria and Malaga, as
well as some originating in the Netherlands or in Denmark, are
considered possible sources of the outbreak. Consumers in Germany
have been warned to avoid cucumbers, lettuce and raw tomatoes.
The same strain of
E. coli was responsible for a 1994 outbreak in Montana, and a
related strain caused the 1993 deaths of four children in the
western United States after they ate Jack in the Box hamburgers.
The European outbreak, which is mainly striking adults, is much
larger and deadlier, the news service said.
Experts Question Necessity of Flu Shot for Some This Season
The influenza vaccine for the coming season is a duplicate of
that issued to millions of Americans in the 2010-2011 season, so
some experts are questioning the need for many young, healthy
Americans to get a "repeat" shot, the
Associated Press reported.
"For healthy people, it can't be said to be necessary," Dr. Robert Couch, a flu vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, told the news agency.
Nevertheless, that isn't stopping national health experts from
urging that all Americans get the flu shot. Their reasoning: Any
vaccine's protective powers can wane over a few months, especially
for elderly recipients.
Certainly, there will be no flu vaccine shortage this year:
According to the
AP, five makers are manufacturing a total of between 166 million and 173 million doses, 6 million more than has ever been produced.
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age get an annual
flu shot, with the exception of people with egg allergies or
certain rare conditions.
Still, the fact that this season's vaccine is identical in
makeup to last year's is giving some experts pause. Some studies
suggest that the flu shot can provide protection for more than a
year in adults, and perhaps up to three years in children. But
other studies have suggested that immunity may drop more quickly
and steeply than that.
"Nobody really, really knows," Dr. John Treanor, a flu vaccine researcher at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, told the AP. He and other experts support the CDC's stance.
"The bottom line is, with our current knowledge, we believe it is better to be re-vaccinated. And getting another shot is certainly not going to harm you," Dr. Arnold Monto, an influenza expert at the University of Michigan, told the AP.