Small Doses: The news you need to be the best


A look at four important drug studies and stories that you need to know about.

At Drug Topics, we know that pharmacists are busy people. It's tough to keep up with the latest and greatest in the world of pharmeceuticals, but we're here to help you learn what you need to know in a way that works for you. 

Here are four recent news stories that we think you need to know about. The Opioid crisis, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and cost-cutting are all important issues for every pharmacist (or for anyone involved with healthcare). We're calling this Small Doses, because even though these are bite-size, easy-to-swallow bits of information, they could make a huge impact on you and the people you care for. 

Up next: 4 important stories and studies


ER Prescribing Patterns for Opioids Linked to future Opioid Abuse

Some emergency room physicians are more likely than others to prescribe strong opioid painkillers and their patients are at greater risk of becoming dependent on the drugs, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that there is increased risk with a single exposure of a patient in an emergency room to an opioid.

Related article: How You Can Prevent Opioid Abuse

The study retrospectively looked at more than 377,000 Medicare patients who had similar medical problems and who visited several thousand hospital emergency rooms between 2008 and 2011. It looked at the frequency of opioid prescriptions written by the ER doctors who treated them and found that the prescribing patterns of the physicians were an important factor in whether the patients became long-term users of opioids. For every 48 patients who received a prescription, one would end up using opioids for longer than 180 days, but this rate was higher if the prescriber gave out opioid prescriptions frequently.

Read the whole study here

DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1610524


New Study Highlights Need for Better Opioid Storage Mechanisms

A new study, “Safe Storage of Opioid Pain Relievers among Adults Living in Households with Children” in the February issue of Pediatrics, found that a lack of safe prescription opioid storage is a widespread issue. In the study, only 32.6% of patients with young children (<7 years) reported safe storage, and only 11.7% of patients with older children (7 to 17 years) reported safe storage. Of the patients with children in both categories, only 29% reported safe storage. The report recommends additional educational messages-especially for parents of older age children, who often store their prescriptions in child-proof, but not locked, containers.

Read the whole study here

DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2161



Costs May Force U.S. Cancer Survivors to Cut Corners on Prescriptions

A new study published in the journal Cancer found that many cancer survivors in the United States-especially younger, privately insured patients-are particularly vulnerable to price increases in prescription drug use. In the study, 31.6% of recently diagnosed and 27.9% of previously diagnosed cancer survivors had to change their medication due to financial constraints. This is significantly higher than patients without cancer who change drugs for financial reasons-21.4%.

Related article: Generics and biosimilars, key to Trump drug price concerns

The findings have “implications for doctor and patient communication about the financial burden of cancer when making treatment decisions, especially on the use of certain drugs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but with very small benefit compared with alternative and more affordable drugs” said senior researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal.

Read the whole study here




The Bad Bacteria: WHO’s Dirty Dozen

The World Health Organization has published a list of the 12 families of bacteria that are most dangerous to human health, a “global priority pathogen list.” WHO issued this list to promote international development of antimicrobial drugs, and divided it into three categories based on how urgently new antimicrobials are needed.

The most critical group includes bacteria resistant to multiple drugs and which pose a threat of serious or deadly infections in hospitals and nursing homes. They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Enterobacteriaceae including Klebsiella, E. coli, Serratia, and Proteus. The second and third categories-the high and medium priority-include increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhea and salmonella food poisoning. However, tuberculosis, a disease increasingly at risk for resistant strains, is not on the list because it is being targeted by other programs, WHO said in a statement.

Read the whole report here

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