The US Drug Enforcement Administration is set to inspect the Kaiser Permanente pharmacy at Roseville Medical Center. The agency filed for an administrative inspection, which is the first inspection the facility has had in 11 years.
According to the affidavit filed, the pharmacy is the biggest purchaser of products for hydrocodone within the division. This division goes from the Oregon state line down to Bakersfield. Just in 2019 so far, it has bought almost 1.3 million doses of the drug, which is 250,000 more than the second place purchaser. It also is the third highest for oxycodone. Both of these drugs are highly addictive.
A spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente says that there is a logical reason for the high number. Because there are fewer locations for this pharmacy than for many smaller local pharmacies, they have a higher number of total prescriptions filled at one location. According to the spokesperson, the total volume of prescriptions filled is about 10 times what would be seen at an average pharmacy.
One of the primary concerns for the DEA, which prompted the inspection is what is known as drug diversion. This term describes what happens when a drug is diverted to someone other than who it is supposed to be prescribed for. Generally, this happens for illicit use.
A red flag noted was that prescriptions were filled for high dosages of these opioid pain medications for multiple patients over an extended time period. The DEA wants to verify that these prescriptions are legitimate.
According to the Kaiser spokesperson, the company has reduced the number of opioid prescriptions being given by almost 40 percent. It limits opioid prescriptions and offers other alternatives to pain management. The pharmacy says it does its part to work with doctors on prescribing lower doses of these medicines.
The warrant for inspection is administrative and not criminal. It provides a way for the DEA to inspect records and make copies. They can look at inventory records, order forms, invoices, reports and the list of workers who have access to any controlled substances. It could also include the list of patients who have a signed contract for opioid use.
Opioid use and abuse have been rising all over the country with many cities and regions facing an epidemic. While some of these opioids are illegal drugs, such as heroin, others are prescription opioids. Some of the most popular prescription drugs include morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. They all can lead to addiction if taken for too long or at too high doses.
Prescription medications can also lead to illicit drug use. It’s not uncommon for people to start with a prescription opioid and move on to an illicit opioid when they can’t get a prescription. Some people get the prescription to sell it on the street even if they aren’t taking it themselves. These drugs come at a much higher cost than heroin or other common street drugs.
Mixing drugs can be dangerous and even fatal, which is why opioid overdoses have become all too common. Agencies like the DEA want to make sure that pharmacies and doctors are doing their part to stop the epidemic and not encouraging it through irresponsible actions.
New Vaccine for Cancer May Be a Breakthrough
Researchers at the University of Queensland say they have a vaccine ready for human trials which may be used to treat certain types of cancers. According to the research team, this could be a major breakthrough for cancer patients in the future.
Hope for Cancer Patients
The vaccine is made up of antibodies from humans, which are fused with a protein that is specific to the tumor. Researchers are attempting to find out if it can target cells in humans with the memory of the tumor cells. If the vaccine works, it could be used on blood cancers, such as various types of leukemia, along with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It may also work for solid tumors, such as cancers of the lung, breast, ovaries, renal glands, and pancreas as well as for glioblastoma. These are some of the most common cancers diagnosed each year.
There are several benefits to the vaccine. One of the major advantages is that it would be a clinical grade formula, which means it is less costly to develop than vaccines that are patient specific. It would be more affordable for the average patient.
Another benefit is that the vaccine targets specific cells, which are necessary for immune responses to tumors. It would maximize the effectiveness of the vaccine while minimizing possible side effects.
Cancer Rates and Fatalities
The most commonly diagnosed cancer for 2019 was breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. For 2019, there were 271,270 expected new cases. Lung and prostate cancer follow next in line.
Lung, liver and pancreatic cancers have some of the highest death rates for diagnoses. With pancreatic cancer, almost all cases are fatal. At the other end of the spectrum, melanoma, thyroid cancer, and prostate cancer have a higher survival rate. The timeline for progression can vary based on the type of cancer. For example, some cancers can be more aggressive with a fast progression. Others progress slowly and can linger for years before causing death.
Many of these cancers are genetic with family history playing a significant part in the likelihood of a person developing the cancer. Others, like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, may be caused by other factors, including exposure to chemicals. For instance, with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some studies like the cancer to exposure from glyphosate, the chemical found in weed killers like Roundup.
Some agencies have labeled glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. Many countries have banned the use of Roundup because of the possible link between it and cancer. More research is being done to determine if there is a link and how significant of a role it plays in the development of cancer.
With the possibility of a cancer vaccine on the horizon, it gives hope to those who are diagnosed with cancer as well as those who are at a higher risk due to genetics or exposure. Even with clinical trials ready to begin, it is likely to be some time before the vaccine will be ready for public use.
Study Indicates Steroid Use Even Short-term May Be Risky to Patients
Doctors prescribe steroids known as corticosteroids for chronic conditions, sometimes for an extended period or for just a few days to get inflammation under control. While it has been known that long-term use of these drugs may increase risk to patients for certain serious problems, new research suggests even short-term use can also cause harm.
Dangers of Prescription Steroid Use
Damage from extended use includes cataracts, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. New information from a study also indicates that short-term use may increase risk for gastrointestinal bleeding as well as sepsis and heart failure.
The study conducted in Taiwan had a median of three days for treatment using these steroids. Researchers suggest that medical providers should consider the risks when determining if the benefits are worth it. While the risks are somewhat rare, they can have serious consequences. It is also advised that doctors monitor their patients within the first 30 days of starting steroid therapy.
The study included nearly 16 million adults with over 2.5 million between the ages of 20 to 64 who received steroids for 14 days or less. The majority of prescriptions were for various skin disorders and for respiratory tract infections. According to the researchers, short-term use of steroids is common among patients.
This study follows similar findings of an earlier one which was conducted at the University of Michigan. In that prior study, data was collected on adults with many of them taking prescribed steroids for up to 30 days. It was reported that there was a five-time greater risk for developing sepsis as well as almost double the risk for fractures within the first 30 days of beginning the drug therapy. There was also a threefold risk for developing a condition known as venous thromboembolism.
One of the things these studies reveal is that the increase in risk is to young and healthy patients and not just those with pre-existing conditions or other health problems. In light of this information, some doctors are recommending finding other treatment plans rather than using steroids even for short bursts.
How Steroids Work
These medications work by mimicking the natural hormones in a person’s system but at levels higher than what the body can produce. They can lower the symptoms that come with inflammatory conditions. The steroids can also suppress the immune system, which may be important when it attacks the body by mistake.
Doctors prescribe this type of treatment for a wide range of conditions, such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, lupus and more. They may be taken by mouth in pill form, by inhaler or spray, topically or through an injection.
Corticosteroids come with a host of health risks. Side effects often depend on the dosage and length of time of use, but they may include swelling in the legs, high blood pressure, pressure in the eyes, weight gain, mood swings, altered memory and more. Anyone who is prescribed these medications should discuss with the doctor the benefits versus the risks to determine if it is the best option for treatment.
New Pill May Save Lives from Allergic Reactions
A group of medications which are used to treat blood cancers may also help those who suffer from life-threatening allergic reactions. These medications are known as BTK inhibitors, and they may help people with known drug and food allergies.
Hope for Allergy Sufferers
Researchers have been testing these drugs in lab experiments. They have determined that they may stop anaphylaxis. This is a condition which occurs when someone is exposed to a trigger food or other substance and develops a severe reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include rapid heart rate, inability to breathe and dropping blood pressure. Insect stings, especially with bees, can also cause this condition.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, at least one in 50 suffer from this condition in America. It may be as high as one in 20. Currently, the main method of treatment for these people is avoidance. It can be a bit tricky for those with certain types of allergies, such as an allergy to peanuts. Palforzia is a medication which as recently been approved by the FDA to help children avoid severe reactions from peanuts.
Allergy shots are also given to prevent anaphylaxis from allergy triggers, especially insect stings. While these treatments can be quite effective, they are limited to a specific type of allergy.
BTK inhibitors would cover a broad spectrum of allergies. If they work for these situations, they wouldn’t depend on the type of allergy. BTK inhibitors block the enzyme which sets off the reactions to allergens.
Studies on BTK Inhibitors and Allergies
The tests used lab mice and showed that three different inhibitors blocked the responses to allergens. These tests follow two other small studies that were conducted on humans. One study focused on cancer patients. It found that those who were taking Imbruvica had less of a response to pollen and cat dander when they were exposed.
The second study showed that people who were given this medication had a lower reactivity when given standard allergy skin tests after just a few days of taking Imbruvica or ibrutinib.
While these results are promising, doctors recommend caution. There is concern for side effects with the medications. Some of these side effects which are currently known are a drop in white blood cell counts and pneumonia. The drugs haven’t been approved for use in children.
If the medications are effective against food allergies, they would have to be taken on a regular basis. It’s often difficult to predict or detect exposure to certain foods, which can be accidental.
Another concern is with the cost of the medication, which is currently at $15,000 for a single month’s supply. This steep price tag puts them out of reach for most people who suffer from allergies.
Even though test results are promising, critics remain cautious. However, they do agree that more testing is worthwhile. Allergic reactions are common and those that are life-threatening can happen quickly with no notice. Until a drug is determined to be effective, patients must remain diligent about exposure to allergy triggers.
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