News in Brief: Week of April 21-25

April 25, 2014 01:51 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Despite Drop in Use, Study Finds Codeine Still Overprescribed for Children

A study published online April 21 and soon to appear in the May issue of Pediatrics, "National Patterns of Codeine Prescriptions for Children in the Emergency Department,"(pediatrics.aappublications.org) analyzed data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) to determine the frequency of codeine prescriptions written for patients ages 3-17 years during U.S. emergency department (ED) visits from 2001-2010.

Extrapolating from the 56,375 ED visits sampled in the NHAMCS, researchers found that codeine prescriptions for this age group decreased from 3.7 percent to 2.9 percent during the study period. Yet despite this modest dip in overall codeine prescription during that period, use of the drug for cough or upper respiratory infections did not decline -- even after the publication in 2006 of national guidelines recommending against its use.

"Despite strong evidence against the use of codeine in children, the drug continues to be prescribed to large numbers of them each year," said Sunitha Kaiser, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children's Hospital and lead author of the study, in a news release(www.ucsf.edu). "It can be prescribed in any clinical setting, so it is important to decrease codeine prescription to children in other settings such as clinics and hospitals, in addition to emergency rooms."

Ibuprofen is comparable to or better than codeine for treating injury pain, Kaiser added in the news release, noting also that hydrocodone is safer and more effective than codeine. For cough, said Kasier, dark honey can be a better treatment than OTC products and is the remedy AAP recommends for children older than age 1 year.

Medication Take-back Programs Aim to Thwart Drug Abuse

April 26 marks the eighth DEA-orchestrated Prescription Drug Take-Back Day(www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov). The goal of the biannual nationwide event is "to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications," according to the event webpage. The event website offers resources that include how to locate a collection site(www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov) in your area.

If your patients miss the event this weekend, however, let them know that independent pharmacist members of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) offer another medication disposal program called Dispose My Meds(www.disposemymeds.org).

"Since its inception in 2009, Dispose My Meds has collected over 200 tons of medications at more than 1,600 participating community pharmacies in 40 states across the country," according to Stephanie DuBois, associate director of marketing communications at NCPA. Opioids and other controlled substances, however, will not be accepted as part of the program, she noted.

Stolen Laptop Computers Endanger Patient Information, Lead to Hefty Fines

HHS has released information on cash settlements totaling nearly $2 million made by a physical therapy center in Missouri and a health plan in Arkansas related to separate security breaches that endangered the personal health information of patients.

Both instances involved stolen laptop computers. According to an HHS news release(www.hhs.gov), enforcement actions in the form of hefty fines were intended to underscore the significant risk posed by unencrypted laptops and other mobile devices to the security of protected patient information.

HHS' Office of Civil Rights, which oversees enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules, offers six free educational programs(www.hhs.gov) to help physicians and other health care professionals comply with HIPAA privacy rules. One program deals specifically with the security of mobile devices.

HHS Releases Healthy People 2020 Progress Report

HHS recently announced the release of a report(www.hhs.gov) titled "Leading Health Indicators: Progress Update" that provides an update on the 26 leading health indicators included in HHS' Healthy People 2020 initiative. Healthy People 2020 presents a national set of goals and objectives for improving the health of Americans over a decade-long period and tracks how well those goals are being met.

According to the executive summary of the progress report(www.healthypeople.gov), four indicators have met or exceeded their targets, 10 are improving, eight show little progress, three are worsening and one has only baseline data.

Summary authors point to four areas in which they say "noteworthy progress" has been made. Specifically, they note, adult cigarette smoking has decreased and fewer children are exposed to secondhand smoke. In addition, more adults are meeting physical activity targets and fewer adolescents are using alcohol and illicit drugs.


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