Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
U.S. drug regulators said this week that they will require makers of narcotic drugs to help doctors prescribe them safely. The companies must offer training programs by March 2013. A new study says that 1 out of 5 adults over 65 has a mental illness or substance abuse problem. This is expected to grow as baby boomers get older. A report released by a data-tracking company says that drug sales will grow more slowly in the next 4 years. New generic versions of popular drugs are the main reason. In a new survey, 9 out of 10 Russians said that drug addiction is at least a "very serious" problem in their country. People cited addiction more often than any other problem.
This Issue: FDA Hopes Training Will Help Painkiller Safety Senior Mental Health, a Growing Concern Report: Generics to Slow Drug Sales Growth Russians Say Drug Addiction Country's Worst Problem
In the News:
FDA Hopes Training Will Help Painkiller Safety
The United States will require makers of powerful painkiller medicines to train doctors in how to prescribe them safely. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the plan this week. It applies to makers of long-acting opioid (narcotic) pain relievers. The drugs include forms of morphine, methadone and oxycodone. Addiction and overdose deaths from these prescription drugs have greatly increased in recent years. The FDA said makers of these drugs must offer two to three hours of training to doctors who prescribe them. The courses will be produced by companies that specialize in continuing medical education. The drug makers will not produce the courses themselves. Also required will be new brochures for patients. They will explain the risks of the drugs and what to do in case of an overdose. The programs must be ready by March 2013. Doctors who prescribe the drugs will not be required to take the courses. FDA officials said only Congress can do that. The Associated Press wrote about the new rules.
Senior Mental Health, a Growing Concern
About 1 in 5 older U.S. adults has a mental illness or substance abuse problem, a new report says. The numbers will only climb as baby boomers get older. And that may create problems with access to care, the report predicts. The United States does not have enough health workers trained for the special needs of older adults, the report says. The Institute of Medicine, an independent group of experts, released the report. It says that 5.6 million to 8 million people 65 and older have mental health or substance abuse problems. Baby boomers have higher rates of illegal drug use than earlier groups. So they may have greater needs for substance abuse treatment. Mental health problems in older adults may be harder to diagnose and more complicated to treat, the report says. Long-term medical conditions can mask depression symptoms. Drugs for other illnesses also may affect mood. Older adults also may need lower doses of medicines. This can increase the risk of abuse with pain medicines. The Institute called for better training of health workers who treat older adults. The Associated Press wrote about the report July 10.
Report: Generics to Slow Drug Sales Growth
Global drug spending will grow much more slowly in the next 4 years, a report released this week says. That's because patents on many brand-name drugs will expire. Then they can be offered as generics. IMS Health produced the report. This company collects and analyzes data on prescription drug sales around the world. IMS predicts that total medicine sales will rise from $956 billion in 2011 to nearly $1.6 trillion in 2016. But rebates and discounts from drug will cut the cost in 2016 to $1 trillion. U.S. spending will grow at "historically low levels," IMS said. That's mainly because of new generic drugs. Generics will become available for 10 blockbuster drugs this year alone. They include Singulair for asthma, Plavix for stroke prevention, Lexapro for depression and Seroquel for psychiatric disorders. More than two dozen other generics will be offered by 2016. Withing 6 months of their first sales, most generic drugs cost 80% to 90% less than the brand names they mimic. The report also said that the U.S. share of drug spending will fall from 41% to 31%. Developing markets will grow from 14% of the total to 30%. The Associated Press wrote about the report.
Russians Say Drug Addiction Country's Worst Problem
Nearly 9 out of 10 Russians think that drug abuse is at least a "very serious" problem in their country, a survey released this week finds. About 55% say the problem is "extremely serious." In the new poll, they rank it higher than any other problem. About 2.5 million Russians are addicted to drugs. Nine out of 10 of those are addicted to heroin. That drug alone kills 30,000 Russians a year. The surge of heroin from nearby Afghanistan began in the 1990s. But it has increased 40-fold in the last decade, Russia's anti-drug czar told the Associated Press (AP). The official, Viktor Ivanov, said NATO troops in Afghanistan have avoided destroying poppy crops for fear of driving the farmers into the arms of Taliban rebels. Russia has urged the U.S. military to take stronger action against drug labs and smugglers, Ivanov said. AP wrote about the new poll.
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