Entries in Medication (32)


More Research Needed for Acne Treatments, Says Study

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NOTTINGHAM, England) -- Most of us have been there -- scrubbing, cleansing, moisturizing and zapping -- desperate to get rid of those pimples that tormented the teenage (and maybe adult) years.  But now a new study published in the Lancet finds that common acne-fighting products lack proper research in documenting their effectiveness.

"The large number of products and product combinations, and the scarcity of comparative studies, has led to disparate guidelines with few recommendations being evidence-based," lead author Hywel Williams from the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at the U.K.'s University of Nottingham, said in a statement.

Most guidelines for acne care are based on expert opinions, but even those opinions may have conflicts of interest, the study noted.

Researchers said "almost half of recently published acne trials contain serious flaws that could be overcome by better reporting...The absence of trials with active comparators is a significant handicap to shared clinical decision making."

Medications, including retinoids, bezoyl peroxide, topical dapsone, hormonal medications like birth control pills and antibiotics, are the most common treatments for varying degrees of acne.  Experts have discouraged doctors in recent years from prescribing long-term antibiotics for treatment out of fear that patients will develop resistance to the medications.

But, Dr. Kevin Cooper, professor and chair of dermatology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, defended the research of many over-the-counter and prescribed acne-fighting products.

"There are many clinical trials published which demonstrate that the treatment being studied is better than placebo and has reasonable or minimal side effects," said Cooper. "This is necessary to obtain FDA approval of the medication or the medication combination.  In some cases the company may have compared the combination against the individual ingredients alone."

The study's reference to "lack of research," refers to comparative effectiveness research, where two competitive products are tested head-to-head to see if one is better than the other, Cooper noted.

While the best scientific evidence for most kinds of research comes from double-blind, prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trials, Dr. John Messmer, associate professor of family and community medicine at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, noted that those "are hard to do with acne."

Acne is not fully understood, but dermatologists say genetics, gender, hormones, other medications, skin type and sunlight contribute to the condition.  It is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 40 to 50 million Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and is usually caused by three common occurrences: the overproduction of oil, blockage of hair follicles that release oil and growth of bacteria within the follicles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Medicine Cabinet Is Worst Place to Store Medications, Pharmacists Say

Comstock/Thinkstock(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- If there is one place you shouldn't store your medication, it's the exact place where you probably are: the medicine cabinet in your bathroom.

"The medicine cabinet in the bathroom is the worst place," said Selig Corman, director of Professional Affairs at the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

Most medicine should be stored at room temperature, between 68 and 77 degrees, and kept away from moisture. Because the bathroom is prone to high temperatures and humidity, it is a poor place to keep drugs.

"An egg kept at an extreme temperature of heat becomes cooked and that could happen with tablets, with certain gelatin capsules, and that could alter the chemistry of the product." Corman said. "Something as simple as aspirin...when aspirin reacts with moisture it becomes a different chemical...something that is sold as a corn remover. You wouldn't want to ingest a corn remover."

Storing medication in an area with temperatures between 58 and 86 degrees is usually acceptable, Corman said, but two things can happen if the temperature does not stay in the proper range. The first is that the drug might lose its effectiveness, and the second is that the medication could become harmful if its chemistry has changed.

Corman and Dr. Grant Fowler, professor of family medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, say travel is often when drugs are exposed to extreme conditions. Here are their tips on how to keep medications safe during transit.

-- Don't check drugs when flying. Put them in your carry-on luggage.

-- Don't put drugs in the trunk when driving. Keep them in the car when driving and take them with you when you park.

-- Choose overnight shipping for mail-order drugs. If you work, have the medication shipped to your office.

"If they [the drugs] sit out on your front porch for hours to even days, in some situations your pretty much are going to guarantee they are going to exceed those excursions," Fowler said.

An FDA study from 1995 found that the interior temperature of a black mailbox can reach as high as 136 degrees when the ambient air temperature was 101 degrees.

Insulins and other injectables, which are supposed to be refrigerated, are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

"They could freeze, which would ruin it. They could overheat, which would ruin it," Fowler said.

When it comes to pills or tablets, Corman said, you can usually see a difference in their appearance if they have been adversely affected by severe temperatures or moisture. The color often changes and tablets that were once shiny might look dull.

If you have any doubts about the medication you're taking, he said, you should consult your pharmacist. Corman advised people to speak with their pharmacist about the proper way to store medication whenever they begin taking a new one.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Electronic Prescribing Systems Make Mistakes, Too

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Electronic prescribing systems are capable of the same mistakes made by manual systems, a study from the Massachusetts General Hospital found.

After looking at 3,850 computer-generated prescriptions submitted to a pharmacy chain in three U.S. states over a month period, researchers found that nearly 12 percent contained a shocking total of 466 errors.  One-third of these errors could be considered potentially harmful.  The researchers reported, however, that none of the errors was life-threatening.

The study authors said the most common types of drugs related to the computer prescriptions were nervous system drugs (27 percent), cardiovascular drugs, (13.5 percent) and anti-inflammatories/antibiotics (12.3 percent).  

Authors of the study, published in the online Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, concluded that although health care providers are increasingly adopting electronic health records and prescribing devices, the use of "a computerized prescribing system without comprehensive functionality and processes in place to ensure meaningful use the system does not decrease medication errors."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Issues New Warning for Prostate Drugs

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is updating the warning label information on a group of drugs, including Avodart and Proscar, which are used to shrink the prostate. 

The FDA says these drugs, which can reduce the risk of some forms of prostate cancer, may increase the risk of a more serious form of the disease for some men.  The agency is basing its conclusions on a review of two large studies in which about 27,000 men aged 50 and older used the drugs for several years.

The FDA says the risk of high-grade prostate cancers is small, but doctors should be aware of it.

The drugs Avodart and Proscar are also known as dutasteride and finasteride, respectively.

Also from this group of drugs, and also included in this warning, is the drug Propecia, which is used to treat male pattern hair loss.

If you or someone you know is using these three drugs and has experienced adverse events, tell your doctor.  The FDA would also like to hear from you.  You can report your experience by going to the Food and Drug Administration website, or by calling the FDA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


When Taking Heart Medication, Time of Day Matters

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Regularly taking prescribed medication for heart disease is essential to reducing the risk of a heart attack, but the time of day this medication is taken makes a big difference, according to new research from the University of Guelph in Spain.

Many doctors prefer to give heart drugs to patients in the morning, but this study found that ACE inhibitors, a common drug given to patients following a heart attack, are more effective when they can work overnight while the patient is sleeping. Timing has such a large effect on these drugs that researchers found that ACE inhibitors given in the morning were no more effective than placebos at improving heart structure and function.

This bedtime timing holds true for those who take baby aspirin to thin their blood. In another study from Spain -- the University of Vigo this time -- researchers found that those with prehypertension who took an aspirin at 11 p.m. had lower blood pressure readings after three months than those who took their aspirin at 8 A.M.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rx Drug Take-Back Day Highlights Misuse, Abuse of Unused Medications

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Brandon Billard was only 15 when he started stealing prescription painkillers from his parents' medicine cabinet. Soon he started taking medications from his grandparents, then friends' parents -- he would take Oxycontin, Klonopin, even cough medicines with opiate painkillers like Tussionex, and replace them with similar-looking over-the-counter drugs.

Now 18, he says he has overdosed and been hospitalized "a bunch of times" and has been in and out of several in-patient rehab programs. Currently, he is in the drug abuse treatment program at Daytop Village in Mendham, N.J.

Billard's story illustrates the often-overlooked danger of keeping leftover prescription drugs in the home -- a public health concern that Dr. William Shrank of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston highlights in the New England Journal of Medicine. "One glimpse" into the medicine cabinet of an elderly relative is all it takes to realize how dangerously accessible many prescription medications are, he says in an opinion piece published Wednesday.

Millions of pounds of prescription medications go unused each year in the U.S., according to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. While most people leave these extra pill bottles in the back of the medicine cabinet, growing concern over prescription drug abuse, especially among teens, has led doctors like Shrank and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to urge the public to "take back" unused drugs.

This Saturday, April 30, the DEA is holding a Prescription Drug Take-Back day to allow people to drop off their unused meds, no questions asked, at over 5,200 sites nationwide. The first nationwide Take-Back day, last September, collected 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs. These Take-Back days will be held periodically until, in accordance with the 2010 Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, 24/7 drop-off locations can be established for safely disposing of leftover meds, says David Levey, a DEA spokesman.

"It's hard to strike a balance to make sure that people who need it have access to these medications," says Dr. Richard Weisler, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center, "but that when they are no longer needed, they are properly disposed of.

"Accidental prescription drug overdose, largely in the elderly or in teens using recreationally, killed 27,500 people in 2007. This is more than the U.S. casualties of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This is not acceptable," he says.

It's not just prescription pain meds that pose a problem for abuse. Oftentimes unfinished antibiotics are kept around and then "self-prescribed" for later coughs and colds. This can lead to antibiotic resistance and is "one of the big drivers of drug-resistant infections in antibiotic misuse," says ABC News chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser.

Though 40 percent of all prescription medications go unused, according to the Henry Kaiser Foundation, most people hold onto them for years, because they don't think to dispose of them or don't know how to do it safely. Often, following the many examples in TV and film, people will flush unwanted pills down the toilet, but this may have dangerous ramifications for the environment, says Shrank.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that an unused medication be taken out of its original container, mixed with an "undesirable substance, like cat litter or used coffee grounds," put in a sealed container, sealed and thrown away with the trash.

"Once a year go through your medicine cabinet and get rid of those drugs that have expired, prescriptions you never finished, and any prescription pain medicines. It's also a good time to check and see if any of your over-the-counter medications have been recalled," says Besser.

Waiting for a designated prescription drug "Take-Back" day is another option for disposal, Levey says. He says these take-back days will be held periodically until permanent drop-off locations for unused drugs can be established nationwide.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shortage of Leukemia Drug Forcing Hospitals to Turn Some Patients Away

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A critical shortage of a leukemia drug has cancer centers across the country worried about how to treat many of their patients.

So far, oncologists in 30 states have reported a shortage of cytarabine, a drug that is key to treating certain types of leukemia. The situation, doctors say, is dire.

"If we can't get the drug, then the patients are going to die," said Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, chairman of the Department of Leukemia at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The shortage began last fall, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says "manufacturing delays" caused production to lag.

One of the drug's three U.S. manufacturers, Hospira, said in a statement that its delays were caused when the company was unable to obtain the active ingredient, cytarabine, from its supplier. Hospira and another manufacturer, APP, also had a problem with crystallization in drug vials. APP ended up recalling a supply in February.

Bedford Laboratories, the third manufacturer, said in a statement its delays are "due in part to the fact that Bedford continues to face increased market share of product demand due to a decrease in competitor's capacity."

Cytarabine is used as part of a drug regimen against acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a relatively rare cancer. It's sometimes used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia -- ALL for short.

For patients with AML who take cytarabine, the drug is the difference between a shot at life and certain death.

"Since its introduction, we can claim cures in 40 to 50 percent of patients," said Kantarjian. "Without the drug in the treatment regimen, the rate is zero."

Doctors say there are no suitable substitutes for cytarabine, leaving AML patients without a viable alternative. There are other drugs available for treatment of ALL.

Kantarjian was so concerned about the shortage that he emailed thousands of oncologists from all over the country, asking them how they've dealt with the diminished supply of cytarabine. M.D. Anderson, Kantarjian said, is fortunate because it's a large hospital and was able to purchase a long-term supply of the drug, so there is an adequate supply there right now.

When ABC News asked cancer centers around the country how the shortage has affected patient care, the responses flooded in.

A number of hospitals said they have to ration supply, meaning some patients won't get the doses they need. It also means they have to turn new patients away. Some hospitals said the shortage forces them to reserve whatever cytarabine they have for their current patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Memantine Not Effective in Slowing Progression of Alzheimer's

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Despite millions of dollars spent on Alzheimer's research, the drugs that are used for "treating" the condition are not very effective, according to a new study published online in the Archives of Neurology

Yet with all the ads for Alzheimer's drugs, and little coverage of their limitations, it will likely surprise people to hear that one of the frequently prescribed drugs was found to have little, if any, effect.

Researchers from the University of Southern California reanalyzed data from already published studies and found that Memantine was no different than a sugar pill in its effects on learning, functional activities and behavior in patients with mild Alzheimer's.

While Memantine has been approved by the FDA for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's, health care professionals often prescribe the drug off-label for patients with mild Alzheimer's, according to HealthDay News.

Researchers say that the drug can be effective in helping patients with severe Alzheimer's to think more clearly and perform daily activities with more ease. However, Memantine is not a cure for Alzheimer's, nor can it cease progression of the disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Elders Confused By Too Many Medications

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many elderly Americans take various types of pills every day, and remembering which pill combats which ailment, or the proper dosages, can become trying.

"There are a lot of patients who see multiple specialists, and nobody is coordinating their care," said Barbara Paris, director of geriatrics at Maimonides Medical Center. "And they get into dangerous situations where the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

Nearly one-third of Americans ages 57-85 take at least five prescription drugs, while people with chronic illnesses may take more than 20. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are also taking over-the-counter medicines or supplements, according to a 2008 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These combinations may lead to dangerous and often unmonitored interactions.

"There are over 100,000 deaths per year related to polypharmacy and medication misuse and adverse reactions, which brings it to one of the leading causes of death in this country," Paris said.

Seniors can experience polypharmacy not only when they are prescribed numerous medications, but also when they start taking the medications of other family members as well.

Family members can watch for signs of polypharmacy at home, according to ABC's chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. These signs can include weight loss, depression, or lack of interest in normal activities.

Also, there are forms an elderly patient can fill out, which will allow family members to discuss the care of their loved ones with the doctor. Filling out HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release forms beforehand can assure you'll be included in conversations about your loved one's care, Besser said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Website Offers Medication Translations for World Travelers 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(RADNOR, Penn.) – World travelers will now have more help identifying their medications in other countries.

Global health and safety services company HTH Worldwide has expanded a mobile and online translation guide to ensure that travelers get the same medication there were prescribed at home as drug names can vary by country.

The company has recently expanded, an online medication database, to include 28 of the world’s most visited countries. Recently, translations have been added for those visiting South Korea and South Africa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio