Entries in Prescriptions (13)


Prescriptions for ADHD Drugs Increasing, Says New FDA Research

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of children who received prescriptions for drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increased over an eight-year period while the number of antibiotic prescriptions declined, according to a new study by the Food and Drug Administration.

Using a large national database, FDA researchers analyzed prescription drug trends among children up to age 17 between 2002 and 2010 on an outpatient basis.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the number of overall prescriptions for this age group decreased by 7 percent, in contrast to the 22 percent increase in prescriptions given to adults over the same period.  However, the authors noted that their research did not track whether the drugs were actually used, only that they were prescribed.

There were also significant decreases in the number of antibiotics, allergy medicines, pain medicines, drugs used to treat depression and certain cough and cold medications prescribed for children. But ADHD prescriptions increased by 46 percent, and there were also higher numbers of medications prescribed for asthma and birth control.

"Identification of drugs with the highest numbers of patients exposed can help focus research efforts on those drugs that could have a large impact on the pediatric population, " wrote the authors, led by Grace Chai of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Contraceptive prescriptions also skyrocketed, increasing among adolescents by 93 percent. The study did not offer in-depth analysis of reasons behind these trends, but the authors did suggest that birth control use could actually be explained by a number of factors.  Recent surveys did not find much of an increase in the number of girls using birth control, so the trend may be the result of longer use or using these medications for other reasons, such as acne.

They also found that a considerable number of infants less than 1 year old were prescribed acid reflux-controlling proton pump inhibitors -- particularly Prevacid -- although these medications are not FDA-approved for use in children this young.

On the other hand, antibiotic use decreased by 14 percent, and the authors suggest that large-scale efforts by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other children's health experts to decrease antibiotic use "by educating parents about the futility of treating viral infections with antibiotics and about concerns of antibiotic resistance" have been successful.

Similarly, the number of antidepressant prescriptions for children declined.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fake Adderall Sold Online Gets FDA’s Attention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Beware of fake versions of ADHD medication Adderall that are being sold on the Internet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned.

The agency issued the warning Tuesday after receiving complaints from the manufacturer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries that the 30 mg tablets, which do not even resemble the authentic version, were being sold online under the company name, FDA spokesperson Shelly Burgess told ABC News.

Adderall is approved by the FDA to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

“We issued the warning to warn the public of the risks of buying from Internet sellers,” said Burgess.

The agency, which conducted lab tests on some of the counterfeits, found the counterfeit version did not contain the correct active ingredients for Adderall.  Instead, it contained acetaminophen and tramadol, which are used to treat acute short-term pain.

Since there is no tracking system for rogue websites that sell fake medication, it is unclear how many people have bought the imitations online.

The nationwide shortage of Adderall in pharmacies may have led some to purchase the medication on the Internet. The FDA’s website lists many dosages of Adderall manufactured by Teva pharmaceuticals have been in short supply since at least October 2011.

According to the FDA, counterfeit Adderall may be white instead of orange, contain no markings on a tablet, and come in a blister package. There may also be misspellings on the package.

Trustworthy websites are licensed by state board of pharmacy and contain a list of the boards on the site. The site should also have a licensed pharmacist available to answer questions the consumer may have. Sound websites also require prescription verification before dispensing any pharmaceutical medication.

“If it offers dramatically low prices from market value, this is a red flag,” said Burgess.

Anyone who suspects they have purchased the counterfeit version should stop taking the medication and report any side effects to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, said Burgess.

The agency is grappling with how best to regulate rogue online sites that sell fake and potentially harmful medications. The FDA can issue warning letters to the sites highlighting its unsafe practices, but are not able to ensure that it can be stopped.

“These sites can shut down and pop back up under a different name the next day,” said Burgess.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Over-the-Counter Lice Treatment No Longer Effective?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(KUNA, Idaho) -- Last week, a Kuna, Idaho, elementary school closed for two days after 60 students and nine staff members were diagnosed with head lice.

An estimated 12 million cases of head lice are diagnosed in the United States each year, and medical experts say that while they don't kill, they can be an irritating nuisance for parents and a public relations embarrassment for schools.

Officials at Kuna's Indian Creek Elementary School did not return calls from ABC News, but sent a letter to parents urging them to check their children and get treatment while the school was cleaned.

In the past, over-the-counter products like Nix and RID have been effective, but now many cases are becoming drug resistant, so head lice outbreaks like the one in Idaho are on the rise.

"People get really freaked out when their kids get it," said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician and author of "Baby 411."

"They think, 'Oh, my gosh, my kids are dirty.' But lice don't care what economic class you are in," she said. "Parents also worry that they are going to get it, too. They are disgusted by the whole concept."

Head lice are small, wingless insects about the size of a sesame seed that only live in the human scalp and feed by sucking blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The crawling lice or their eggs, known as nits, can be found attached to the hair.

"Lice have this social stigma and all kinds of stuff wrapped up in it and it's certainly no fun to deal with -- but it's not such a big deal," said Brown.

To the dismay of health-conscious parents, when standard treatments don't work, they must turn to expensive prescription drugs that contain pesticides, like malathion.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rx Drug Scam Uses DEA Identities to Terrify Victims into Paying Up

Hemera/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The websites seem so simple, so inviting -- buy prescription diet pills or sleep aids without a prescription. But it could be a trap.

A few clicks on certain websites can lead to phone calls that sound like this: "This is officer James Kashin. If you and your wife don't call me back you are going to jail."

Or this: "This is special agent David Brown. We are going to bring you in, in custody, with criminal charges for medication from overseas."

It's all part of an elaborate scam, including the alleged law enforcement phone calls.

According to DEA officials, criminal scam artists first sell prescription drugs online through websites they sometimes operate. After customers input their personal information and make a purchase, the criminals can use the information to blackmail and extort them.

Scammers pose as federal drug enforcement agents, even use actual agents' names, when they make threatening phone calls to thoroughly scare their marks, but then the fake agents offer their victims a lifeline. The caller tells his victims that they have a choice -- either they pay up by a certain deadline and their names will be cleared, or they will be charged as suspects in a criminal investigation and face jail time.

"Basically he wanted me to pay $1,500," said Kesha Howell, a victim of the scam.

"He's got you in such a panic state that by the time he offers you the money, I mean really, that's a no-brainer. Just tell me how much and if I can afford to do it, I'm in," said Darren Dutil, another victim.

Victims of this scam say the phone calls sound authentic and are genuinely terrifying because the person on the other end has all of their personal information.

"He was very calm, cool, but very intimidating. He knew things about me. He had legit information on me and that's what was so scary," Howell said.

"I was ready to call my wife and kids and say, 'Hey look, see you all later. I'm obviously going to be gone for a while,'" Dutil said.

Another victim, who didn't want his name revealed, said he got a call from the scammers and fake DEA agents actually showed up at his house in suburban Fort Worth, Texas.

"They pulled up in a black SUV, right there at the driveway. Two white males got outside, stood beside the truck, and a slender 5-10, 5-11 black male came toward me with black wavy hair," he said.

In the end, he said he didn't fall for the scam, but he admitted he came close.

But Carolyn Sirek, a legal secretary from Joshua, Texas, fell into the trap and accepted the buyout option after receiving the scamming calls. According to her husband Dan Sirek, Carolyn went into a local Walmart and wired the scammers the money through Western Union.

"It depleted our savings account, let's put it that way," Dan Sirek said.

Very often, after one payment, the scammers come back for more. Carolyn Sirek was apparently so upset and scared about what happened that she shot and killed herself in her backyard. Her husband said he found her with a bullet hole in her chest.

Thousands of victims, many of whom have paid the scammers, have called the DEA hotline for help. Officials believe several of these people have shelled out thousands of dollars in the extortion and that the operation is being run out of the Dominican Republic.

The DEA has indicted 11 Dominican men, but as of yet, those men have not been arrested. Agents told ABC News they are working with the Dominican government to have the suspects extradited to the United States, and are investigating other groups operating similar scams.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Deaths from Painkiller Overdose on the Rise, Says CDC

Comstock/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 40 Americans die per day -- about 15,000 per year -- from overdoses of painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, eclipsing the number of deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined.

"We are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription narcotic overdose," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, during a telebriefing to discuss the newly published data.

The problem of abuse, officials said, is getting worse. The number of deaths represents a three-fold increase over the past decade, and CDC also found that in 2010 alone, there were enough painkillers prescribed to supply every adult with a one-month supply.

"This stems from a few irresponsible doctors rather than by drug pushers on street corners," said Frieden.

It's also an expensive problem. Agency officials put the cost of non-medical use -- misuse, for the most part -- of prescription painkillers at $72.5 billion based on government and insurance company data.

The sale of prescription painkillers and the number of related deaths vary by state, with Florida, New Mexico and Oklahoma being among the states hardest hit by the epidemic.

Back in April, the Obama administration announced a plan aimed at reducing the amount of prescription opioid abuse. One of the plan's goals is to reduce the abuse rate by 15 percent by 2015.

The plan called for the expansion of statewide prescription drug monitoring programs (PMDPs), programs that safely dispose of prescription painkillers as well as better education for patients and health care providers.

PMDPs electronically monitor painkiller prescriptions in each state. Only Missouri and New Hampshire do not have one in place. The other states and the District of Columbia are still trying to figure out how to get their programs up and running, the CDC said.

Dr. Scott Fishman, professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of California-Davis and president of the board of the American Pain Foundation, said PMDPs can be effective at curbing misuse of prescription painkillers, but they aren't completely foolproof. He also advocates educating providers and patients.

Another issue that could arise with these programs is that monitoring could be too strict, and doctors could be afraid to prescribe the medications.

Fishman added that a big part of the responsibility lies with providers who aren't properly trained.

Patients who are treated for chronic pain should also understand the addictive nature of the medications and take steps to lower the risk of getting hooked on them and keeping them out of the hands of others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Economy Has Patients Asking Docs for Freebies

Comstock/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The economy is forcing some patients with pricey prescriptions to skip doses, cut pills in half or even stop taking potentially life-saving medications. But many are asking their doctors for help in the form of handouts -- free samples of expensive drugs from the pharmaceutical companies that make them.

"They show up with their hands out," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director for the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Medical Center, describing patients who confess they "just can't afford" to take their medications. "Certainly you can see the frustration in their faces."

Like samples of cheese at the grocery store, free drug samples are intended to encourage patients to try, and ultimately buy certain drugs. But some patients say they need the freebies to bridge gaps in insurance coverage and offset healthcare costs through tough financial times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Prescribing Fewer Antibiotics after Warnings of Overuse

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Antibiotics are no longer the cure-all that physicians and parents once thought they were.

For years, doctors prescribed these drugs to children for everything from the common cold to earaches to respiratory infections.  In many cases, the antibiotics produced no healing and in fact, often led to a bacterial and viral resistance that made them powerless against the infections they're intended to cure.

This led health officials to warn against prescribing antibiotics for every illness that befalls kids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the message was heard, though not as loud and clear as the agency would have liked.

The prescribing rates have fallen from a generation ago when they were 300 per 1,000 office visits in 1993-1994.  The last count was 229 prescriptions per 1,000 visits in 2007-2008, a decrease of 24 percent.

According to the CDC, new tests to immediately diagnose strep throat, which can be treated with antibiotics, were partly responsible for the drop.  However, a majority of antibiotic prescriptions for children are still for acute respiratory infections that don't respond to these drugs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Overuse of Antibiotics May Cause Long-Term Harm

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While antibiotics have certainly benefited society in myriad ways, an overuse of antibiotics may be changing our entire bacterial makeup, says Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

In his opinion piece published in the journal Nature, Blaser implores doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics because of these potential changes, and because over-prescribing can cause antibiotic resistance, which has received much attention in recent years.

"Antibiotics are miraculous," Blaser told ABC News.  "They've changed health and medicine over the last 70 years.  But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects.  We've seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we're carrying."

In the editorial, Blaser hypothesized that the overuse of antibiotics may even be fueling the "dramatic increase" in many illnesses, including type 1 diabetes, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease by destroying the body's friendly flora, or protective bacteria.

"We need to cut down on excess use," said Blaser.  "Over time, the scientific community has to create a more narrow spectrum of antibiotics to kill specific organisms and not all bacteria, but we don't have those yet."

Dr. Cesar Arias, assistant professor of infectious disease at University of Texas Medical School, wholeheartedly agreed with the editorial.

"We use these without much care and without really thinking," said Arias.  "People go to the doctor for a sore throat, which is usually viral, and they're get antibiotics."

"These drugs affect what we're colonized with, particularly the digestive tract," said Arias.  "If you alter your flora, you can promote certain superbugs to colonize in your gut and get into the bloodstream."

The average American child will receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time he is 18 years old, and one-third to one-half of pregnant women will receive them during pregnancy, according to Blaser's report.

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


Paying Attention to Your Prescriptions Saves Big Bucks

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you are one of the many Americans who do not have prescription drug coverage, there are several secrets to savings that could really help you out. Even if your insurance does cover medications, often the ones your doctor prescribes are not included in the plan or the co-pay is exorbitant. Here are several tweaks and tricks you can try in order to afford the prescriptions you need:

Get Two Prescriptions for the Same Medication. Just in case a new medicine doesn't agree with you, you don't want to waste money on several months' worth. So instead, ask your doctor to write you two prescriptions: one that will last a couple of days or weeks and another, longer one that you can fill later if the medication agrees with you and helps you.

Beware of Prescription Drugs that End in "ER," "CD," "XR" and so on. These initials stand for "extended release" and "continuous delivery." They are often trumped up variations of medications that were big money makers for the manufacturer but lost their patent. Manufacturers sometimes invent slightly new versions of their biggest blockbusters and patent them in an attempt to keep the dollars flowing. That's their right. And it's your right to ask whether older, cheaper, generic drugs will work just as well for you.

Just Say No to Drugs; Brand New Ones, That Is. If your doctor offers you free samples of a medication for a chronic condition, you might want to pass. Pharmaceutical reps usually distribute freebies of the newest, most expensive medicines in their collection.

If there is a less expensive, older drug, you don't want to get started on a pricey new one that you will have to pay for once the samples run out. On the other hand, if your doc can provide free samples for a brief, acute illness such as a sinus infection, go for it.

Save Not Just by What's Written but How It's Written. Ask your doctor to write "use as directed" instead of detailed dosing instructions if you want to split pills. Some insurance companies don't allow you to get more than a month's supply of medicine at a time.

So, if your strategy is to get 30 higher dose pills and split them so they last two months, that could be a problem. Exactly how you take those pills can be a private matter between you and your doctor. Ask your doctor to explain the pill-splitting protocol during your office visit instead of on the prescription pad.

Look Into Drug Discount Cards. Drug discount cards allow you to purchase approved drugs for 15 to 40 percent off. The Together RX Access card is the broadest, offering close to 300 brand name meds plus a pile of generics from several different manufacturers.

To qualify, you must not be eligible for Medicare. For more information, visit: Medical manufacturers, who do not participate in this discount card, might have others of their own.

Pharmaceutical Company Websites Can Be Sources of Freebies and Discounts. The more commercialized prescription drugs have gotten, the more drug companies have borrowed pages from more common products' playbooks. So figure out who makes medicines you take routinely and check out their sites. You might see coupons for discounts or even free samples. You then work through your doctor and pharmacy to take advantage of these offers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio