HEALTH

In the East, flu still packing a wallop

BY Michael Johnsen

For the first time in three weeks, the national incidence of flu-like illnesses as tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fell below the 7% mark on Friday, suggesting this year’s flu season may be packing up and headed for the door.

For the week ended Feb. 17, 6.4% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance Network were due to ILI. And while that percentage is still well above the end-of-the-season indicator of 2.2%, it’s suggestive that this season, too, will eventually come to an end.

That’s great news for folks who have been significantly impacted by the flu this year and have been creating runs on everything from over-the-counter symptom relievers to prescription-only anti-virals.

As was indicated Wednesday by the Walgreens Flu Index, flu incidence appears to be moving from West to East, as flu incidence is dropping across many states in the western United States even as it picks up in the Northeast. For the week ended Feb. 17, 39 states were still experiencing high rates of influenza activity. On the East Coast, high rates of flu activity were recorded as far south as Georgia and as far north as New Hampshire.

Even this late in the season, CDC continued to recommend influenza vaccination for all persons 6 months of age and older as flu viruses are likely to continue circulating for weeks and there is an increasing proportion of influenza B and H1N1 viruses being detected. Early estimates show that flu vaccine has reduced risk of having to go to the doctor due to flu by 36% overall so far this season and that flu vaccine is offering substantial protection against H1N1 flu as well as moderate protection against flu B viruses.

In addition, in the context of widespread influenza activity, CDC reminded clinicians and the public about the importance of prompt treatment with antiviral medications in people who are severely ill and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms.

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HEALTH

PlateJoy Health serves up diabetes prevention

BY Michael Johnsen

PlateJoy on Thursday launched its new PlateJoy Health: Diabetes Prevention program to help the one in three Americans who have prediabetes get a better handle on their condition through nutrition. The program recenty was used in an NIH study and found to reduce the progression to diabetes by 60%, the company noted.

PlateJoy has partnered with Instacart to provide same-day delivery of many of the ingredients recommended as part of its programs.

“Nutrition and lifestyle change has been proven to be twice as effective as the leading diabetes medication. Unfortunately, doctors don’t have time to give comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle advice, and they never will,” Nicole Villeneuve, director recipe design and partnerships at PlateJoy, noted. “That’s why we’re excited to launch PlateJoy Health: Diabetes Prevention, the all-digital program that helps you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing diabetes through personalized nutrition and education.”

According to the San Francisco-based company, several insurance providers “have stepped t othe plate” to cover 100% of the cost of the program. “That’s because insurance companies know that programs like this are the No. 1 way to help their patients get healthier (and reduce their costs),” Villeneuve added. If it is covered, that’s an $89 value.

The program includes meal planning for one year, including activity and weight tracking, and access to weekly video interviews with nutrition experts. The program also includes virtual coaching with diabetes prevention certified coaches.

 

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FDA cracks down on kratom

BY Michael Johnsen

The FDA on Wednesday announced the voluntary destruction and recall of a large volume of kratom-containing products marketed as dietary supplements that were manufactured and distributed under the brand names Botany Bay, Enhance Your Life and Divinity by Divinity Products Distribution of Grain Valley, Missouri.

In cooperation with the FDA, the company has also agreed to stop selling all products containing kratom. Based on the scientific evidence of the serious risks associated with the use of kratom, in the interest of public health, the FDA encourages all companies currently involved in the sale of products containing kratom intended for human consumption to take similar steps to take their products off the market and submit any necessary evidence, as appropriate, to the FDA to evaluate them based on the applicable regulatory pathway.

“The extensive scientific data we’ve evaluated about kratom provides conclusive evidence that compounds contained in kratom are opioids and are expected to have similar addictive effects as well as risks of abuse, overdose and, in some cases, death. At the same time, there’s no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “To protect the public health, we’ll continue to affirm the risks associated with kratom, warn consumers against its use and take aggressive enforcement action against kratom-containing products. We appreciate the cooperation of companies currently marketing any kratom product for human consumption to take swift action to remove these products from circulation to protect the public.”

When intended for use as or in a dietary supplement, the FDA considers kratom to be a new dietary ingredient. Generally, any dietary supplement containing kratom would need to be the subject of a New Dietary Ingredient Notification demonstrating that the product will reasonably be expected to be safe. To date, the FDA is not aware of any evidence of safety establishing that kratom (or any compounds derived from kratom) will reasonably be expected to be safe as a dietary ingredient. Additionally, kratom should not be used to treat any medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids.

There are currently no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom and importantly, the FDA has evidence to show that there are significant safety issues associated with its use. Before it can be legally marketed for therapeutic uses in the U.S., kratom’s risks and benefits must be evaluated as part of the regulatory process for drugs established by Congress.

“We know that some patients are using kratom because they believe it can help treat their opioid dependency, but there’s no reliable evidence to support kratom’s effectiveness for this use; and we’re deeply committed to making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment options,” Gottlieb said. “There are three FDA-approved products that are safe and effective for the treatment of opioid use disorder and we encourage patients to seek advice from their health care professional and pursue treatment for addiction. Additionally, the FDA is taking new steps to bring new, safe and effective, FDA-approved therapies to the market for treatment of opioid use disorder. We understand that patients suffering from opioid addiction need access to effective treatment options. Creating an efficient pathway for the development of these treatments is a very high priority of mine.”

The FDA recommends that consumers not use these or any kratom products and dispose of any products currently in their possession.

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