PHARMACY

Federal advisory panel recommends flu shot be given to all children

BY Diana Alickaj

ATLANTA A federal advisory panel said Wednesday that all children up to age 18 should get vaccinated against the flu. The only exception was children under six months and those that have serious egg allergies.

Flu shots have usually been recommended to those that are at the highest risk of detrimental effects from the flu, such as children ages 6 months to 5 years, adults 50 and older, and those that have a weak immune system. This year, however, experts suggest that a way to prevent those at risk from being infected, all children, very effective carriers of the influenza virus, should be inoculated.

According to published reports, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says this year that all children should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Offering flu shots to all children would add about 30 million more children than usual. FluMist, a nasal spray vaccine is also approved for ages 2 to 49, as an alternative to the shot.

The new advisory for flu shots has caused arguments among doctors as to when the vaccines should be available. Some doctors feel that the vaccine should be offered universally, while others are unsure of how every child will get covered with the vaccine.

“We probably will need to have low expectations for coverage in the first few years of implementation” of the ages 5-through-18 recommendation, said Tony Fiore, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Conrol and Prevention.

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Senate approves bill to increase spending for American Indian healthcare

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Senate has approved a bill that would give $35 billion over the next 10 years to the Indian Health Service, which provides tribal health care for 1.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives on reservations, according to published reports.

The bill would strengthen mental health programs and patient screening for cancer and diabetes, expand disease prevention programs and recruit nurses and doctors to serve American Indian populations. It would also modernize and build health clinics and increase tribal access to Medicare and Medicaid.

The Senate also approved an amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., that would grant the Indian Health Service the authority to more evenly distribute funding for construction of its health facilities. Right now, funding only goes to about 10 states.

The House is expected to take a look at the bill later this year.

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FDA to increase oversight of post-market medications

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has revealed a new plan called “Safety First”, which is aimed at providing more information on drugs after they hit the market, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The plan involves creating a new database listing possible side effects of drugs, along with clear schedules for following up on questions about them. Also, the FDA plans to make changes to its procedures for making certain regulatory decisions particularly those based on emerging safety worries.

The FDA’s Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, which focuses on the safety of marketed drugs, will get some new powers. The drug safety office will get primary authority over decisions to approve drug brand names and packaging, though this change will not occur immediately. Eventually, the safety office is supposed to formally get another power as well: the ability to commission certain kinds of research, the epidemiological studies often drawn from patient databases. This could involve requiring drugmakers to do such studies, a power the FDA gained under a new law passed last year, or contracting with outside sources.

The FDA is supposed to implement a second phase to the plan, called “Safe Use,” that will focus on ensuring that drugs are used safely in the real world.

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