HEALTH

This year’s flu season may have reached its peak, CDC says

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Influenza activity may have reached its peak in the week ended Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported March 6, as illness levels remained at relatively the same level as the week prior.

If the season has reached its peak, the 2008/2009 flu season will go down as one of the weakest flu seasons ever; illness rates across the course of the season are already well below both those recorded for each of the past two seasons.

Thirty-one states reported widespread influenza activity, which means that more than half of the statewide regions reported significant influenza activity. As many as 16 states reported regional activity; the District of Columbia and two states reported local influenza activity; and Puerto Rico and one state reported sporadic influenza activity.

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Survey shows that teens understand risks of intentionally abusing OTC meds

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON According to the 20th annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey, a national study of teen behavior and attitudes about drugs and alcohol, an increased number of teens view the intentional abuse of OTC cough medicines as risky, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America stated last week.

PATS indicates that 48% of teens now understand this abuse is dangerous, up significantly from 45% in 2007.

“We welcome this new data as a signal that the efforts of the leading makers of over-the-counter cough medicines in past years is making a difference,” said Linda Suydam, president, Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “Our member companies are steadfast in their commitment to prevent teen cough medicine abuse. But, we know that our work is far from over.” Suydam said. “With the help of such partners as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, and D.A.R.E. America, we will continue our efforts to make sure all parents are aware of this substance abuse behavior and talk with their children about it.”

Lifetime abuse rates among teens for OTC cough medicines has not increased from previous PATS data and has remained relatively flat over the past few years: 10%, or roughly 2.4 million teens, report ever having abused an OTC cough medicine to get high. Federal research released in December 2008 shows a slight overall decrease in annual OTC abuse rates among teens.

“More teens seeing the abuse of cough medicine as dangerous is a very positive indication,” said Steve Pasierb, president, CEO, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. “The study shows that 37% of teens reported learning a lot about the risks of drug abuse from their parents — a significant 16% increase from the previous year.”

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Dextromethorphan Distribution Act reintroduced

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash. earlier this week re-introduced legislation, the Dextromethorphan Distribution Act, that would restrict the distribution of raw dextromethorphan, a cough cold ingredient that has been the focus of teen drug abuse in the past, to entities registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

The legislation ensures that only legitimate entities registered with FDA or a state agency such as scientists, researchers or manufacturers, can purchase raw, unfinished dextromethorphan, the most dangerous form of the ingredient when abused. Currently, there are no national sales or purchase restrictions for dextromethorphan in this form.

This is the third time this legislation, which enjoys support from such industry associations as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

It has passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice, but failed to move forward before the close of both the 109th and 110th Congresses.

“We fervently hope that the third time’s the charm for this important measure to get passed into law and start protecting our nation’s children,” said Linda Suydam, CHPA president. “CHPA’s support for this legislation is one part of a comprehensive approach to preventing the abuse of dextromethorphan in any form.”

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