Drug shortages hit an all-time high
December 16th, 2011
10:22 AM ET

Drug shortages hit an all-time high

Between 2006 and 2010, drug shortages increased by more than 200%, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday. There were a record 196 shortages last year, and even more are expected in 2012.

“These shortages often force Americans to go without treatment,” Senator Tom Harkin said.

Renee Mosier is one of those patients who has been forced to forgo treatment and look for alternatives. The 61-year-old was first diagnosed in 2006 with ovarian cancer. After several successful surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, the cancer came back this past June.

November 2nd, 2011
05:09 PM ET

New drug 'big deal' in cystic fibrosis fight

A new pill may help in the fight with cystic fibrosis.

A study, funded in part by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, found the drug ivacaftor (pronounced eye va kaf tor) caused patients with a specific type of cystic fibrosis to improve lung function, gain weight, and fight other aspects of the disease.

“This is the first time that we have a therapy that is directed at the cause of cystic fibrosis,” says Dr. Michael Konstan, the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and one of the authors of the study. There is no cure for this disease and existing treatments just help alleviate some of the symptoms.

“This is a big deal,” says Robert Beall, the president and CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  “The fact is it is obviously going to make a very big difference in the lives of patients.”


Rx drug deaths triple in decade
November 1st, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Rx drug deaths triple in decade

Inappropriately used prescription pain medications kill 15,000 people in the United States each year, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're in the midst of an epidemic," says CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "Narcotics prescribed by physicians kill 40 people per day."

Deaths due to prescription painkiller overdoses now exceed the number of heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined, says Frieden, who is joining  Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the nation's drug czar, to raise awareness about how prescription drug abuse deaths have tripled since 1999.

According to the data released Tuesday, 1 in 20 or 12 million Americans age 12 and older has misused prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycotin), methadone or hydrocodone (Vicodin) and middle-aged adults have the highest overdose rates.


Tylenol maker sets new, lower doses
July 28th, 2011
06:17 PM ET

Tylenol maker sets new, lower doses

The manufacturer of Tylenol announced new, lower dosing instructions for the painkiller on Thursday in an effort to reduce accidental overdose from acetaminophen, the product's active ingredient.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson, is recommending the maximum dosage for extra strength Tylenol be lowered to six pills - or a total of 3,000 milligrams (mg) a day, down from eight pills or 4,000 mg which is the current maximum daily dose.


Big-name drugs go generic
July 26th, 2011
04:18 PM ET

Big-name drugs go generic

Some of the most popular prescription drugs are about to get a lot cheaper.  According to the mail-order pharmacy Medco, at least 22 prescribed medications may be available as generics in the next year.

When drug companies develop a drug the FDA usually grants them exclusive rights to market that drug for a set period of time.  When those rights expire, other companies can make the exact same drug.  Since there is competition, the generics are cheaper.  The FDA says the regulations are “designed to promote a balance between new drug innovation and generic drug competition.”

 Medco compiled a list of drugs and when they are expected to become public.

Among major drugs on the list for the next year:

  • Lipitor, a popular cholesterol drug, goes generic in November.
  • Solodyn, used to treat bacterial infections,  November.
  • Zyprexa, which treats schizophrenia,  October.
  • Lexapro, used to treat depression,  March
  • Provigil, which treats sleep problems, April
  • Plavix, an antiplatelet drug which can prevent blood clots, May.
  • Singulair, an Asthma drug, August 2012.


July 11th, 2011
08:46 AM ET

My ear is clogged. Should I get antibiotics?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Nerisa from New York
I had a terrible cold that lasted about two weeks, and my right ear is still clogged with congestion. I find that it gets worse throughout the day, and I get that "popping" feeling when I blow my nose. Should I be on antibiotics?

June 23rd, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Is your medication safe?

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that generic drug companies do not share the same level of responsibility as their brand name counterparts in terms of updating warning labels when significant new risks of taking the products are presented.

It's a decision that Judge Sonia Sotomayor says leads to unfathomable and "absurd consequences" for patients.


Are senior citizens being overmedicated?
June 3rd, 2011
09:42 AM ET

Are senior citizens being overmedicated?

Strong, antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed more often to senior citizens in U.S. nursing homes, setting off a debate about whether it's the right treatment for the elderly suffering from dementia.

Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, believes this increase - detailed in a recent study by his office - is a cause for alarm.  "The report found that too often, elderly residents are prescribed antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate government standards for unnecessary drug use," he wrote in a commentary for CNN.com.


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Filed under: Medications • Mental Health

FDA sets kids' dosing for liquid meds
May 6th, 2011
11:47 AM ET

FDA sets kids' dosing for liquid meds

Figuring out how much liquid medication to give your baby or toddler should be a little easier, if manufacturers follow the Food and Drug Administration's final recommendations for liquid over-the-counter drugs, which were released this week. The FDA is asking manufacturers to provide clearly and consistently marked delivery devices (syringes, cups, droppers or spoons), which will provide accurate doses of the liquid medication.

These guidelines grew out of concerns over confusing and/or mismatched instructions between labels and dispensing devices can lead to children getting too much or to little medication.

"Accidental medication overdose in young children is an increasingly common, but preventable public health problem," says Dr. Karen Weiss, in a statement. Weiss is the director of the "Safe Use Initiative" in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.


FDA targets unapproved prescription cold meds
March 2nd, 2011
03:40 PM ET

FDA targets unapproved prescription cold meds

Companies that make, distribute or market unapproved prescription cough, cold and allergy medications were put on notice Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration that their products can't be legally marketed in the United States.

The FDA says the safety, effectiveness and quality of 27 active ingredients in approximately 500 unapproved drugs have not been evaluated by the agency. Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the agency doesn't know what's in these drugs or how they were made.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.