Federal panel OKs two combination vaccines

IN BRIEF

Immunization

July 03, 2008

A federal advisory panel has endorsed two new combination vaccines designed to reduce the number of needle sticks children must endure to get the recommended immunizations.

The panel approved a four-in-one shot made by GlaxoSmithKline. It offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio, and costs $45. It's given once to preschool-age children.

The panel also endorsed Sanofi Pasteur's five-in-one shot for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and illness because of Haemophilus influenzae type b, or HiB. It costs about $69. Youngsters get four doses by age 2.

Both combination shots were recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The combination shots don't change the recommended vaccine schedule, just the number of needle jabs needed.

The vaccine advisory panel approved the shots for the federal Vaccines for Children program, which pays for vaccinations for about 36 million children who are covered by Medicaid, are uninsured or meet other eligibility guidelines.

The panel's recommendations are also influential with private health insurers.

Associated Press

Addiction

Study assesses financial fallout from drug abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse sets people on a path toward heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses. A study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that hospital costs for this medical fallout can be substantial - and could be avoided with more drug and alcohol treatment.

Lead author Patricia Santora of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues found that 14 percent of people admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1994 to 2002 were alcohol or drug abusers.

Of these more than 43,000 patients, the researchers found, about half abused two or more drugs, resulting in hospital costs in 2002 of $28 million.

An additional 25 percent abused alcohol only, incurring $20 million in hospital costs in 2002.

Treatment costs rose in each year of the study period.

"Virtually all ... were admitted for the medical and psychiatric consequences of their abuse," Santora says.

Los Angeles Times

Technology

Wireless interference a matter of life, death

Wireless systems used by many hospitals to keep track of medical equipment can cause potentially deadly breakdowns in lifesaving devices such as breathing and dialysis machines, researchers have reported.

The wireless systems send out radio waves that can interfere with equipment such as respirators, external pacemakers and kidney dialysis machines, the study said.

Electromagnetic glitches occurred in almost 30 percent of 123 tests when microchip devices similar to those in many types of wireless medical equipment were placed within about 1 foot of the lifesaving machines. Patients were not using the equipment at the time.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Peper Long of the Food and Drug Administration said the agency is aware of the potential problem but has not received any reports of injuries directly caused by electronic interference with hospital medical devices.

Associated Press

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