Roundup: Flu Season Readiness, FDA Crackdown on e-Cig Sales to Minors and 'Drug-Resistant' Hypertension

CDC Urges People to Prepare for Flu Season to Avoid ‘Epidemic Levels’

In the United States, the typical flu season runs from October through May, usually peaking in February. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is already urging people to start preparing for another potentially strong flu season.

The CDC estimates that more than 700,000 people were hospitalized with the flu during last flu season, with influenza or pneumonia activity considered at “epidemic level” for 16 consecutive weeks.

The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. The vaccine is far from 100 percent effective, but it provides the best protection against serious illness, the CDC said. About 80 percent of the 180 children who died from the flu last season were not vaccinated, the CDC states.

Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older, the CDC says.

Travelers should be concerned about the flu and other potential illnesses.

“When you talk to your health care provider about upcoming travel, ask about routine vaccines that are right for you. In addition to getting any recommended travel vaccines, make sure you and your family are up to date on all routine vaccines, such as MMR vaccine, before you travel,” the CDC states.

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FDA Acts to Curb ‘Epidemic’ Youth e-Cigarette Use, Issues Warnings and Fines to Retailers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week it has issued more than 1,300 warnings and monetary penalties to retailers that illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarette products to minors. The largest enforcement effort in FDA history is part of the agency’s campaign to curb what it is deeming as an “epidemic” of young people using e-cigarettes and related nicotine products.

Most of the monetary fines assessed in the FDA’s crackdown were for the illegal sale of five e-cigarette products – Blu, Juul, Logic, MarkTen XL and Vuse. These brands represent 97 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market.

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product by U.S. children and teens. More than 2.1 million middle- and high-school students used e-cigarettes last year, according to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The Juul “vaping” product has become particularly popular with teens and adolescents because it’s discreet and looks and charges like a USB flash drive. Despite its small size, the Juul device delivers nicotine levels that match what’s inhaled by cigarettes, according to a study published recently in Tobacco Control medical journal. Using data from teen patients aged 12 to 21 seen at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital outpatient clinics in Long Island, N.Y., researchers found the nicotine concentrations in Juul and similar products ranged from 23 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) to 56 mg/mL, which is more than double that of other vaping products.

Nicotine delivered in a vapor form is more easily absorbed by the body than smoking. The levels of nicotine found in the teens during the one-year study were “alarmingly high,” said Rachel Boykan, study co-author and pediatrician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The FDA is also requiring JUUL Labs and other companies to submit information that will help the agency better understand the high rates of youth e-cigarette use and appeal of their products. Future actions could include restricting the manufacturing of flavored e-cigarettes, the agency also warned.

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About 1 in 5 Adults With ‘Drug Resistant’ Hypertension Aren’t Taking Their Meds, Study Says

“Drug-resistant” hypertension, or high blood pressure, appears to be on the rise and about 20 percent of adults with this condition are not taking prescribed medications, says a new study released by the American Heart Association (AHA).

High blood pressure is a well-established risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other chronic conditions. Despite the name, drug-resistant hypertension does respond somewhat to medication, but most often blood pressure remains above normal — even after a patient has been put on three or more blood pressure medications.

The new study, released at the AHA’s Joint Hypertension 2018 Scientific Sessions in Chicago, did not examine why patients weren’t taking their pills. But researchers said common reasons for non-adherence include side effects and a lack of awareness about the need to take medicine for a chronic condition that has no symptoms.

Doctors need to know whether patients have drug-resistant hypertension so that they intensify treatment — but only if it’s actually needed, said Robert M. Carey, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia who helped write the latest high blood pressure guidelines from the AHA and American College of Cardiology. He said in a statement that the new findings confirm what other studies have shown — that many patients with high blood pressure don’t take their medications.

“What happens next is old-fashioned medicine: You sit down with the patient and figure out what’s going on,” said Swapnil Hiremath, M.D., one of the study’s researchers and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada, in a statement. “Are they taking their medications, and if not, why not? This may be all you need to do.”

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