Pharmaceutical industry

  • Mumps outbreak in vaccinated children

    Children who have been vaccinated against mumps are still getting the disease, say health officials in the US who are trying to understand the outbreak that has seen five times the usual number of cases occurring in the past year. Most of the cases have been restricted to the state of Washington, where there have been 367 confirmed cases, mostly among vaccinated children. But the sudden increase is also being seen across the US, with 5,300 cases reported in 2016 compared to the thousand or so cases in the previous year. Around 90 per cent of the children in Washington who’ve developed mumps were vaccinated, and had completed the recommended course, says Paul Throne, manager of the state’s immunization programme.

    Mutated virus
    Scientists reckon the virus may have mutated, and so the vaccine is no longer ‘locking’ into it. In any event, the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine is only 88 per cent effective against the disease. One problem is that doctors in the state don’t know how to treat the disease as they’ve not seen any cases before.

    Mumps spreads through droplets of water, or by sharing food and drink with an infected person. Infected people can spread the disease seven days before they show any symptoms, and for eight days after. It can cause swelling of the salivary glands, along with fever, headache and tiredness. In rare cases, it can lead to meningitis.

    Source: ABC News, February 7, 2017

  • Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs increase the risk of cataracts

    Another side-effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs has emerged: they increase the risk of cataracts. In fact, the risk of getting the eye problem is the same as for a diabetic.

    A type II diabetes sufferer runs an 82 per cent risk of cataracts, whereas a statin user’s risk rises by 57 per cent – but when other possibilities are ironed out, the risk is around the same for both, say researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

    They studied the profiles of 6,400 patients being treated at an eye clinic for their cataracts. Of those, 452 had diabetes, and 56 per cent of those were also taking a statin drug.

    Source: Optometry and Vision Science, 2012; 89: 1165-71

  • Painkillers cause life-threatening kidney damage in children

    Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause life-threatening kidney damage in children, researchers have warned this week. The NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) cause acute kidney damage-sometimes requiring treatment in intensive care-in around 3 per cent of children, say researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine. [highlight]Small children up to the age of five years can suffer the worst reactions, and may need dialysis[/highlight].

    Acute kidney injury
    The researchers made the discovery when they looked over the records of 1,015 children admitted to one hospital in Indiana with acute kidney injury (AKI). Of these, 27-or 2.7 per cent-were caused by an NSAID, and the vast majority had been taken the painkiller for less than seven days. Although none of the children died, 30 per cent had long-lasting kidney damage after the AKI episode, which could worsen as they get older.

    Source: Journal of Pediatrics, 2013; 28 januari: doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.11.069

  • Over-the-counter painkillers cause high blood pressure

    If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), everyday painkillers such as ibuprofen could be to blame. These, and many other over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, cause hypertension, yet doctors almost never make the connection. “Patients often assume that because a medication can be obtained without a prescription, it’s relatively harmless. But that’s not always the case,” says Prof Ehud Grossman of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Worse, [highlight]doctors seem to be equally as ignorant of the drugs’ dangers[/highlight].

    Many drugs cause hypertension, says Prof Grossman. As well as [highlight]over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and painkillers, contraceptive pills, antibiotics and antidepressants all directly cause blood pressure to rise[/highlight]. The usual result is more drugs, a prescription for an antihypertensive.

    Source: American Journal of Medicine, 2012 Jan;125(1):14-22. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.05.024

  • Hair loss drug causes depression and suicidal thoughts

    Men who took the hair-loss drug Propecia (finasteride) could be suffering from depression, and even having suicidal thoughts. The reaction is very common, say researchers, and could affect the vast majority of men who took the drug, especially if they suffered from persistent sexual side effects at the time.

    Suicidal thoughts
    The longer-term side-effects range from mild depression to having suicidal thoughts, say researchers from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In a study of 61 former finasteride users who all suffered sexual side effects for more than three months at the time, nearly half had had suicidal thoughts, and 36 per cent had severe depressive symptoms. Doctors should be aware of the life-threatening side effects and should talk to former finasteride patients.

    Source: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2012; doi: 10.4088/JCP.12m07887

  • One in three new drugs have serious and deadly safety issues

    There’s something seriously wrong with our drug approval processes. One in three drugs that pass all the usual checks before being given a licence are unsafe, and are causing serious, and sometimes deadly, health reactions in patients. The safety concerns are so serious that the drug either is pulled from the market, or the drug regulator is forced to issue special warnings that the drug can have fatal effects.

    Dangers come to light after many years
    The dangers of the new drugs often don’t come to light until four years after they have been licensed, which means that many thousands of patients may have been affected. But in every case, doctors and patients believed the drugs were safe because they had passed all the usual tests for safety and effectiveness.

    Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston uncovered the failures in safety testing when they looked at the track record of 222 new drugs that had been passed as safe by America’s drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), between 2001 and 2010. One in three of these had a ‘safety event’, the researchers discovered, which included three drugs which were withdrawn because they were so dangerous, 61 had ‘boxed warnings’—the FDA’s most serious alert before a drug is taken off the market, and means the drug may be a killer—and 59 had their safety questioned.

    “These safety risks emerge, on average, four years after approval. This means that [highlight]many patients are exposed to these medications before the risks become clear[/highlight],” said lead researcher Nicholas Downing.

    The drugs with potentially fatal effects included SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) [highlight]antidepressants, antipsychotics and a new class of drugs that treats auto-immune problems[/highlight].

    Source: The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), 2017; 317(18): 1854-1863. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.5150

  • Vaccines linked to neurological problems such as ADHD and bipolar disorder

    Vaccines such as the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), and especially the annual flu shot, are linked to a range of neuro-psychiatric conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, bipolar and major depression, a new study has discovered. Although the researchers say they can’t establish a direct cause-and-effect association, the problems are happening within days and weeks after vaccination.

    Flu shot linked to many diseases
    The researchers tracked the vaccine history of children aged between six and 15 who had been diagnosed with a neuro-psychiatric condition. They were then matched against similar children who didn’t have any of the problems. The strongest link was found in cases of anorexia, where 21 per cent of cases had had a vaccination in the six months leading up to the diagnosis, followed by OCD and nervous tics, where 16 per cent of cases had recently been vaccinated. Although the MMR was one of the vaccines the children had been given, [highlight]the problems were more likely to occur after a flu shot[/highlight], a vaccine that still uses thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. The researchers from Pennsylvania State University college of medicine say their findings are in line with those from other countries that found that people given the H1N1 flu shot were more likely to develop narcolepsy, the sleeping disorder.

    They suspect that [highlight]vaccines, and flu shots in particular, are affecting the immune system, which influences brain development[/highlight]. All the problems they were witnessing could be categorised as auto-immune disorders, they say.

    Source: Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2017, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00003

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