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Health groups warn Brexit drugs supply risk at code red

The U.K. governments preparations for maintaining drug supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit are..

The U.K. governments preparations for maintaining drug supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit are so lacking that the warning level should be raised to “red,” a group of health organizations has said.

National Health Service providers, pharmaceutical companies and patient groups wrote to the government to warn that Britain is seriously unprepared to maintain access to medicines if there are border delays after Brexit.

In the letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock obtained by POLITICO, eight organizations say industry has done all it can in preparing for a cliff-edge Brexit — and that the government needs to take action to prevent widespread drug shortages.

“If this is the reality of U.K. government preparation for No Deal we do not believe that the current medicine supply plans will suffice, and we will have widespread shortages if we do not respond urgently,” the letter dated October 31 says.

Expressing support for Hancocks “efforts to raise the warning level in Government,” the organizations say: “Only when we start to work through options will we all know where we are, but on medicines supply, on what we know and can glean from public information, we think we are at red.”

The groups calls on the government to be more transparent “and reveal what cover we have by therapy area and where there are gaps,” so that the signatories can “find further creative solutions to shortages, but we need the data to engage.”

They also request an urgent meeting in the form of a roundtable between ministers and industry.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement: “The Government is confident of reaching a deal with the EU that benefits patients and the NHS. However, as a responsible Government we are also preparing for a range of potential outcomes in the unlikely event of a no deal.

“As part of our contingency planning, we continue to work closely with pharmaceutical companies and storage providers to ensure the continued supply of critical drug and medicine supplies,” the spokesperson said.

The letter to Hancock is backed by, among others, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI), the BioIndustry Association and the Brexit Health Alliance — a conglomerate of NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health groups.

“When an incredibly broad group of medical organizations and bodies are telling the government we are at warning level red, it shows the preparations government has made are both shockingly inadequate and woefully behind,” said Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake.

The government in August asked drugmakers to stockpile an extra six weeks-worth of drug supplies in preparation for delays in importing medicines, but companies have since warned storage will be a major hurdle.

Speaking Wednesday evening on ITVs Peston show, Hancock said that in the event of six weeks of extra supplies not being enough, “then we will have to do things differently,” because “you cant have stockpiles for enormous lengths of delays.”

“All of this is doable. It is difficult. Theres a lot of work going on already to make it happen,” he said, adding that the government is “building refrigerator capacity right now.”

Companies advising the government on how to maintain supplies after a no-deal Brexit have signed strict non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) barring them from revealing information.

Outlining the extent of potential disruptions at Britains borders, the letter cites reports that U.K. minister David Lidington told the Cabinet the Dover-Calais trade route could be limited to 12 percent of normal capacity for six months after Brexit.

The letter points to a recent report from the National Audit Office that concluded 11 out of 12 critical upgrades to IT systems at the border are at risk of not being delivered on time, and that there is a high risk of failure in the government departments border programs for “day one of no deal” due to their scale, complexity and urgency.

With much of the necessary infrastructure unable to be built before March, the timescale is too tight for companies to make the necessary changes, it adds.

This article has been updated to add Health Secretary Matt Hancocks interview with ITV.

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Officials investigating 252 possible cases of polio-like illness AFM

Officials are now investigating 252 cases of possible acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including 90 con..

Officials are now investigating 252 cases of possible acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), including 90 confirmed cases in 27 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of cases under investigation by the CDC is up 33 from last week, and the number of confirmed cases rose by 10, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDCs National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that has polio-like symptoms such as partial paralysis. The virus mostly affects children and young adults. The CDC said they do not know why the condition is impacting these individuals, but many believe it is caused by viruses. The CDC emphasized it remains a rare condition and said there have been no reported deaths from AFM so far in 2018.

The typical symptoms of AFM are similar to those of a severe respiratory illness, along with a fever, but then progress into neurological symptoms. Some patients with AFM feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Some patients may also exhibit facial droop or weakness, difficulty moving their eyes and drooping eyelids or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. The most severe symptom is respiratory failure.

Messonnier said the CDC doesn't yet have enough information to definitively say what causes AFM and are casting a wide net for information. Part of that is studying the long-term health of AFM patients. Scientists are also looking for a pathogen in AFM patients' spinal fluid, but haven't yet found a pathogen that's a clear cause, she said.

The CDC said it sees an uptick in AFM cases every two years, and so far, the curve of the cases being investigated this year looks very similar to that of 2014 and 2016.

Officials don't expect many more cases in 2018 compared to 2016 and 2014, Messonnier said.

The best advice available is to wash your hands regularly, which lowers the chances of getting sick or spreading germs from many of the viruses linked to AFM, and protect against mosquito bites by using repellent, in addition to staying indoors at dusk and dawn.

The CDC said the vaccines your pediatrician suggests are very effective and children should continue to receive them on schedule even though there is no vaccine for AFM. (more…)

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‘Make-a-Wish’ wishes decrease trips to hospital for sick children: Study

A recent study from the Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in ..

A recent study from the Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in the Make-A-Wish program may give children better quality of life and reduce hospital visits and healthcare costs.

Patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one.

What is the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide children aged three to 17-years-old who have progressive, life-limiting, or life-threatening medical conditions, with experiences known as “wishes.” These wishes include “I wish to…” “go,” “be (someone for a day),” “meet,” and “have” (i.e. receive gifts.) The foundation is funded by contributions from individual donors, corporations, and other organizations.

What are the goals and mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation “serves a unique, and vital, role in helping strengthen and empower children battling illnesses.” And, “wishes make life better for kids with critical illnesses.”

How many “wishes” does the foundation grant?

The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in November 1980 and the first wish was granted in the spring of 1981 to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar, a 7-year-old who had leukemia. Bopsy had three wishes: to be a fireman, go to Disneyland, and ride in a hot air balloon — all of which were granted to him. Since then, more than 285,000 children in the United States and its territories have benefited from experiencing their wishes. The foundation granted 15,300 wishes last year alone; which means on average, a wish is granted every 34 minutes.

What are the potential benefits of receiving a “wish?"

There is a long-held belief that receiving a wish improves a childs quality of life and potentially improves their familys quality of life, enhances family bonding, reduces stress, increases hope and serves as a distraction from illness. (more…)

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To curb STD rise, doctors treat patients’ partners without an office visit

This is a Kaiser Health News story.

If patients return to Dr. Crystal Bowe soon after taking medi..

This is a Kaiser Health News story.

If patients return to Dr. Crystal Bowe soon after taking medication for a sexually transmitted infection, she usually knows the reason: Their partners have re-infected them.

“While you tell people not to have sex until both folks are treated, they just dont wait,” she said. “So they are passing the infection back and forth.”

Thats when Bowe, who practices on both sides of the North and South Carolina border, does something doctors are often reluctant to do: She prescribes the partners antibiotics without meeting them.

Federal health officials have recommended this practice, known as expedited partner therapy, for chlamydia and gonorrhea since 2006. It allows doctors to prescribe medication to their patients partners without examining them. The idea is to prevent the kind of reinfections described by Bowe — and stop the transmission of STDs to others.

However, many physicians arent taking the federal governments advice because of entrenched ethical and legal concerns.

“Health care providers have a long tradition of being hesitant to prescribe to people they havent seen,” said Edward Hook, professor at the University of Alabamas medical school in Birmingham. “There is a certain skepticism.”

A nationwide surge of sexually transmitted diseases in recent years, however, has created a sense of urgency for doctors to embrace the practice. STD rates have hit an all-time high, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. In 2017, the rate of reported gonorrhea cases increased nearly 19 percent from a year earlier to 555,608. The rate of chlamydia cases rose almost 7 percent to 1.7 million.

“STDs are everywhere,” said Dr. Cornelius Jamison, a lecturer at the University of Michigan Medical School. “We have to figure out how to … prevent the spread of these infections. And its necessary to be able to treat multiple people at once.”

A majority of states allow expedited partner therapy. Two states — South Carolina and Kentucky — prohibit it, and six others plus Puerto Rico lack clear guidance for physicians. (more…)

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