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Progress, Challenges and Shortages: Top Medical News of 2018

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As 2018 comes to a close, we can look back and reflect on the year’s notable medical news. Medscape.com recently highlighted top news in the article “The Year in Medicine 2018: News that Made a Difference”. Take a moment and look at advances and challenges over the past 12 months.

Progress, Challenges and Shortages:  Top Medical News of 2018

As a nurse, it is likely you have found (or will find) a niche or specialty and keep up with pertinent news in your area of practice.  I enjoy stepping outside of my “box” to catch up on medical news outside of my specialty.  The world of healthcare changes everyday and it is impossible to touch on all that has occurred during the year  However, let’s look at a few updates and raise awareness about what is happening in our communities.

The Opioid Crisis: Progress, Kratom and Dsuvia

The opioid crisis continues to evolve daily, but 2018 did show signs of progress. The Health and Human Services Secretary announced that deaths related to opioid misuse plateaued during 2018.  Youth opioid misuse had declined over the past decade.  Other significant news:

- In October, the Senate passed a bipartisan opioid package aimed at combating the opioid crisis.  The package will give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to require specific product packaging for opioids.  The legislation will also promote research to identify non-addictive medication alternatives for treating pain.  The legislation will help stop the flow of illegal drugs coming into the U.S. through the “STOP ACT”.

- The FDA identified kratom, a popular over the counter herbal supplement, as an opioid and warned of risk associated with kratom ingredients.

- The FDA approved the powerful opioid Dsuvia, made by AcelRX Pharmaceuticals.  Dsuvia has an opioid potency 5-10% higher than fentanyl.  Because of abuse and addiction risks, the drug is recommended for individuals who have not benefit and/or tolerated other pain management options. Read the FDA statement on the approval of Dsuvia

Steep Increase in Sexually Transmitted Diseases

STDs have reached an all-time high with 200,000 more reportables than occurred in 2016.  The increased occurrence of gonorrhea and syphilis stand out:

The cause behind the increased incident in STDs is multifactorial.  Local, state and federal funds have been cut, reducing the budget for STD prevention.  Sexual behaviors of gay men have changed over the past decade and correlates with an increase in syphilis rates.  This increase correlates with improved HIV treatments and the perceiption of less risk.

A Severe and Deadly Flu Season: 

According to the CDC’s Summary of the 2017-2018 Influenza Season, 2017-2018 flu season recorded influenza like illnesses (ILI) occurring at the highest percentage since 2009.  For 19 consecutive weeks, the rate of ILI was as high as the peak of 2009’s H1N1 pandemic.  As of October, 2018, 185 children died during the 2017-2018 season.  This is the highest number of flu related child deaths in any other regular flu season.  In 80% ofchild deaths, a flu vaccination was not received.  Read the full CDC Summary here.

Hurricane Maria and Drug Shortages

On September 20, 2017, hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, causing devastating damages to homes and infrastructures.  Puerto Rico manufactures approximately 40 drugs (approximately 10% of U.S. supply) for shipment to the U.S.  In 2018, the medical community continued dealing with the effects of Hurricane Maria.  The most significant shortages are linked to IV saline, levothyroxine and amino acids.  Consumers experienced an increase in price for levothyroxine post Hurricane Maria.

Virtual Check-Ins a Medicare Reality

Beginning January 1, 2019, Medicare will cover virtual care services.  In 2018, the Center for Medicare Services published the final rule for the physician fee schedule.  Providers will be able to use real time telephone interactions, as well as, audio with video.  Virtual check-ins will allow physicians to provide management and evaluation services to an established patient. Read 10 FAQs on This New Service

2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine Goes To….

James P. Allison from the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo from Japan are the recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine for advances in discovering how the immune system can be used to fight cancer.  Their work includes work to understand how proteins can act as a brake system on the body’s immune system. Read Press Release Here

It is impossible to touch on all the news worthy medical advances in 2018 in this article.  However, I would enjoy reading the advancements, changes or challenges that stand out to you.  Take a minute to add your reflection in the comment section.

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J.Adderton RN, MSN is a nurse with over 20 years experience in a variety of settings. Experience includes community health, hospice, leadership, education and rehabilitation.

58 Likes, 5 Followers, 24 Articles, 23,694 Visitors, and 175 Posts.

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On ‎2‎/‎7‎/‎2019 at 4:01 PM, J.Adderton said:
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A Severe and Deadly Flu Season: 

... As of October, 2018, 185 children died during the 2017-2018 season.  This is the highest number of flu related child deaths in any other regular flu season.  In 80% ofchild deaths, a flu vaccination was not received.  Read the full CDC Summary here.

 

Need I say more? Please get the flu vaccination.

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I'm curious what you mean when you say "Sexual behaviors of gay men have changed over the past decade."  Do you have evidence that gay men are primarily behind the increased rates of syphilis?  

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On ‎2‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 9:41 AM, LibraSunCNM said:

I'm curious what you mean when you say "Sexual behaviors of gay men have changed over the past decade."  Do you have evidence that gay men are primarily behind the increased rates of syphilis?  

Great question!  The CDC reported in 2017 - 52% of all primary and secondary syphilis cases were diagnoses in men having sex with only men and there has been a 9% increase since 2016. 

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