Space Coast Daily Healthcare Headlines of the Week
By Dr. James Palermo // July 31, 2014
Topics Include: Flesh-Eating Bacteria; Generic vs. Brand Name; New Way To Overdose – and More
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — Welcome to SpaceCoastDaily’s Healthcare Headlines.
SURGEON GENERAL: SKIN CANCER MAJOR PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM
Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, wants us all to get less sun and especially to stay out of the tanning salon.
New melanoma cases have tripled over the last 30 years, with 63,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year resulting in an estimated 9,000 annual deaths from the disease, many involving teens and young adults.
Dr. Lushniak addresses questions related to risks involving ultraviolet exposure, increased outdoor activities, and the indoor tanning industry and artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation, saying, “From our perspective, the real concern is that this is an increase, and we need to do something about it.” (Dennis, Washington Post, 7/29)
WARM WATER SPARKS FLESH-EATING DISEASE WARNING IN FLORIDA
Florida officials issued a new and different warning about flesh-eating bacteria — this one involving Vibrio vulnificus in seawater.
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera, normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called “halophilic” because they require salt.
It can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. The bacterium is frequently isolated from oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months.
The state reports at least 11 Floridians have contracted Vibrio vulnificus so far this year and two have died. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who contract a Vibrio vulnificus infection recover with the help of antibiotics, but severe skin infections may require surgery and amputation, and a weakened immune system presents risk for blood infections, which are fatal in half of the cases.
Although Vibrio vulnificus can be present in any warm seawater or brackish water ways, the majority of cases have been reported in the gulf coast states. (Moisse, ABC News, 7/29)
With the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranked as the fifth most obese nation in the world, according to a 2012 report published in the BMC Public Health journal, and more than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE classified as overweight or obese, the government of its most populous city, Dubai, has implemented a program that uses gold as the “carrot” to incentivize weight reduction and a healthier life style.
“Dubai aims to be one of the healthiest cities in the world,” says Walid Al Shaibani, coordinator of the campaign, which is now in its second year, that pays people a gram of gold for every kilogram of weight they lose over a period of 30 days.
15,000 Dubai citizens have signed up so far. I suspect this initiative will be more effective than banning “Big Gulps” and discouraging Twinkies. (Malhotra, BMJ, 7/24)
SMART PEOPLE BUY GENERIC BRANDS
Smart people buy generic, whether it’s meds or groceries or anything else, say economists from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and the University of Chicago in newly published research appearing in the National Bureau of Economic Research.
According to the researchers, pharmacists and doctors buy generic over 90% of the time, and Americans “waste” an estimated $44 billion a year on brand-name products. (KURTZ, CNN, 7/25)
FLORIDA NO. 1 IN MLR REBATES; FL BLUE OWES $20 MILLION
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) provision known as the medical loss ratio (MLR) mandate requires that insurers spend roughly 80 percent of all premiums paid by policyholders on healthcare services rather than on marketing, executive bonuses, other administrative costs or profits. If spending for non-healthcare services exceeds 20% of premiums collected, insurers must return the excess as a rebate to their members.
This year’s rebate payout (based on 2013 data) by Florida insurers totals $41.7 million, the highest by far of any other state, with Florida Blue (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Health Options) leading the way at a $20 million pay-back to their individual and employer beneficiaries.
Now in its third year, the consumer refunds for 2013 total $330 million nationwide, but even greater consumer savings has resulted from the impact of more efficient administration on premium costs. (Gentry, Health News Florida, 7/24)
TEEN’S DEATH PUTS FOCUS ON DANGERS OF CAFFEINE POWDER
Just what the medical world needed — another way for humans to overdose, and it’s sold in bulk bags over the internet.
An Ohio teen’s sudden death in May has focused attention on caffeine powder, which until recently was unregulated, but now has drawn a warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging consumers to avoid it.
These caffeine products are essentially 100 percent caffeine, a very powerful stimulant, with a single teaspoon being roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee.
Very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Symptoms of caffeine overdose are much more severe than those resulting from drinking too much coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages, and can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, stupor, disorientation and death. Parents beware–these types of products may be attractive to young people. (Sanners, The Daily Star, 7/22)