News you can use: health & drug safety updates


  • March 12, 2002
    The nation’s health policy community is mourning the loss of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s director, John Eisenberg, M.D., who died on March 10 of a brain tumor. He was the federal official most reponsible for ensuring significant funding for patient safety research, and had coined his agency’s mantra, “TRIP” for “translating research into practice.” He had keynoted NCPIE’s national conference in May 2001; AHRQ was recently named to NCPIE’s Board of Directors.
  • March 8, 2002
    A guideline designed to improve patients' understanding of the degree of risk from medicines, developed by the European Union, may in fact lead to overstating one’s risk, U.K. researchers found. The guideline recommends the use of risk descriptions such as “very common” to “very rare.” People who relied on these qualitative descriptions greatly overstated their probability of experiencing a side effect, compared to people who read a numerical description of possible risk. One co-author of this study, discussed in The Lancet for 9 March 2002 as a “research letter,” is NCPIE member
  • March 6, 2002
    Almost one-fifth (19%) of adults reported having communication problems with their physician, but among Hispanic respondents, one-third (33%) had such problems. Almost one-fourth of African-Americans, and over one-fourth of Asian- Americans, reported having problems such as not understanding their doctor, or having questions they did not ask. Further, while 79% of African- American respondents said they understood information on prescription bottles, only 66% of Asian-American respondents and 64% of Hispanic resondents said they understood such information. “Diverse
  • February 20, 2002
    This announcement from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality urges that traditional would-be grantees, such as academic and other research organizations, partner with health plans, professional societies, consumer organizations and purchasers. Among AHRQ’s priorities for clinical interventions are the use of specific medications, technologies, or organizational or system interventions. One research question in the grant request is, “How can patients make effective use of their discussions with clinicians and participate in
  • January 17, 2002
    A detailed snapshot of Americans' medication use (prescription, OTC and dietary supplements) found that 81% used at least one medicine in the previous week; 50% took at least one Rx drug and 7% took five or more drugs. The four most frequently-used medicines were all OTCs, with acetaminophen ranking number one. The authors, whose study is in JAMA (Jan. 16), urge clinicians to ask about patients' use of dietary supplements, in particular, to help identify those at risk for potential interactions.
  • January 17, 2002
    A new consumer brochure and web page, developed by the FDA, help users of dietary supplements evaluate a variety of information and medical claims, offer questions to ask health care professionals, and ways to check common assumptions.


  • December 14, 2001
    Among community-dwelling elderly, researchers found that over one-fifth received at least one potentially inappropriate medicine in 1996. While use of inappropriate medicines did decline from 1987-1996, researchers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that this remains “a serious problem.”
  • November 26, 2001
    The possibility of new label requirements for certain prescription and non- prescription medicines was discussed at mid-Nov. meeting between the FDA and the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB has recorded thousands of vehicle accidents, resulting in 100 deaths, all linked to the driver’s use of such medications as antihistamines, muscle relaxants, painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants. The FDA may announce policy actions within one year. NCPIE has always urged consumers to ask their health care
  • November 5, 2001
    The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has posted the most current news and scientific recommendations about dealing with anthrax and bioterrorism. This includes information about appropriate use of antibiotics, and prescribing information for the antibiotics being used to treat cases of confirmed and suspected anthrax. CDER also issued warnings about purchasing Cipro from illegal websites.
  • October 23, 2001
    This government weblink, updated several times a week, represents a compilation of the latest scientific news and public health warnings on bioterrorism.