Women ages 19 to 25 have higher rates of ADHD medication use than girls ages 12 to 18. (Getty Images)
By Nancy Shute, NPR
Use of ADHD drugs continues to rise in the United States, but the group whose use is increasing the most may come as a surprise: young women.
An analysis of prescriptions filled from 2008 to 2012 through Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management company, found that use of ADHD medications rose 35.5 percent overall. The company’s database includes 15 million people with private insurance.
Children and young adults on ADHD medications by gender. (Express Scripts)
The medications, largely stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, are still most commonly prescribed to boys ages 12 to 18. In 2012 7.8 percent of boys ages 4 to 18 were taking an ADHD medication — that’s more than twice the rate of girls (3.5 percent). But in young adulthood, ages 19 to 25, men’s use plummets, while young women’s rate increases. From ages 26 to 64, use of ADHD medications by women exceeds that of men.
To find out more about what’s going on, we talked with Dr. David Muzina, a psychiatrist who is the vice president and national practice leader for neuroscience at Express Scripts. This is an edited version of our conversation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have reported increases in use of ADHD medications in children, but this increase in adults seems huge. What’s happening there? Continue reading
Estrogen replacement patches. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Postmenopausal women have heard just about everything when it comes to hormone therapy. In the 1990s, doctors routinely recommended it, believing that it helped women avoid heart attacks, thinning bones and other problems of aging. Then along came the Women’s Health Initiative study, which first found hormone therapy (HT) created more risks than benefits – then found that over time some of those risks subsided, at least somewhat.
“It’s a very provocative finding, without a doubt.”
But one main criticism of the Women’s Health Initiative study was that women were recruited to start on hormone therapy long after they had gone through menopause. The women were ages 65 or older.
Today, many doctors believe that HT started at the time of menopause — or soon after — can help women with hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms.
The red dots mark a school or child care facility where the vaccine opt-out rate is above 9.9 percent. The statewide average is 3 percent. (Contra Costa Health Department)
In response to the troubling number of children whose parents opt out of vaccines for them, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has published an interactive online map of vaccine rates for schools and licensed child-care facilities with at least 15 children at each site across the county.
“There’s not much wiggle room. We need about 90 percent of our community to be immune.”
The screen shot above shows the map. When you visit the site you can click on any of the dots, and a box appears to show you the name of the school, its address and rate of “personal belief exemptions.” While state law requires that every child be fully vaccinated to enter kindergarten, parents can opt out by filing a personal belief exemption (PBE), a signed statement that vaccines are against a parent’s beliefs.
Paul Leung, immunization program manager for Contra Costa Public Health, said the goal of producing the map was to increases awareness. “Many community members may not realize this dangerous, disturbing trend of parents choosing to skip vaccines for their children,” he said. “It not only puts these kids at greater risk of serious, dangerous diseases like measles and polio,” but it also puts others at risk, he said, including those who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies, and children or adults too sick to be vaccinated. Continue reading
Many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. One dose is usually not a problem, but it’s easy to lose track of how much your child is taking. An overdose can cause liver failure or death. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Scott Hensley, NPR
Concerns about drug risks have led 28 state attorneys general to ask the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its approval of Zohydro, a long-acting narcotic painkiller, before the medicine is even put on the market.
People often underestimate the risks of individual drugs and combinations of drugs for young children.
The risks for addiction and overdose from the potent opioid outweigh the benefits of pain relief, critics say. Some point to the risk for children, in particular. A single capsule of Zohydro could kill a kid, the medicine’s instructions warn.
Other opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, are already fixtures in America’s medicine cabinets. And as the prescriptions for drugs like these have surged, so have the reports of overdoses and deaths — for children and adults.
But opioids are just one kind of risky medicine. Doctors have a disturbingly long list of drugs that can lead to the death of a child after just one or two doses. Continue reading
Many processed foods, including bottled tomato sauce, have added sugars, which would be required under the proposed label. (Danny Nicholson/Flickr)
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
Ready for a reality check about how many calories you’re eating or drinking?
The proposed new nutrition facts panel may help.
“I’ve been hoping for years that the FDA would list added sugars,” — Marion Nestle, NYU Nutrition Professor
The Obama administration Thursday released its proposed tweaks to the iconic black and white panel that we’re all accustomed to seeing on food packages.
The most visible change is that calorie counts are bigger and bolder — to give them greater emphasis.
In addition, serving sizes start to reflect the way most of us really eat. Take, for example, ice cream. The current serving size is a half-cup. But who eats that little?
Under the proposed new label, the serving size would become 1 cup. So, when you scoop a bowl of mint chocolate chip, the calorie count that you see on the label will probably be much closer to what you’re actually eating.
By Brittany Patterson
Toss those vitamin bottles and instead opt for a well-balanced diet if you’re looking to prevent heart disease or cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new recommendations Monday regarding both multivitamins and certain supplements — and their potential to help prevent heart disease and cancer. The task force “concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms” of the use of multivitamins, vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements to prevent heart disease or cancer.
The task force is, however, recommending against use of beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements. Continue reading
Studies show the HPV vaccine is highly protective, but as many as two-thirds of 11 and 12-year-old girls don’t get it. (Art Writ/Flickr)
By Patti Neighmond, NPR
You would think that a vaccine that could prevent cancer would be an easy sell, but that’s hasn’t proven to be true so far with the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
“This is a vaccine that protects against cancer; what could be better than that?”
Just 33 percent of girls and less than 7 percent of boys in the U.S. have gotten all three recommended doses of the vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical and other cancers. Compare that to the tiny African nation of Rwanda, where more than 90 percent of sixth-grade girls were vaccinated in 2011, or Australia, where 73 percent of 12- and 13-year-old girls have gotten all three vaccines.
“This is a vaccine that protects against cancer; what could be better than that?” asks Shannon Stokley, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She and other public health officials are trying to figure out the best ways to persuade American teenagers and preteens to get the HPV vaccine. Continue reading
A vial containing the acellular pertussis vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
A new rise in whooping cough cases in California is raising questions among doctors about whether there are problems with the current vaccine. California public health data show a spike in whooping cough cases in 2013 compared to the year before, and last week officials confirmed the first death from the disease since the major outbreak of 2010: an infant in Riverside.
“The attempt at making vaccines safer has created a potential lapse in protection.”
Whooping cough, or pertussis as it is referred to in medical circles, is cyclical in nature and tends to peak every three to five years. But doctors are now finding evidence that the new vaccine may start to wear off on a similar timeline, despite medical recommendations that allow for a span of eight years between booster shots.
“The efficacy of the new vaccine is really good, it works. It’s just that it wanes, and it wanes more quickly,” said Dr. Michael Witte, a pediatrician in Pt. Reyes, north of San Francisco.
The new acellular whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the 1990s. It has fewer side effects than the earlier whole-cell vaccine that had been in use since the 1940s. By 2001, the old vaccine was completely phased out. So while many adolescent kids have received boosters of the new vaccine, they would have gotten shots when they were babies that included the old vaccine. Continue reading
The NuvaRing birth control product is a flexible ring which releases hormones. A woman replaces it herself once a month. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Merck, the drug company that makes the NuvaRing birth control product, announced last week it will pay $100 million to settle thousands of claims from women who believe they were harmed by using the product.
As NPR reported Monday, NuvaRing is the most recent hormone-based kind of birth control to “become the focus of scrutiny.” All hormone-based contraceptives, including the pill, put a woman at increased risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack. Women need to weigh the risks of pregnancy with the risks of hormonal contraception, experts advise. But the key thing to remember is that the risks remain rare.
Dr. Michael Policar is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U.C. San Francisco. ”If you take a rare event, make it a little more common, it is still a rare event,” he told NPR — but still believes that studies are needed that compare NuvaRing head-to-head with other forms of contraception. Continue reading
Update February 21, 2014: The California Department of Public Health says 278 people have died of flu so far this year, and an additional 29 deaths are under investigation. While cases have been declining for a few weeks, state health officials still recommend people get vaccinated, if they haven’t already.
State health officials have released the latest numbers on flu deaths — 202 people have died so far this year and that’s up from 147 last week. That’s the bad news, but for the first time since early January, health officials are also saying that cases appear to be declining. At least for now. Flu season generally runs three months and is “notoriously unpredictable,” said Dr. James Watt, with the California Department of Public Heatlh and recommended that everyone got vaccinated.
Here at State of Health, we’ve noticed that a lot of the same questions come up again and again. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some answers.
1. Is the flu shot really the best way I can avoid getting the flu? In a word, yes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says “the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.” And you need to get it annually. While everyone over age 6 months should have it, CDC says, it’s especially important for people in high risk groups including:
- People with certain underlying medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease and obesity
- Children under age 5 and adults over age 65
- Pregnant women — yes, pregnant women, the vaccine is safe and effective for you, CDC says. Continue reading