Three Important Drugs in the News
Science has given us so many tools to make our lives better and healthier. Information about how we address health issues now and how we can address them better in the future is all over the news right now. Here are three important news stories that are influencing the conversation about major health issues.
New treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria
With antibiotic resistant bacteria on the rise, scientists have been searching for new ways to treat bacterial infections. One promising drug is bithionol. Previously used to treat parasitic infections in horses, bithionol is now being used to treat MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and other antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.
What makes this treatment so effective is the fact that bithionol alone will not kill the bacteria. The drug is used in conjunction with traditional antibiotics to kill bacteria. Why is that important? Scientists say that the future for overcoming antibiotic resistance is combining therapies. Scientists do warn, however, that it is not impossible that bacteria can become resistant to bithionol in the future.
Why is this treatment for opioid addiction so hard to get?
Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, curbs cravings and treats the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid addiction. Combined with therapy, it is one of the three FDA-approved medicines considered the gold standard for opioid-addiction treatment. So, why is this treatment not readily available for the war on opioids?
Research on barriers to buprenorphine access has focused on the fact that there are too few medical providers available to write the prescriptions. According to federal law, doctors must apply for a special waiver from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to prescribe buprenorphine. Eight hours of training is required to get the waiver, and initially doctors are limited to prescribing to 30 patients at a time. Many doctors do not bother to take the steps required to prescribe buprenorphine.
Cities like Philadelphia are addressing the issue on their own. The bupe bus is a project of Prevention Point, Philadelphia’s syringe-exchange program, and is part of the city’s efforts to expand access to this particular form of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. The bus is manned by a physician who discusses treatment with the patient and authorizes the prescription.
Ebola cure found
Ebola can no longer be called an incurable disease, scientists have said, after research conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a major outbreak is occurring. Two of four drugs being tested in the DRC were found to have significantly reduced the death rate of those suffering from Ebola.
Two monoclonal antibodies which block the virus had substantially more effect compared to two other drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases co-sponsored a trial and found that one monoclonal antibody drug had the lowest overall death rate at 29%, while the other monoclonal antibody had a mortality rate of 34%. This is compared to a death rate around 50% for two other drugs currently being studied for Ebola, ZMapp and Remdesivir.
The drugs are still being tested in trials in the DRC. The next phase of research should reveal more about which of the two works best under what circumstances. Scientists say the more they learn about the two drugs, the closer they can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable. While Ebola will never be eradicated, the outbreaks will no longer become terrifying epidemics.