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Health Highlights: April 5, 2012

Americans Cutting Back on Prescription Drugs, Doctor Visits: Study Rising Painkiller Drug Sales Lead to Addiction Concerns Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 93 People in 19 States: CDC

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Americans Cutting Back on Prescription Drugs, Doctor Visits: Study

As they struggle to pay for health care, American patients are using fewer prescription drugs and visiting doctors less often, a new study finds.

From 2010 to 2011, the number of prescriptions issued to U.S. patients fell by 1.1 percent and the number of doctors visits declined by 4.7 percent, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, The New York Times reported.

The health industry research group also found that visits to emergency rooms increased by 7.4 percent. This is likely due to more people losing health insurance because they're out of work, the study authors said.

Older Americans were most likely to cut back on their use of medicines. Prescriptions for patients 65 and older declined by 3.1 percent in 2011, with the biggest declines in prescriptions for drugs to treat high blood pressure and osteoporosis, The Times reported.


Rising Painkiller Drug Sales Lead to Addiction Concerns

Soaring sales of two types of prescription painkillers in certain areas of the United States have triggered concerns about an addiction epidemic fueled by a push to relieve patients' suffering.

From 2000 to 2010, there was a dramatic increase in the distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OyxContin, Percocet and Percodan, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data. In some areas, sales increased 16-fold, the Associated Press reported.

The DEA data also revealed that the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, is rising in Appalachia and the Midwest.

The increases in the use of these opioid painkillers have coincided with rising number of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and other states, the AP reported.

In 2008, opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hyrocodone caused 14,800 overdose deaths and that death toll is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The increased use of these prescription drugs is partly due to pain issues in the aging U.S. population and doctors' greater willingness to treat pain, Gregory Bunt, medical director at New York's Daytop Village chain of drug treatment clinics, told the AP.

He added that sales of the drugs are also rising due to addiction. Users become dependent on the painkillers and start "doctor shopping" in order to continue receiving prescriptions for the drugs.


Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 93 People in 19 States: CDC

A total of 93 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Ten of the ill people have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The number of people affected in each state are: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (4), District of Columbia (2), Georgia (4), Illinois (8), Louisiana (2), Maryland (8), Massachusetts (4), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (6), New York (23), North Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island (4), South Carolina (3), Texas (3), Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (8).

The CDC has previously tied the outbreak to sushi/sashimi, but no one food source has yet been conclusively pinpointed as the source of illness. The CDC said it and Food and Drug Administration are working together to investigate the outbreak and will provide updates as soon as they are available.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most people recover within 4 to 7 days without treatment, but some cases are deadly if not treated with antibiotics. The elderly, the very young and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk of a severe illness from salmonella infection.

If you suspect you have eaten contaminated food, the CDC recommends contacting your doctor. "CDC will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available," the agency said.


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