Recent health crises signal need for public oversight

BacillusIn the past month, health crises related to salmonella and fungal meningitis have shed light on the important role public health efforts need to play in keeping us safe from preventable outbreaks. The following three articles do a great job of explaining what these systems do during health crises.

From “Sowing Smaller Government, Reaping… Salmonella” – Huffington Post, 10/4/12

Nobody likes waste, inefficiency, or bureaucracy. Nobody likes earmark boondoggles or pork-barrel politics. And I suspect all reasonable people would agree that government should be no bigger than it needs to be to do what it needs to do. Honestly, you can believe in a social safety net AND not like to see your tax money wasted on basket-weaving. But those of us in public health know that government hires real people to do real jobs, and often jobs nobody else will do if government doesn’t do them. Like safeguarding our food supply.

So here’s to ever smaller government, which sounds really terrific – until it’s you, or someone you love, who winds up with salmonella.

From “Deadly Meningitis Outbreak Highlights the Need for Strengthened FDA Regulations” – Nation of Change, 10/9/12

Although more than half of the estimated 56,000 U.S. pharmacies across the country practice compounding—repackaging or recombining medications on a large scale, in an attempt to keep down the costs of filling prescriptions—the FDA cannot oversee this sector of the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA has authority over drug manufacturers, not pharmacies, so drugs that are compounded at pharmacies do not currently have to meet the agency’s guidelines to ensure they are safe or effective.”

From “Illnesses Fuel Scrutiny of Pharmacies” – Wall Street Journal, 10/4/12

A meningitis outbreak that has now killed five patients and sickened 35 is focusing renewed attention on the little-regulated world of drug-mixing pharmacies, after injections made by a Massachusetts facility were tied to the illnesses. …

“We really don’t think there is enough oversight in place to ensure [compounding pharmacies] have the safeguards and quality control needed,” said Allen J. Vaida, executive vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce medication errors. Errors from compounding pharmacies was the topic of a ISMP two-day summit last year, he said.

Just as we were finalizing this month’s newsletter, Governing magazine also weighed in on the increased pressure that public health systems are facing at a time of decreasing resources.

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