E-cig epidemic enforcement incoming

The FDA is getting serious about e-cigarette enforcement. In a statement released last week, the agency announced a crackdown on 1,300+ retailers and five manufacturers who make up 97% of the US market. That includes JUUL, which has been widely criticized for making vaping cool (Editor note: LOL is this really that cool?) and itself accounts for over half the US market. The FDA says vape use has increased to epidemic levels in teens, and it is intent to not “allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine.” The agency expects the manufacturers to submit plans within 60 days to explain how they’ll stop teens from getting addicted to their products. If not, the agency could pull e-cigs from the market, a move which Big Tobacco is a fan of.

Malaria superhero tries to avoid collateral damage

Malaria has a new foe, but it might need some more prep time to start working towards humanity’s (or at least the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s) ultimate goal of malaria eradication. The new drug, Tafenoquine, is approved and ready to start fighting infections, but it has the unfortunate side effect of making red blood cells burst in some patients. Cells dying, you might have guessed, doesn’t lead to great patient outcomes. There is a test that can identify vulnerable patients, but it requires expensive and difficult to use machinery which may not be present in outbreak regions. Never fear though, researchers are already working on creating a more economically and technically feasible testing method that they’re confident will be ready when endemic countries roll out the drug.

The next Zika?

All told, we got kind of lucky with the Zika epidemic. When a virus pops up in an area for the first time it’s pretty scary since no one around has pre-existing immunity, as happened in Brazil in 2016. But the threat from that outbreak has now largely passed, at least in terms of being an urgent global health emergency (we still need to keep it on our radars.) But the WHO is now concerned about a new rare virus much scarier than Zika. The Nipah virus has begun to spread in Kerala, India, and has unfortunately killed 17 victims out of 18 confirmed cases. Its source seems to be fruit bats, which some movie aficionados may remember as the source for the eponymous contagion from 2011’s Contagion. Also, there’s no vaccine or cure yet. So that’s fun.

Naloxone for the people

The US Surgeon General has issued a nationwide advisory calling for more people to get training and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The life-saving drug can be administered by shot or nasal spray, and blocks the brain’s response to opioids while allowing the patient to breathe again. So yeah, America’s doctor is saying this drug can save lives in a bad epidemic, what’s the big deal? Well one of the big points of the announcement is to loosen up restrictions for prescribing the drug to family and friends of opioid abusers. It also argues for wider application of ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, so that someone doesn’t worry about getting arrested for calling 911 when observing an overdose. You know what they say, no good deed…

2. A shake up for the opioid epidemic

One of the best ways to solve a problem is to remove the source. While the opioid epidemic will not be solved in one fell swoop (here’s where the term “fell swoop” came from), China is attempting to do its part, effective March 1. According to CNN, the country will ban four variations of the synthetic drug fentanyl, which can be “25 to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine.” DEA officials have labeled this a “game-changer” as China is a primary supplier of illegal imports of the drug to the US. Another idea to stop illegal drug imports – we could just build a wa…never mind.