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Last Updated
January 22, 2015
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January 20, 2015
Answers to 7 Questions About Your Pet's Health
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) provides the answers.
 The FDA regulates animal drugs, animal food (including pet food), and medical devices for animals,
and conducts research that helps shape regulatory decisions, among other activities.  Questions
Why do I need a prescription from my veterinarian to purchase pet drugs from an online pet
pharmacy?  En Español. 

January 20, 2015
U.S. Epidemic of Prescription Pain Medicine Abuse may be Starting to Reverse Course
The decline suggests that recent laws and prescribing guidelines aimed at preventing painkiller
abuse are working to some degree. But researchers also found a disturbing trend: Heroin abuse and
overdoses are on the rise, and that may be one reason prescription-drug abuse is down. 

U.S. sales of narcotic pain medicines rose 300 percent between 1999 and 2008, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The increase had good intentions behind it, noted Dr.
Richard Dart, the lead researcher on the new study.  Unfortunately, he said, it was accompanied by
a sharp rise in painkiller abuse and "diversion" -- meaning the drugs increasingly got into the
hands of people with no legitimate medical need.  Deaths from prescription-drug overdoses (mostly
pain medicines) tripled.  In 2010, the CDC says, more than 12 million Americans abused a
prescription narcotic, and more than 16,000 died of an overdose -- in what the agency termed an

January 19, 2015
NIH study: Many Americans at risk for alcohol-medication interactions
Nearly 42 percent of U.S. adults who drink also report using medications known to interact with
alcohol, based on a study from the National Institutes of Health released today. Among those over
65 years of age who drink alcohol, nearly 78 percent report using alcohol-interactive medications.
 Such medications are widely used, prescribed for common conditions such as depression, diabetes
and high blood pressure. The research is among the first to estimate the proportion of adult
drinkers in the United States who may be mixing alcohol-interactive medications with alcohol. The
resulting health effects can range from mild (nausea, headaches, loss of coordination) to severe
(internal bleeding, heart problems, difficulty breathing).  

“Our findings show that a substantial percentage of people who drink regularly, particularly older
adults, could be at risk of harmful alcohol and medication interactions,” said Dr. Breslow, an
epidemiologist in NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research.  “We suggest that
people talk to their doctor or pharmacist about whether they should avoid alcohol while taking
their prescribed medications.” 

Older adults are at particular risk of experiencing alcohol-medication interactions. Not only are
they more likely to be taking medications in general, but certain alcohol-interactive medications,
such as diazepam (Valium), are metabolized more slowly as one ages, creating a larger window for
potential interactions.  

The researchers analyzed data from more than 26,000 adults ages 20 and older who participated in
the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2010). The survey asks participants
about alcohol use in the past year and prescription drug use in the past month. Dr. Breslow notes
that the results of the study indicate potential (rather than actual) rates, because the
researchers could not confirm whether drinking and medication use overlapped based on the available
data. However, it is likely that those who drink regularly and take medication regularly are doing
so in a similar time frame. 

The main types of alcohol-interactive medications reported in the survey were blood pressure
medications, sleeping pills, pain medications, muscle relaxers, diabetes and cholesterol
medications, antidepressants and antipsychotics.  Based on recent estimates, about 71 percent of
U.S. adults drink alcohol. For more on alcohol-medication interactions, see this  NIAAA fact sheet.

January 15, 2015
Despite risks, benzodiazepine use highest in older people
Prescription use of benzodiazepines — a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications
— increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a
comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine prescribing in the United States. Given existing
guidelines cautioning health providers about benzodiazepine use among older adults, findings from
the National Institutes of Health-funded study raise questions about why so many prescriptions —
many for long-term use — are being written for this age group.  

The study found that among all adults 18 to 80 years old, about 1 in 20 received a benzodiazepine
prescription in 2008, the period covered by the study. But this fraction rose substantially with
age, from 2.6 percent among those 18 to 35, to 8.7 percent in those 65 to 80, the oldest group
studied. Long-term use — a supply of the medication for more than 120 days — also increased
markedly with age. Of people 65 to 80 who used benzodiazepines, 31.4 percent received prescriptions
for long-term use, vs. 14.7 percent of users 18 to 35. In all age groups, women were about twice as
likely as men to receive benzodiazepines. Among women 65 to 80 years old, 1 in 10 was prescribed
one of these medications, with almost a third of those receiving long-term prescriptions. 

The most common uses of benzodiazepines are to treat anxiety and sleep problems. While effective
for both conditions, the medications have risks, especially when used over long periods. Long-term
use can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms when discontinued. In older people, research has
shown that benzodiazepines can impair cognition, mobility, and driving skills, and they increase
the risk of falls.  Adding to concerns about the possible health consequences of benzodiazepine
use, a recently reported  study found an
association between benzodiazepine use in older people and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The association was stronger with increasing length of use; the risk was nearly doubled for those
using benzodiazepines for more than 180 days.

January 15, 2015
CDC on Alcohol Poisoning: 6 People in US Die Every Day
A new report finds that six people die in the United States each day after consuming far too much
alcohol in too short a time -- a condition known as alcohol poisoning.   According to the new CDC
Vital Signs report, alcohol poisoning kills more than 2,200 Americans a year. Adults aged 35 to 64
account for 75 percent of these deaths, and white males are most often the victims. 

Alcohol poisoning death rates vary widely across states, ranging from 5.3 per million people in
Alabama to 46.5 deaths per million people in Alaska. The states with the highest alcohol poisoning
death rates are in the Great Plains, western United States and New England, the CDC said. According
to the agency, consuming very high levels of alcohol can cause areas of the brain that control
breathing, heart rate and body temperature to shut down, resulting in death. 

Alcohol poisoning can occur when people binge drink, defined as having more than five drinks in one
sitting for men and more than four in one sitting for women. According to the CDC, more than 38
million American adults say they binge drink an average of four times per month and have an average
of eight drinks per binge.