Recently, I reported on Rhode Island's fledgling prescription drug monitoring program (listen to that story here). It's a program that's supposed to spot troubling trends in prescription drug misuse. And as you might know, there's plenty of trouble to spot in Rhode Island, where prescription drug overdose death rates have soared along with rates of addiction to narcotic painkillers.
State health officials say they have solved the mystery of a synthetic drug that’s now killed 12 people.
Department of Health officials say those who died appear to have been intravenous drug users. Most came from northern Rhode Island. It took the department’s own scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an independent testing lab to identify the drug the deceased were injecting. It’s a synthetic opioid called acetyl fentanyl, similar to morphine. It’s man-made, illegal, and doctors don’t prescribe it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.
The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.
While flu season is technically still here, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has lifted its declaration of “widespread” flu. More on the state’s response to a tough season.
Department of health head Dr. Michael Fine says he’s pleased that more health care workers and members of the general population got vaccinated against the flu this year than last. But he says the state can do better than 50%.
“If we had vaccinated instead of 500,000 Rhode Islanders, 900,000 or more, we would have expected to see many fewer hospitalizations and many fewer illnesses.”
Rhode Island Department of Health director Dr. Michael Fine says Rhode Island must address prescription drug abuse. Fine’s comments come as part of a list of priorities he’s shared with lawmakers.
Topping the list: ending deaths from prescription drug overdoses and colorectal cancer, as well as curbing the transmission of new HIV cases in Rhode Island. Fine also wants to reduce the number of premature births and C-section deliveries.