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Flu Shots Need an Upgrade; Enter Flu Pills

BBC – Scientists in the UK have taken the initial steps to develop vaccines in pill form. We have created vaccines against diseases, but why is the pill form necessary? Injectable vaccines have to be refrigerated, making it difficult to transport and store in developing countries or rural areas without electricity. When manufactured as pills, they can be transported and stored with ease.

Traditional vaccines work by introducing the body to a virus or bacteria peptide. This stimulates an immune response, producing antibodies. So, when the body encounters the actual flu or illness, it's ready to respond.

What's unique about flu pills?
UK scientists have created non-biological or man made peptides that imitate real viruses. Unlike the injectable vaccines, these synthetics cannot be digested, meaning they can be delivered orally.

So far, preliminary research has shown promising results for influenza-A vaccinations in mice. However, translating this information into vaccines that are effective for humans and against other diseases may take some time. 

Trump Addresses Continuing Opioid Epidemic

The White House – Monday, President Trump spoke in New Hampshire to address changes to be made to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.

Back in October, Trump declared the opioid crisis a National Public Health Emergency. Nearly 120 Americans die everyday due to an overdose, making it the leading cause of injury-related death in the US.  Since the announcement, many steps have been made to help prevent this addiction from beginning in the first place.

So what's new?
  • An additional $6B in funding
  • Federal funding aimed largely at finding effective, nonaddictive painkillers
  • Commercials will show negative effects of opioids, similar to what has been done for smoking
  • is up and running
  • Additional attempts will be made to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by “getting tough” and “winning this battle,” (i.e. drug traffickers could face the death penalty)
  • Increasing the availability of the opioid reversal drug, Narcan.
Full speech here.

Our must read: Being Mortal

Atul Gawande has seen a lot in his time as a surgeon. With firsthand experience, he mulls over the capabilities of medicine, the human spirit, and where the two collide.

CVS and Walgreens Team up with Lyft, Blue Cross Blue Shield 

Forbes – Last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield announced an alliance with Lyft and now, they are expanding into a new venture. The two organizations plan to provide transportation for patients to their local CVS or Walgreens pharmacies.

When Blue Cross Blue Shield first teamed up with Lyft their goal was to help patients get to the doctor’s office. Many Americans live in areas where medical care is beyond reach of walking, biking or public transportation.  “As a result, they struggle to access critical health care services, even when they have insurance."

Still in the Works

Now, Blue Cross Blue Shield wants to improve access not only to appointments but also to pharmacies. The intent is to increase patient compliance and improve medication adherence.

The financial details of the plan are still being worked out. Walgreens has agreed to pay for Lyft rides in Chicago “transportation deserts.” CVS has agreed to pay for Blue Cross patients in Pittsburgh in “select transportation deserts” as well.

Early Stages

So far, the program is just a pilot. Both companies are just looking to see how the program works out in the markets they have selected. 

According to Blue Cross, health outcomes are linked to social determinants such as lifestyle and environment. By providing better access for patients, Blue Cross hopes to mitigate some of these factors that cannot be combated through health care resources alone.

Want More?

Proprioceptive Prosthetic Limbs
Risks of Secondhand Marijuana Smoke
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Now There's an Opioid...Shortage?
Check out our podcast!
This Weeks Episode: 

038: Revolutionizing Medical Surgery with VR – Justin Barad, MD

Whatever Wednesday Episode:

WW 013: Modesty in Medicine – Michael Scott Lasky

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