What We're Reading: Public Health Initiatives Are Underfunded in the US

What we're reading, December 14, 2015: public health initiatives are underfunded despite being a big return on investment; the FDA repeatedly approved the cancer drug Afinitor without proof it extended life; and a nurse may have exposed patients in a maternity wing to tuberculosis.

Although public health initiatives have a big return on investment, only 3 cents of each US healthcare dollar goes to public health, according to Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, HHS acting assistant secretary for health. USA Today reported that Dr DeSalvo said at a forum that 97% of funding goes to medical services even though 80% of people’s health is influenced by their lives outside of the doctor’s office.

The FDA continues to approve drugs without proof that they are extending a patient’s life, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An analysis of the cancer drug Afinitor found that the treatment was repeatedly approved by the FDA for new uses over 6 years. However, the drug comes with a long list of side effects, nearly 1 in 5 patients develop a potentially fatal lung condition, and there have been thousands of reports of serious adverse reactions, deaths, and hospitalizations.

In California, a nurse with tuberculosis in a maternity wing may have exposed more than 1000 people, including 350 infants. The risk of infection has remained low, but all patients, staff members, and visitors who have been exposed are being notified. Screenings have begun, but so far no one has tested positive for the disease, reported The New York Times.