What We're Reading: Sickle Cell Drug Approval; Adding Psychiatric Beds; Drug Diversion Outbreak

FDA Approves First New Sickle Cell Treatment in Decades

The FDA has announced its approval of Endari (L-glutamine oral powder) for the treatment of sickle cell disease, a hereditary blood disorder that can result in pain, organ damage, and shortened lifespan. Endari’s approval makes it the first drug approved for patients with the chronic illness in nearly 20 years, according to the FDA press release, and only the second drug on the market. It was developed by Emmaus Medical, Inc, with help from the FDA’s Orphan Products Grants Program and is designated as an Orphan Drug, meaning it is used to treat a rare disease.

Senate Health Bill Would Allow Psychiatric Facilities to Add More Beds

One of the components of the Senate’s proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act is designed to boost the number of available beds in psychiatric hospitals, Kaiser Health News reports. Traditionally, a CMS rule ensured that Medicaid will only pay for inpatient psychiatric stays in facilities with 16 beds or fewer, contributing to a shortage of beds. Instead, the Senate bill would provide federal matching Medicaid funds for inpatient psychiatric stays of up to 30 consecutive days or 90 days in a year, regardless of hospital size. According to aides, senators inserted the change in the healthcare bill out of concerns about mental health and addiction treatment access.

Nurse’s Drug Diversion Scheme Linked to Bacterial Outbreak

A nurse at the UW Health University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, is accused of tampering with syringes in order to obtain the narcotics in the syringes for illicit use or sale, also known as drug diversion. When she replaced the opioids with saline, it likely introduced a strain of bacteria that then caused an outbreak of Serratia marcescens among 5 patients infected by the syringes, according to Fierce Healthcare. The nurse was fired and the hospital has instituted stricter policies to prevent diversion, like tamper-evident packaging and more surveillance cameras.