KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Swine Flu Treatments, Safety Issues Prompt Health Workers To Speak Out

In anticipation of new swine flu cases, medical workers are looking for new ways help their patients – and protect themselves.

"The virus can make healthy people suddenly very ill. Some doctors say they'd use an experimental drug to help rescue patients on the brink - if only they were allowed," CBS News reports. "Peramivir is an antiviral drug like Tamiflu and Relenza. But unlike those drugs, it's being specifically studied as an intravenous treatment for critically ill patients. Human clinical trials in the U.S. and Japan have called Peramivir safe and effective." But the FDA has not approved it. The agency has made at least a 20 exceptions, however, allowing "compassionate use" of the drug by doctors upon request (Andrews, 10/19).

Meanwhile, a "union is threatening a one-day strike involving 16,000 registered nurses at 39 hospitals in California and Nevada, saying hospitals aren't providing enough protections against swine flu for its members," The Wall Street Journal reports. "The planned Oct. 30 protest underscores the continuing debate over what kind of masks are needed to protect health-care workers against the H1N1 virus, as well as broader issues of staffing levels that have become a contract-negotiating issue."

The group, the California Nurses Association, hopes to use its contract negotiations to prompt national swine flu safety procedures. One member of the association has died after contracting the virus (Maher, 10/20).

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