Justice Department Tries to Block First U.S. Supervised Injection Site
Justice Department lawyers argued in federal court last week against the planned opening of the nation’s first supervised injection site in Philadelphia, NPR reports.
Prescription painkiller abuse is largely to blame for a big increase in the rate of hepatitis C among young people in rural areas of four states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Acute hepatitis C infections more than tripled from 2007 to 2012 among young people in rural areas in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. About 73 percent of those hepatitis C patients said they injected drugs, USA Today reports. Injecting drugs can spread the hepatitis C virus when people share needles.
“We’re in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C,” said John Ward, Director of Viral Hepatitis Prevention at the CDC. More than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C a year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS, Ward said. He added, “The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem.”
In March, Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency as the state battles an outbreak of HIV linked to intravenous use of the painkiller Opana. The governor authorized a short-term program in one county to exchange used needles for sterile ones, to reduce the risk of contaminated needles being shared. Last week, Pence signed a law that extends the program, allowing Indiana localities with health emergencies to begin their own needle exchanges.
About two-thirds of acute hepatitis C infections turn into long-term chronic infections, which can damage the liver and cause liver cancer and death, the article notes. The newly approved drug Sovaldi cures 90 percent of hepatitis C cases, but costs $84,000 for 12 weeks of treatment.