May 17, 2020

If Health Canada changes the maximum dosage of acetaminophen, who will suffer?

Medicine
healthcare
Leadership
Ottawa
Admin
3 min
Will Health Canada actually be permitted to lower the recommended dosage of acetaminophen?
Originally reported by our sister brand Business Review Canada (with the help of CBC News), Health Canada is reportedly trying to get the maximum recomm...

Originally reported by our sister brand Business Review Canada (with the help of CBC News), Health Canada is reportedly trying to get the maximum recommended daily dose of acetaminophen lowered. While the company has good reason for wanting to ensure people are taking the right amount of the pain medication to prevent accidental overdosing, it’s interesting to consider who could possibly suffer if the order actually happens.

RELATED TOPIC: U.S. employees using drugs costing businesses $200 billion

Interestingly enough, acetaminophen is an ingredient that can be found in more 470 products. These products are quite popular and include both non-prescription and prescription products. However, according to Health Canada, there are more than 4,000 hospitalizations a year throughout the country due to acetaminophen overdoses.

“We were seeing an increase in one area,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser with Health Canada’s health products and food branch in Ottawa. “It wasn’t a huge increase, but it was remarkable. We were seeing an increase in unintended overdoses. That was part of the impetus to move forward with the recommendations.”

RELATED TOPIC: This is how drugs go from the lab to pharmacy shelves  

The most important rule of thumb when taking products with acetaminophen is to use the drug as directed. But do all consumers follow this rule? Undeniably, the answer is “no,” as acetaminophen is the leading cause of all serious liver injuries, including liver failure.

 Regarding the issue, Health Canada is staying proactive. For example, the company will be holding a technical discussion with consumers and industry leaders to encourage the decrease of the maximum recommended daily dosage, as well as require all children’s products to be supplied with a dosing device (i.e. a measuring cup), to avoid dosing errors from taking place.

Acetaminophen is widely used, but people metabolize the drug differently. What does this mean exactly? Even if a person is taking a dosage lower than the recommended daily maxim, he or she could still be doing harm to their body. Everyone is different and body types will not react the same to the drug.

RELATED TOPIC: Top 10: Most promising drugs guaranteed to save lives in 2015

While the jury is still out on this ruling, we can speculate who will suffer if it does happen to go through. For example, will the manufacturers behind acetaminophen suffer if people are required to take less of the drug (i.e. there won’t be a necessity to produce as many drugs).

 It’s possible that a small hit could take place, but it isn’t likely. As mentioned above, acetaminophen can be found in more than 470 products. Therefore, there’s an obvious need for this ingredient. Even if the daily dosage is lowered, it’s still not banned—people will still want the medicine.

Will those who actively consume acetaminophen actually read the label and follow it? And if they do, but have a tolerance for the drug, will the lower dosage of the medicine still be helpful?

Of course, these questions can only be answered over time and if the ruling actually takes place. However, it’s still important to note that Health Canada is trying to help the public and make sure that only the appropriate amounts of pain medications are being consumed.

RELATED TOPIC: Why doctors like healthy mass text messaging

[SOURCE: CBC News]

Let's connect!   

Read the latest edition of Healthcare Global magazine!

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

#Cybersecurity
#cyberattacks
#digitaltransformation
#covid19
Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

Share article