Researchers Find Gaps in Safety Screening for Patients Taking New Specialty Drugs

Issue 651
AHRQ News Now is a weekly newsletter that highlights agency research and program activities.
February 12, 2019

AHRQ Stats: A1C Tests for Adults Diagnosed With Diabetes

In 2015-16, at least one in five adults with diabetes in all racial and ethnic groups did not know whether they had received an A1C test during the year. (Source: AHRQ, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Statistical Brief #518: Treatment and Monitoring of Adults with Diagnosed Diabetes by Race/Ethnicity, 2015-2016.) 

Today's Headlines:

Researchers Find Gaps in Safety Screening for Patients Taking New Specialty Drugs

AHRQ-funded researchers identified potential safety gaps related to new specialty drugs and are calling for more robust safety protocols to prevent medication-related adverse events for patients with inflammatory conditions. The study, published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, found that only 26 percent of patients receiving new specialty drugs (such as biologics) were screened for tuberculosis and hepatitis B and C as is currently recommended to prevent reactivation of latent diseases. The researchers examined electronic health records of more than 2,000 patients at a large medical center; the patients were prescribed new specialty drugs such as adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab and ustekinumab for treatment of inflammatory joint, skin and/or gut conditions. These drugs, while generally safe and effective for treating inflammatory conditions, carry an increased risk of life-threatening infections, including tuberculosis and hepatitis. Access the abstract.

New AHRQ Views Blog Post—The Promise of Electronic Health Records: Are We There Yet?

Bob McNellis, M.P.H., P.A., AHRQ senior advisor for primary care, explains that the agency’s EvidenceNOW project has yielded important new information about the challenges facing small and medium primary care practices as they increasingly use electronic health records (EHRs). An estimate that 78 percent of clinician offices use EHR shows that their use has expanded in recent years. But, as EvidenceNOW has shown, about one in four small and medium practices has three or fewer years of experience with their EHR, and about only about six in 10 shared patient health data electronically with other providers or organizations. Access the blog post. To receive all blog posts, submit your email address and select “AHRQ Views Blog.” 

Use of Antidepressants May Limit Some Painkiller Effectiveness, Study Says

A new AHRQ-funded study found that some antidepressant medications may make postsurgical pain control more difficult. The study examined how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, such as Zoloft and Prozac) may inhibit the effectiveness of a class of painkillers known as “prodrug” opioids, such as hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin, Norco). Researchers examined medical records of more than 4,300 surgery patients over a nine-year period who had been taking antidepressant medications. They found that patients using both an SSRI and a prodrug opioid had significantly worse pain control than those not prescribed a prodrug opioid. The study provides the first direct clinical evidence that SSRI use is associated with more difficult pain control. The authors concluded that direct-acting opioid painkillers (such as oxycodone or morphine) may be a better option for treating postsurgical pain for depressed patients who take SSRIs. Access the abstract

Nominations Due March 1 for HCUP Outstanding Article of the Year Award

Submit nominations now for the 10th annual Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s (HCUP) Outstanding Article of the Year Award. The award will recognize researchers whose distinctive 2018 publications in peer-reviewed journals used HCUP databases to explore and address important healthcare issues. Nominations, which may be submitted by publication authors or colleagues, are due March 1 before 11:59 p.m. ET. Up to two award winners will receive free registration, accommodations and transportation to the June 2-4 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting in Washington, D.C., where they will be recognized for their work. Access more information or email questions to

Database Shows Health Systems’ Wide Reach, Varying Characteristics

An AHRQ-funded database of the nation’s health systems showed that 70 percent of hospitals are in health systems, and that health systems vary substantially by size, ownership and geographic distribution, according to an article in Medical Care Research and Review. The Compendium of U.S. Health Systems, issued in 2016, was developed to support performance improvements by providing researchers, policymakers and healthcare administrators with characteristics of the nation’s 626 health systems. The article by AHRQ-supported researchers described how they defined health systems, developed a list and determined the system features included in the compendium. Access the article abstract, as well as an AHRQ Views blog post about the compendium. The compendium was developed as part of AHRQ’s Comparative Health System Performance Initiative, which studies how healthcare delivery systems promote evidence-based practices in delivering care. 

Highlights From AHRQ’s Patient Safety Network

AHRQ’s Patient Safety Network (PSNet) highlights journal articles, books and tools related to patient safety. Articles featured this week include:

Review additional new publications in PSNet’s current issue or access recent cases and commentaries in AHRQ’s WebM&M (Morbidity and Mortality Rounds on the Web).

AHRQ in the Professional Literature

Patient experiences using an inpatient personal health record. Woollen J, Prey J, Wilcox L, et al. Appl Clin Inform 2016 Jun 1;7(2):446-60. eCollection 2016. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Health information technology (HIT) adaptation: refocusing on the journey to successful HIT implementation. Yen PY, McAlearney AS, Sieck CJ, et al. JMIR Med Inform 2017 Sep 7;5(3):e28. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Preventive care use among justice-involved and non-justice-involved youth. Aalsma MC, Anderson VR, Schwartz K, et al. Pediatrics 2017 Nov;140(5). Epub 2017 Oct 2. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Depression, quality of life, and medical resource utilization in sickle cell disease. Adam SS, Flahiff CM, Kamble S, et al. Blood Adv 2017 Oct 12;1(23):1983-92. eCollection 2017 Oct 24. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Concordance between women's self-reported reasons for cesarean delivery and hospital discharge records. Attanasio LB, Kozhimannil KB, Srinivas SK, et al. Womens Health Issues 2017 May-Jun;27(3):329-35. Epub 2017 Jan 16. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Translating self-persuasion into an adolescent HPV vaccine promotion intervention for parents attending safety-net clinics. Baldwin AS, Denman DC, Sala M, et al. Patient Educ Couns 2017 Apr;100(4):736-41. Epub 2016 Nov 20. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Cost-effectiveness of lobectomy versus genetic testing (Afirma®) for indeterminate thyroid nodules: considering the costs of surveillance. Balentine CJ, Vanness DJ, Schneider DF. Surgery 2018 Jan;163(1):88-96. Epub 2017 Nov 8. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

Measurement characteristics for two health-related quality of life measures in older adults: the SF-36 and the CDC Healthy Days items. Barile JP, Horner-Johnson W, Krahn G, et al. Disabil Health J 2016 Oct;9(4):567-74. Epub 2016 Apr 30. Access the abstract on PubMed®.

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Page last reviewed February 2019
Page originally created February 2019
Internet Citation: Researchers Find Gaps in Safety Screening for Patients Taking New Specialty Drugs. Content last reviewed February 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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