• Antibiotics don’t treat viral infections. (Most sore throats, ear infections, colds
and bronchitis come from viruses, against which antibiotics are useless.)
• Never pressure your provider to prescribe antibiotics.
• Talk to your provider about what you can do to relieve symptoms.
Hicks’ path to epidemiology led through Bucknell, but she started on a life
in science at her family’s 9-acre farm in West Chester, Pa. The thrill of delivering
a calf in her early teens at first inspired her to be a veterinarian.
Bucknell, with its strong life-sciences program, was the perfect launching
pad for the future U.S. Public Health Services commander, who earned her
D.O. at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has been with
CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service for most of the last 16 years.
It was the desire to heal that led her to medicine, Hicks says, and a career
in public health allows her to expand her expertise from helping individual
patients to helping whole populations. — Marilyn Lewis
turning to the black market. Woodcock contends that the
FDA is working with states and physician communities to
address the problem and has written guidelines on “abuse-
deterrent formulations — versions of the pills that you can’t
snort very well or can’t inject. We’ve done a variety of different
steps to mitigate the epidemic.”
The FDA’s approval of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin
for use in children caused a stir this fall, as some lawmakers and
politicians claimed the move could lead to more OxyContin
prescriptions, further fueling the prescription opioid epidemic.
Woodcock boldly told The New York Times, “There are
children in need. It would be unethical not to have the right
dose information. It has been a real scandal that children in
the United States receive drugs without proper evidence of
their dosage and safety.”
Because she is dealing with breaking issues in public
health she’s had to respond quickly. “You can never predict a
crisis.” Woodcock reflected on a 2008 catastrophe, when an
estimated 150 Americans died from contaminated doses of
the bloodthinner heparin, which had been manufactured in
China. “We responded quickly, and that was complicated,”
Woodcock’s comment is sought on hot topics in the major
media nearly every week. In the last few months, for instance,
she’s addressed the approval of the new female libido pill,
Addyi, and the FDA’s call for new labels on over-the-counter
painkillers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, that warn of
increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
“Over-the-counter drugs have to be safe enough for people
to be able to misuse them in various ways,” she says. “People
aren’t going to follow the label instructions. The drugs have
to have a good margin of safety or they shouldn’t be [sold]
over the counter.”
Besides the pressure of responding to media calls, there’s the
pressure applied by drug companies and desperate patients
who want the FDA to expedite drug approval. “Our salvation
is that we have scientific standards, and we try to stick to
them,” she says. “The patients have trouble understanding
that, but the industry understands pretty well, though they
may not be happy about it.”
Woodcock frequently meets with groups affected —
parents whose children are dying or dying patients — to
explain the drug-development process. “That is our duty as
public servants,” she says. “But we can’t satisfy their need for
something if there’s nothing out there.
“Everybody has an opinion — Congress, the [presidential]
administration, the media, the patients, drug companies,”
she continues to say. “Long ago, it bothered me more when
people were shouting. But to maintain in this job, you have
to get to a point where you just do the right thing, do the
right thing. Analyze the situation. Do the right thing.”
Lauri Hicks ’95
at the CDC.