Health Highlights: Aug. 23, 2019

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Malaria Eradication Not Currently Possible: WHO

The eradication of malaria worldwide may eventually be possible but when that might be achieved is unclear, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.N. health agency is “unequivocally in favor” of wiping out malaria but major questions about its feasibility remain, Dr. Pedro Alonso, WHO’s global malaria director, said in a press briefing Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

He said “with the tools we have today, it is most unlikely eradication will be achieved.”

Alonso was presenting the results of a WHO-commissioned report by experts who said they couldn’t offer a definitive timeline or cost estimate for malaria eradication because there are too many uncertainties to develop a clear strategy, the AP reported.

Eradicating malaria has long been a goal of WHO, with the first attempt launched in 1955. Malaria kills about 435,000 people worldwide every year, mostly children in Africa.

Smallpox is the only human disease to ever have been wiped out. In 1988, WHO and partners began a global campaign to eradicate polio by 2000, but that effort is still ongoing, the AP reported.


Patient Confidentiality Rule Changes Aim to Fight U.S. Opioid Crisis

Patient confidentiality rule changes meant to help fight the United States’ opioid crisis have been proposed by federal government.

The objective is to make it easier for health care providers to share a patient’s drug treatment history with doctors treating the patient for other conditions, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the Associated Press reported.

That could prevent serious or deadly errors, such as unknowingly prescribing opioid painkillers after surgery to a patient with a history of drug dependence.

A patient’s consent to share their information would still be required, the AP reported.

The changes have been sought by nearly 50 groups, including mental health professionals, insurers, hospitals and pharmacists, and there is bipartisan support in Congress.

After being published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days, the AP reported.