Health Highlights: Sept. 24, 2014

By on September 24, 2014

Health Highlights: Sept. 24, 2014

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

Replace FDA Commissioner: Anti-Addiction Groups

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be replaced because the agency’s policies are contributing to the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse in the country, more than a dozen anti-addiction groups said in a letter released Wednesday.

The letter addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asks her to replace FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who has held the position since 2009, the Associated Press reported.

Criticism of the FDA intensified last October when the agency ignored the advice of its own medical advisers and approved a powerful new painkiller called Zohydro. This is the first time that anti-addiction activists have called for Hamburg to be replaced.

“We are especially frustrated by the FDA’s continued approval of new, dangerous, high-dose opioid analgesics that are fueling high rates of addiction and overdose deaths,” states the letter signed by groups including Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, the AP reported.

Opioid abuse “is a serious issue and one that the secretary is focused on,” Health and Human Services spokeswoman Tait Sye said in a statement.

“Secretary Burwell appreciates hearing from stakeholders on the important issue of prescription opioid abuse, and looks forward to responding to their letter,” Sye said, the AP reported.

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Soda Makers Pledge to Reduce Americans’ Beverage Calorie Intake

The three largest soda makers in the United States say that by 2025 they will cut by one-fifth the number of sugary drink calories consumed by Americans.

The companies — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group — said they will achieve the 20 percent reduction through a combination of marketing, distribution and packaging, The New York Times reported.

The firms will boost the availability of low- and no-calorie drinks, as well as drinks sold in smaller portions. They also plan to educate consumers and encourage them to cut the number of sugary calories they take in from beverages.

The pledge — made Tuesday at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York City — is seen as an admission by the soda makers of the role their products play in the obesity crisis in the United States, according to the The Times.

“This is huge,” former President Bill Clinton told the newspaper. “I’ve heard it could mean a couple of pounds of weight lost each year in some cases.”

Sugary sodas account for about six percent of the average American’s daily calories, and may account for half or more of the calories consumed each day by children in poor communities, Clinton said.

One expert noted that soda makers have vigorously opposed a number of regulatory proposals introduced in recent years, including a New York City plan to limit the size of soda containers.

“While they’re making this pledge, they are totally dug in, fighting soda tax initiatives in places like Berkeley and San Francisco that have exactly the same goal,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, told The Times.

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Infants Being Tested for TB at Texas Hospital

Tuberculosis testing has begun for more than 700 infants who had contact with a Texas hospital worker recently diagnosed with the disease, health officials say.

Babies at a nursery in the Providence Memorial Hospital of El Paso may have been exposed to TB between September 2013 and last month, when the health care worker at the hospital tested positive for TB, the Associated Press reported.

It’s not clear how the employee became infected or why the worker was not tested by the hospital until Aug. 21, despite having symptoms as early as last December, El Paso Department of Public Health spokesman Armando Saldivar said.

So far, no other hospital employees have tested positive for TB, Providence Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Audrey Garcia told the AP.

The number of infants who have been brought in for TB testing was not released by health authorities.

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