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Health Highlights: July 23, 2014

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

CDC Director Says Antibiotic Resistance a Growing Threat

Tougher measures to control antibiotic resistance need to be taken in the coming years, to avoid the possibility of it becoming the "next pandemic," the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

During an event at the National Press Club, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the agency plans to isolate, track and prevent bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics in hospitals, USA Today reported.

Antibiotics and similar drugs -- which are also called antimicrobials -- have been used widely to treat infections for decades, according to the CDC, but that has caused some bacteria to mutate and become resistant to these drugs.

"Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to harm or kill anyone in the country, undermine modern medicine, to devastate our economy and to make our health care system less stable," Frieden said Tuesday, the newspaper reported. In fact, antibiotic resistance costs $20 billion in health care spending a year, he added.

Frieden also addressed recent safety lapses at U.S. government labs, which included the discovery of live samples of anthrax and a cross-contaminated strain of bird flu, USA Today reported. The incidents prompted the CDC to shutter two of its research labs and vow to strengthen its lab-safety regulations.

On Tuesday, Frieden reiterated that no one was exposed to any pathogens and that the agency continues to work on improving lab safety, according to the newspaper.

"If you work with dangerous organisms day after day, month after month, year after year, sometimes there is a tendency to get lax," Frieden said, USA Today reported. "What we have to ensure is that though human error may be inevitable, we should do everything in our power to make sure that . . . there will not be human harm."

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Judge Says FDA Can't Use Panel's Report on Menthols

A 2011 expert advisory panel's report on menthol cigarettes can't be used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because some panel members have conflicts of interest, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

The FDA conducted an independent review of the impact on public health of menthol cigarettes since the 2011 report, but the judge's new ruling could undermine any future efforts by the agency to regulate the products, the Associated Press said.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in Washington directed the FDA to reconstitute the expert committee and to ignore the prior report.

The decision is a win for tobacco companies: In 2011, Lorillard Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. sued the FDA, claiming panel members had bias and conflicts of interest, the AP said.

The companies said that some panel members had previously been paid expert witnesses in anti-tobacco lawsuits and had financial links to drug companies that manufacture smoking-cessation products.

The FDA countered those claims, calling the allegations against advisors on the panel "entirely speculative," the AP said.

The 2011 review conducted by the panel found that there was enough data to support the notion that menthol cigarettes boost smoking initiation among younger people, and that quitting smoking might be tougher for people who smoke menthols.

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Videotaping Ob/Gyn Costs Hopkins $190 Million

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has settled a sexual misconduct case involving a secret-camera-wielding gynecologist and 8,000 unsuspecting female patients for $190 million, the Associated Press reported.

Lawyers said Dr. Nikita Levy, fired in February 2013, wore a camera disguised as a pen around his neck and secretly videotaped and photographed women in the examining room, according to the AP.

Another employee of the Baltimore hospital employee brought concerns about Levy's behavior to hospital authorities who insisted Levy surrender his camera. Ten days later, he killed himself. It was reported that about 1,200 videos and 140 images were stored on servers in his home.

"All of these women were brutalized by this," said the women's lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor, the AP reported. "Some of these women needed counseling, they were sleepless, they were dysfunctional in the workplace, they were dysfunctional at home, they were dysfunctional with their mates. This breach of trust, this betrayal - this is how they felt."

The women's faces weren't visible in the image, and investigators said they found no evidence that Levy had transmitted the images to others.

Posted: July 2014


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