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Health Highlights: Jan. 16, 2019

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

Purdue Pharma Owners Lied About Dangers of OxyContin: Court Filing

The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma directed attempts to play down the dangers of the opioid painkiller, suggest previously undisclosed documents included in a court filing by the attorney general of Massachusetts.

The filing includes emails and other internal Purdue communications that mention the Sackler family. It's the first evidence that appears to link the family with specific decisions made by Purdue about the marketing of OxyContin, which contributed to the U.S. opioid epidemic, The New York Times reported.

In one email, Richard Sackler suggests blaming addicts when the growing problem of opioid abuse became apparent in the early 2000s.

"We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible," he wrote in the email in 2001, when he was president of Purdue Pharma. "They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals."

Sackler, the son of a company founder, said sales representatives should advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the powerful drug because it was the most profitable, according to the court filing, The Times reported.

OxyContin came on the market in 1996, Since then, there have been more than 200,000 prescription opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.

Purdue Pharma has long contended that the Sackler family was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. The Sacklers are one of the richest families in the U.S. and their name is on museums and medical schools worldwide, The Times reported.

The court filing is "littered with biases and inaccurate characterizations," according to a statement from Purdue Pharma, which dismissed suggestions of wrongdoing by it or the Sackler family.

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Ocean Temps Reached Record High in 2018: Study

Last year was the hottest for the world's oceans since record keeping on such data began in 1958, scientists say.

The previous record was set in 2017, and the top five years of ocean heat have occurred in the last five years, CNN reported.

This trend of higher ocean temperatures is a direct result of human-caused global warming, the international team of scientists said in the study published Wednesday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

Last week, the same group published a study showing that oceans are warming faster than previously thought, which will lead to a six-fold rise in ocean warming by 2081-2100, compared to the past 60 years, CNN reported.

Problems caused by warmer oceans include rising sea levels, more intense storms with heavier rainfall, melting polar ice and coral bleaching.

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Congo Ebola Outbreak Now 2nd Worst in History

There have been 600 confirmed cases of Ebola and 347 confirmed deaths since early August in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making it the second-largest and second deadliest outbreak of the disease in history.

Since the ongoing outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, Ebola symptoms have been reported in 649 people in the northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, with 600 of those cases confirmed as Ebola, the country's health ministry said Monday night, ABC News reported.

The fatality rate in the outbreak is about 61 percent. There have been 347 confirmed deaths from Ebola and 49 probable Ebola deaths, according to the ministry.

On average, about half of all Ebola patients die, but death rates have ranged from 25 to 90 percent in past outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization, ABC News reported.

The worst Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa in 2014-16. There were 28,652 people infected and 11,325 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Posted: January 2019

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