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Health Highlights: July 26, 2012

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

Petition Calls for New FDA Rules on Painkillers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to introduce new measures to reduce the overuse and abuse of prescription painkillers, a group of about 35 doctors said in a citizens petition sent Wednesday.

Specifically, the doctors wants the FDA to limit the use of narcotic painkillers (opioids) to treatment of severe pain in patients other than those with cancer. They also want labeling changes that instruct doctors to limit doses of the drugs when they're used to treat noncancer pain and to limit the length of time they are used, The New York Times reported.

Currently, narcotic painkillers are FDA-approved for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

"Overprescribing of opioids is harming many chronic pain patients," Edward Covington, director of the Neurological Center for Pain at the Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement, The Times reported.

The doctors who signed the petition include Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the commissioner of the Department of Health in New York City, and Dr. Nirav R. Shah, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.


Mexico Launches Large Poultry Vaccination Effort

About 10 million poultry will be vaccinated in Mexico to protect them against an outbreak of the highly contagious H7N3 bird flu strain.

The outbreak has already resulted in the deaths of five million birds, which either became ill or were slaughtered, Agence France-Presse reported.

The crisis was first detected June 20 in the western state of Jalisco and a national animal health emergency was declared in early July.

The United Nations says the H7N3 virus has occasionally affected people in various parts of the world, but is not easily transmittable between humans, AFP reported.


Ecstasy Linked to Memory Loss: Study

The street drug Ecstasy may cause memory loss, according to a new study.

German researchers tracked more than 100 recreational Ecstasy users for a year and found that their performance on a series of memory tests declined during that time, ABC News reported.

The greatest effect was seen in associative memory. For example, people who used Ecstasy might have trouble remembering where they left their keys.

The Ecstasy users in the study took an average of 32 pills over the year, which is slightly more than one pill every other weekend, ABC News reported.


Vaccine Protects Against 3 of 4 Dengue Virus Strains

An experimental vaccine against dengue protected children against three of the four strains of the mosquito-borne virus, according to drug maker Sanofi.

The trial of 4,000 children in Thailand found that the vaccine generated antibody responses against all four strains of dengue, but only protected against three. Sanofi said the data is being analyzed in an effort to understand the discrepancy, Bloomberg News reported.

There is no specific treatment for dengue and these test results "represent a key milestone" in efforts to prevent the disease, according to a Sanofi official.

Dengue affects as many as 100 million people worldwide each year. The worst form of the disease can cause severe flu-like symptoms and fatal bleeding. Dengue is common in more than 100 countries and has started to appear in the continental U.S., Bloomberg reported.


Health Care Law Repeal Would Increase U.S. Deficit: Analysis

Repealing the U.S. health care law would boost the federal deficit by $109 billion over 10 years, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

The repeal of several tax increases within the health care law would be the primary reason for the deficit increase between 2013 and 2022, concluded the CBO assessment of the health care repeal bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, ABC News reported.

The repeal bill, which is not expected to become law under the current Congress, would reduce federal spending by $890 billion over the 10 years, but would also cut more than $1 trillion in new taxes.

The health care law was passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in June.


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Posted: July 2012