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Health Highlights: June 7, 2016

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

Tracking Prescriptions, Doctors May Curb Opioid Abuse: Study

Tracking painkiller prescriptions and the doctors who write them may be one way to rein in the growing opioid abuse epidemic in the United States, according to a new study.

It found that states that began doing this had a 30 percent reduction in rates of prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances, NBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.

"We found that the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program was associated with more than a 30 percent reduction in the rate of prescribing of Schedule II opioids," Yuhua Bao and colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College wrote, NBC News reported.

"This reduction was seen immediately following the launch of the program and was maintained in the second and third years afterward," they noted.

Opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. are at an all-time high, reaching more than 47,000 in 2014, compared with 32,000 road crash deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NBC News reported.

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New Synthetic Drug Linked to Dozens of Deaths Across U.S.

A new synthetic drug called U-47700 has been linked with at least 50 deaths across the United States and several states are trying to halt the spread of the drug, which can be bought online.

Georgia, Ohio and Wyoming have taken action to ban the drug, and Kansas law enforcement agencies are seeking an emergency ban. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is analyzing the drug but hasn't yet moved to control it, a spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

U-47700 is an opioid painkiller that is nearly eight times stronger than morphine. It comes in different forms and can be swallowed, snorted or injected.

The drug -- being made by chemical companies in China -- was developed by pharmaceutical company UpJohn in the 1970s, and the recipe for making it is easy to find, Barry Logan, chief of forensic toxicology at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, which provides lab services for government and private clients, told the AP.

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New Cancer Database Unveiled by VP Biden

A public cancer database meant to improve individualized treatment of patients was to be unveiled Monday by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The Genomic Data Commons database is housed within the National Cancer Institute and currently has genetic and clinical data for 12,000 patients, the Associated Press reported.

The goal of the database is to increase sharing of information about the gene sequences of cancer and how patients respond to specific treatments. The system is designed to be easily searched by researchers and doctors, but includes protections for privacy and security, according to the White House.

Biden says data sharing is crucial to finding new ways to treat cancer, the AP reported.

Posted: June 2016


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