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Health Highlights: March 19, 2018

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

U.S. Drug Traffickers Could Face Death Penalty Under Trump Opioid Plan

Drug traffickers in the United States could face the death penalty under President Donald Trump's plan to tackle the nation's opioid addiction epidemic.

The death penalty would be imposed where appropriate under current law, according to a top administration official, the Associated Press reported.

Trump also wants to lower the amount of drugs required to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illegal opioids, Andrew Bremberg, Trump's domestic policy director, told reporters Sunday.

Other measures in the plan include increased educations and awareness, and expanded access to treatment and recovery programs.

Trump is scheduled to outline his plan Monday in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the opioid crisis, the AP reported.

The federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offenses, according to the Justice Department.

It's not clear if death sentences for drug dealers would be constitutional, Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman told the AP.

He said the issue would be legally contentious and that the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final say.


AIDS Researcher is Leading Candidate to Lead CDC

The leading candidate to become the new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Dr. Robert Redfield, a well-known AIDS researcher and an expert in the treatment of heroin addiction.

A formal announcement could be made as early as Tuesday, an administration official told The New York Times.

Redfield, 66, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He co-founded the Institute of Human Virology -- which has helped fight HIV/AIDS and other health issues in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia -- and oversees an HIV care and treatment program for more than 6,000 patients in the Baltimore-Washington area.

He is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and recently completed terms on advisory boards for the National Institutes of Health.

Redfield also has extensive experience treating heroin addicts and has long advocated medical assisted treatment for addiction, The Times reported.

The first CDC director appointed by President Trump was Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. She held the job for about six months before resigning in January after it was revealed that she had investments in tobacco and health care companies that posed potential conflicts of interest.


Stem Cell Transplant for MS Shows Promise

A stem cell transplant may be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis, an international study suggests.

The treatment involves using cancer drugs to decimate a patient's immune system and then restarting it with a stem cell transplant, BBC News reported.

The study included 100 patients in the United States, England, Sweden and Brazil with relapsing remitting MS, in which attacks are followed by periods of remission.

The patients received either stem cell transplantation or drug treatment (control group). After one year, only one patient of 52 in the stem cell transplant group had a relapse, compared with 39 of 50 in the drug group, BBC News reported.

After an average of three years, the transplants had failed in three patients (6 percent) in the stem cell group, compared with failure in 30 patients (60 percent) in the control group. Disability was reduced in the stem cell transplant group, but worsened in the control group.

The interim findings were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation.

"The data is stunningly in favor of transplant against the best available drugs -- the neurological community has been skeptical about this treatment, but these results will change that," lead investigator Richard Burt, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, told BBC News.

© 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: March 2018

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