Health Highlights: Nov. 19, 201311/19/13
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Bill Could Give FDA New Powers Over Compounding Pharmacies
A bill to increase the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's
control over compounding pharmacies was passed by Congress on
Monday and experts say it will help improve drug safety.
The bill does not give the FDA complete authority over these
pharmacies -- which tailor-mix drugs for individual patients -- but
still provides significant safeguards and is supported by many
public health advocates, according to
The New York Times.
"It has very sharp teeth," drug safety consultant Sarah Sellers said of the bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The bill began taking shape shortly after tainted injectable
drugs from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts caused a
meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people across the U.S. just over
a year ago,
NYC to Ban Tobacco Sales to People Younger Than 21
Legislation banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone under
the age of 21 is to be signed Tuesday by New York City Mayor
The new law would make New York the first large city or state in
the country to ban tobacco sales to young adults. City health
officials hope that raising the legal age to 21 will slash smoking
rates among young people. Most smokers get addicted to cigarettes
before age 21, the
The legislation also bans the sale of small cigars in packages
of less than 20 and boosts penalties for retailers that violate
Also on Tuesday, Bloomberg was to sign legislation meant to keep
the price of tobacco high by prohibiting coupons and other
discounts, and by making the minimum price of cigarettes $10.50 a
The increase in the minimum age for buying tobacco products will
simply drive teenagers to the black market, according to tobacco
companies and some retailers.
Study Charges FDA Was Silent on Amphetamine-Like Compound in
U.S. government scientists found an amphetamine-like compound in
nine dietary supplements but did not alert consumers, researchers
The Food and Drug Administration team tested 21 supposedly
all-natural supplements and found that nine contained the compound
beta-methylphenethylamine, according to an article in the
Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis.
All 21 products list an ingredient called Acacia rigidula, which
is a plant found in Texas and Mexico. The FDA scientists said they
couldn't find the amphetamine-like compound in verified samples of
the plant, and also said that the compound appears to have never
been tested for safety on humans,
The supplements tested were marketed for things such as mood
stabilization, weight loss and boosting energy. FDA officials would
not comment on the study or release the names of the supplements
that were tested or the nine found to contain the compound.
"This is a brand new drug being placed into a number of supplements under the guise of a natural ingredient," Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, told USA Today.
He was part of another team of scientists who last month
reported finding a methamphetamine-like compound in a pre-workout
supplement called Craze. He's dismayed that the FDA hasn't issued
public warnings about Craze or the nine supplements in the new
"The laws are incredibly weak, but the FDA is not moving as fast as it could to remove hazardous products," Cohen told USA Today.
Positive Drug Tests Declining Among U.S. Workers
The percentage of American workers testing positive for cocaine
and marijuana has declined sharply since 1988, but the use of
prescription drugs appears to be a growing problem, according to a
Quest Diagnostics Inc. reviewed more than 125 million urine drug
tests administered to U.S. employees from 1988 to last year. They
found that 3.5 percent of samples came back positive in 2012,
compared with 13.6 percent in 1988, the
Wall Street Journalreported.
However, positive tests for amphetamines -- which includes
prescription medicines such as Adderall -- more than doubled
between 2002 and 2012. Positive tests for the painkillers Vicodin
and OxyContin rose 172 percent and 71 percent, respectively, from
2005 to 2012.
The analysis also uncovered higher levels of painkiller use when
testing workers after they have been involved in an accident on the
"Even when used under prescription, these drugs can have an impact on workplace safety," said Barry Sample, director of drug-testing technology for Quest.
The data also showed that positive tests for methamphetamines
fell after 2005, but recently started to rise again, especially
among workers in safety-sensitive industries such as railroads and
The lower rate of positive tests for illegal drugs may be due to
the fact that workers have become more adept at finding ways to
pass urine drug tests. Labs are trying to develop oral swabs and
hair tests to reduce the number of people who pass tests by
substituting someone else's urine,
Medtronic Recalls Guidewires Used in Heart Procedures
About 15,000 Medtronic devices used in heart procedures are
being recalled by the company because they have defects that could
result in serious injury or death, the U.S. Food and Drug
The recalled products are guidewires. They are inserted through
an artery and used to guide into place devices such as stents, the
The recall was implemented Oct. 21 after Medtronic was informed
about four problems, including one patient who suffered cardiac
arrest but was resuscitated, according to company spokesman Joseph
The coating on the recalled guidewires could break off and
possibly block a blood vessel. The coating is meant to help the
wires slide through blood vessels more easily, the
The FDA has classified the recall as Class I, a category
reserved for products with reasonable potential to cause serious
injury or death.
The recall covers certain lots of guidewires made since April.
Medtronic said it has halted new shipments of the wires and alerted
regulators worldwide about the problem, the
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