Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2017
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Trump to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency
In his first major speech Thursday on the opioid epidemic in the United States, President Donald Trump is expected to declare the crisis a national emergency.
He said Wednesday that doing so will give his administration the "power to do things that you can't do right now," the Associated Press reported.
Thousands of Americans are dying each year from opioid overdoses.
During his campaign for the White House, Trump promised to making fighting addiction a top priority.
But at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans expressed frustration as they grilled Trump administration officials about shortfalls in federal spending to combat the crisis, the AP reported.
"I don't understand why more resources aren't flowing to help out a rural state like West Virginia," said West Virginia Republican Rep. "People at home don't feel like they're getting help," said David McKinley. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat.
It's been nearly a year since Congress and President Barack Obama approved $1 billion to deal with the opioid crisis. That money is gradually reaching places in need, but there have been setbacks and delays along the way, the AP reported.
"It is a great opportunity, but it comes with a lot of angst," according to Tom Hill of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health, an addiction treatment provider advocacy group.
States are "just getting programs up and running right now," he told the AP.
Opioid OD Antidote Saves Puppy's Life
The overdose reversal drug naloxone saved the life of a puppy that ingested some sort of opioid drug. The drug is widely used to treat people who have overdosed.
Peter Thibault was out for a walk with his 3-month-old yellow Labrador named Zoey in Andover, Mass. last week when the dog grabbed a pack of cigarettes that was on the ground and soon passed out, the AP reported.
Thibault first carried Zoey home, but took her to a veterinary hospital when her conditioned worsened. She was given several doses of naloxone over 12 hours.
The hospital's medical director said this is not first time staff have treated a dog for an opioid overdose, the AP reported.
Scientists Edit Building Blocks of Life
Two studies show that it's possible to manipulate the building blocks of life.
In one study, scientists changed the order of atoms in DNA to rewrite the human genetic code and instructions for life. In the other study, researchers edited RNA, the chemical cousin of DNA that unlocks the information in the genetic code, BBC News reported.
The first study was published in the journal Nature and the second one in the journal Science.
This research could lead to new ways to treat genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and inherited blindness, BBC New reported.
High Cholesterol Rates Declining in U.S.
Rates of high cholesterol are declining in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
The proportion of Americans with total high cholesterol fell from 18.3 percent in 1999 to 12.4 percent in 2016, according to the data brief released Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
"It's gratifying news," said author Margaret Carroll, health statistician at the CDC.
The decline in high cholesterol levels is due to a number of factors, according to health experts, including growing awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol, improved eating habits, the phaseout of trans fats, and the use of cholesterol-lowering statin medications, the Post reported.
Pharmacist Found Not Guilty of Murder in U.S. Meningitis Outbreak
A pharmacist at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy linked with a deadly nationwide meningitis outbreak was found not guilty of murder on Wednesday.
But Glenn Chin was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering, CBS News/Associated Press reported.
More than 700 people in 20 states were sickened and 76 people died after receiving injections of mold-contaminated medical steroids produced at the now-closed New England Compounding Center.
Chin was the supervisory pharmacist at the facility and oversaw the clean rooms where the drugs were made.
Prosecutors argued that Chin told his staff to use expired ingredients, did not properly sterilize the drugs and ignored the discovery of mold and other bacteria in the clean rooms. But Chin's lawyers said he couldn't be blamed for the deaths because there's no evidence he caused the drugs to become contaminated, CBS News/AP reported.
In their decision, jurors said the prosecutors failed to prove Chin was responsible for the deaths in the outbreak. Chin will be sentenced in January.
Earlier this year, pharmacy co-founder Barry Cadden was acquitted of second-degree murder but found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, CBS News/AP reported.
Expert Panel Recommends New Shingles Vaccine as First-Line Treatment
A new shingles vaccine that provides far more protection than its predecessor received the full blessing of a U.S. government vaccine advisory panel on Wednesday.
In a close 8-7 vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that Shingrix be chosen over Zostavax as the shingles vaccine of choice in adults aged 50 and older, the Washington Post reported.
Previously, a shingles vaccine had only been recommended for those aged 60 and older.
The panel went even further, and recommended that anyone who has been vaccinated with the Zostavax vaccine be re-vaccinated with the Shingrix vaccine -- that group numbers about 20 million people, the Post reported.
In total, more than 40 million people will be affected by the new recommendations, the newspaper said.
Shingles is an extraordinarily painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. It tends to strike older adults.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had just approved Shingrix last Friday, based on a study from its maker, GlaxoSmithKline. That research found Shingrix protected about 90 percent of patients, but Zostavax only protected 50 percent of patients. Shingrix requires two shots, while Zostavax only requires one shot.
"This represents a major advance for people who want to be protected against the disease and its complications," Kathleen Dooling, a medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Post.
The CDC, which sets immunization schedules, typically accepts the recommendations of its vaccine panel. If approved by the CDC director, the new guidelines will be published as policy early next year, the newspaper said.