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Health Highlights: Jan. 24, 2018

Last Updated: January 24, 2018.

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

FDA Warns Companies Over Illegal Opioid Addiction/Withdrawal Products

U.S. regulators have sent warning letters to a number of companies connected with 12 illegal, unapproved products that the companies claim treat or cure opioid addiction and withdrawal.

The warnings were issued Jan. 24 by the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

"The FDA is increasingly concerned with the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like opioid addiction and withdrawal," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a government news release.

"People who are addicted to opioids should have access to safe and effective treatments and not be victimized by unscrupulous vendors who are trying to capitalize on the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of consumers and selling products with baseless claims. We'll continue to work with our partners at the FTC to step up our actions against unapproved products being marketed for the treatment of opioid addiction and withdrawal," Gottlieb said.

The products have not been proven safe or effective, and may prevent some patients from seeking effective, approved treatments for opioid addiction or withdrawal, potentially putting their health at risk.

"Opioid addiction is a serious health epidemic that affects millions of Americans," Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen said in the news release. "Individuals and their loved ones who struggle with this disease need real help, not unproven treatments. We will continue to work together with the FDA to address this important issue."

The joint FDA-FTC warning letters were sent to 11 companies. Here are the companies and their products: Opiate Freedom Center -- Opiate Freedom 5-Pack; CalmSupport, LLC -- CalmSupport; TaperAid -- TaperAid and TaperAid Complete; Medicus Holistic Alternatives LLC -- Natracet; NutraCore Health Products, LLC -- Opiate Detox Pro; Healthy Healing, LLC -- Withdrawal Support; Soothedrawal, Inc. -- Soothedrawal; Choice Detox Center, Inc. -- Nofeel; GUNA, Inc. -- GUNA-ADDICT 1; King Bio, Inc. -- AddictaPlex.

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San Diego Hepatitis A Public Health Emergency Over: Officials

The hepatitis A public health emergency in San Diego is over, officials announced Tuesday.

They said no new cases were reported in the past month and no deaths have occurred since October. City officials have also pledged to continue measures to control the liver-damaging virus that lives in feces, the Associated Press reported.

The public health emergency was declared on Sept. 1, 2017 in response to the worst hepatitis A epidemic in the United States in 20 years. Between November 2016 and October 2017, 577 people became ill and 20 died.

Efforts to combat the outbreak included vaccinating more than 100,000 people, installing hand-washing stations, and cleaning streets with a bleach solution, the AP reported.

"New outbreak activity has leveled off to near zero," according to Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer. "The sustained vaccination, sanitation and education efforts we undertook will continue and we will remain vigilant to make sure that the outbreak activity doesn't return."

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Philadelphia Officials Propose Safe Injection Sites

Philadelphia could become the first city in the United States to allow safe drug injection sites in order to fight the opioid crisis.

The sites provide "a life-saving strategy and a pathway to treatment," and would be just one part of the city's overall effort to fight the opioid epidemic, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

"No one here condones or supports illegal drug use in any way," Farley said. "We want people saddled with drug addiction to get help."

Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any large U.S. city. More than 1,200 people in the city died from overdoses in 2017, one-third more than 2016, the AP reported.

At safe injection sites, people inject drugs under the supervision of a doctor or nurse who can give an overdose antidote if necessary.

Philadelphia is interested in hearing from operators interested in creating safe injection sites, but it's not clear how the federal government would respond if the city goes ahead with the plan.

No safe injection site has been established in a U.S. city, but Seattle has budgeted $1.3 million to create one. Safe injection sites are offered in Canada and Europe.

Philadelphia officials visited Vancouver and learned that safe injection sites in the Canadian city have reduced overdose deaths and the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, the AP reported.


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