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Health Highlights: May 29, 2020

Last Updated: May 29, 2020.

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

Trump Says U.S. Will Cut Ties With WHO

The United States will terminate its relationship with the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO), President Donald Trump said in a White House Rose Garden speech on Friday.

According to The New York Times, the move -- which would cut off funding from the agency's largest donor -- comes in response to what Trump views as the WHO's missteps in handling the coronavirus crisis.

However, critics believe Trump is attempting to shift blame for the COVID-19 crisis away from the White House and towards the WHO and China. Trump has long contended that China covered up the severity of the emerging coronavirus threat, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs," Trump told reporters.

The United States is the largest donor to the WHO, responsible for about 20 percent of the agency's budget in 2018 and 2019, the Times said.

U.S. deaths from coronavirus infection topped 100,000 this week. Last week, Trump had threatened to pull funding if the WHO failed to "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days."

Other countries have castigated Trump and the United States for his threats against the UN agency, which remains the world's leading organization committed to public health. Member states have instead asked for an "impartial, independent" examination of the WHO's response to the pandemic, the Times said.


VA Slashes Use of Hydroxychloroquine to Treat COVID-19 Patients

The VA health system has stopped nearly all use of the unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said at a House hearing on Thursday.

He said VA hospitals "ratcheted it down" to just three prescriptions in the last week as new research highlighted possible dangers and other possible treatments became available, the Asssociated Press reported.

"I expect that trend to continue in the future," Wilkie said.

He defended the VA's initial use of hydroxychloroquine -- often touted by President Donald Trump -- to treat COVID-19 patients, saying there were few treatment options at the time, the AP reported.

The VA health system has recently turned to the antiviral drug remdesivir and convalescent plasma from people who've recovered from infection with the new coronavirus.

The VA's website says 13,657 veterans have been infected with the coronavirus, and 1,200 have died, the AP reported.

Some veterans groups demanded the VA explain its use of hydroxychloroquine after data showed that the drug provided no benefit to veterans who received it.

The death rate for veterans who received the drug plus usual care was 28%, compared with 11% of those who received usual care alone, the AP reported.


Diabetes Drug Metformin Recalled Due to Potential Cancer Causing Chemical

A recall of the widely-used diabetes drug metformin was announced by drug maker Apotex, due to possible high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is believed to cause cancer in people.

The recall for all lots of metformin hydrochloride extended-release tablets 500 mg from Apotex comes after one lot tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had higher NDMA levels than allowed by the FDA.

NDMA is an environmental contaminant that's found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables.

Metformin hydrochloride extended-release tablets are prescribed to be used along with diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in adults and children age 10 and older with type 2 diabetes.

NDMA contamination triggered numerous recalls of widely-used heart medicines last year.


U.S. Abortion Pill Rule Should be Suspended During Pandemic: Lawsuit

A U.S. government rule that requires women to visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to get the abortion pill mifepristone should be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the rule needlessly puts women's health at risk and that they should able to fill prescriptions for the drug by mail, the Associated Press reported.

"Of the more than 20,000 drugs regulated by the FDA, mifepristone is the only one that patients must receive in person at a hospital, clinic or medical office, yet may self-administer, unsupervised, at a location of their choosing," according to the federal lawsuit filed in Maryland.

Mifepristone is approved by the FDA to be used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, to end an early pregnancy or manage a miscarriage.

Previous: 1 in 10 Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients With Diabetes Dies: Study Next: As Hard-Hit Areas of America Show Slowing in Coronavirus Cases, Other Regions See Spikes

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