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Health Highlights: July 24, 2019

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

Implant Might Protect Against HIV for a Year

A small drug-containing implant shows promise in protecting against HIV infection over the long term, according to early test results.

The matchstick-size plastic rod containing the new antiviral drug islatravir was tested in a dozen volunteers for 12 weeks, researchers said Tuesday at an international AIDS conference in Mexico City, The New York Times reported.

The results suggest that Merck’s implant/drug combination could protect against HIV infection for a full year, but a large clinical trial must still be conducted.

The implant is inserted just under the skin of the upper arm and slowly releases small doses of the drug.

“If — and I’m emphasizing if — if it pans out in a larger trial that it delivers a level of drug that’s protective for a year, that would be a game-changer,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease and a leading expert on AIDS, told The Times.

There’s an urgent need for new HIV prevention methods.

Despite decades of promoting condoms and abstinence, and the introduction years ago of a daily pill that prevents HIV infection, about 1.7 million people are infected with the AIDS-causing virus each year, The Times reported.


FDA Warns CBD Product Maker About False Claims

A warning letter has been issued to Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Inc. for illegally selling unapproved cannabidiol (CBD) products online with unproven claims that the products treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety, and other health problems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Other than one prescription drug to treat rare severe forms of epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any other CBD products, according to the agency.

It also noted that there is limited information for other CBD products being marketed to consumers, and that they have not been evaluated for potential harm.

The FDA also said that unproven claims about CBD products could led consumers to delay important medical care, such as proper diagnosis and treatment.


Facebook, Instagram Cut Alcohol and Tobacco Product Sales and Content

Sales of alcohol and tobacco products will be restricted, and content about the products will be limited under a new Facebook policy to take effect Wednesday.

All private sales, trades, transfers and gifting of alcohol and tobacco products will be banned on Facebook and Instagram, a Facebook spokeswoman told CNN.

Any posts related to the sale or transfer of these products will have to restrict that content to adults 18 or older, she said.

The new policy also applies to any Facebook groups created to sell alcohol or tobacco products, according to the spokeswoman.

Any groups that do not make necessary changes may be removed from Facebook, she told CNN.

Facebook will “use a combination of technology, human review and reports from our community to find and remove any content that violates these policies,” the spokeswoman said.

The company already prohibits the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Facebook Marketplace, but the ban is being extended to regular posts from private users, CNN reported.

However, people who are paid to promote nicotine-containing products (so-called “influencers”) will still be permitted to post content about tobacco and vape products, and those posts will not have age restrictions, the spokeswoman said.

Juul, the largest vape maker in the U.S., paid popular Instagram influencers to promote its products, CNN reported last year, and the company has been criticized for its alleged role in what experts call an “epidemic” of teen vaping.

In 2018, the vaping rate among high school students was nearly 80% higher than in 2017, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Juul’s Role in U.S. Youth Vaping Epidemic Focus of Capital Hill Hearing

A two-day hearing on Juul’s rule in the United States “youth nicotine epidemic” is being held this week on Capital Hill.

The hearing will look at Juul’s marketing, health claims and its links with Big Tobacco. Last year, tobacco giant Altria invested nearly $13 million in Juul labs, CNN reported.

The House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy will hear opinions about whether stronger regulations should be placed on e-cigarettes.

The subcommittee chairman, Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, last month said his panel was investigating Juul, and asked the company to provide information about is social media practices, advertising, and long-term health impacts of its products, CNN reported.

“The safety and well-being of America’s youth is not for sale,” Krishnamoorthi said in a letter to Juul CEO Kevin Burns dated June 7. “I am extremely concerned about reports that JUUL’s high nicotine content is fueling addiction and that frequent JUUL use is sending kids across the country into rehab, some as young as 15.”


Senate Bill Would Reduce Seniors Drug Costs

A bill to reduce prescription drug costs for millions of Medicare recipients and lower federal and state health costs was introduced by two U.S. senators.

The bill would limit drug copays for people with Medicare’s Part D prescription plan by capping their out-of-pocket costs at $3,100 a year starting in 2022, the Associated Press reported.

Under the bill, drug makers would have to pay Medicare a price hike penalty if the cost of their medications rises faster than inflation.

The bill was introduced by Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. They said Congressional Budget Office preliminary estimates suggest that over 10 years, the bill would save Medicare $85 billion, save seniors $27 billion in out-of-pocket costs and $5 billion from slightly lower premiums, and save the government $15 billion from projected Medicaid costs, the AP reported.

A Finance Committee vote on the bill is scheduled for Thursday. The committee oversees Medicare and Medicaid. Grassley is the chairman and Wyden is the senior Democrat.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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