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Health Highlights: March 27, 2019

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

Air Pollution May be Linked With Psychotic Experiences in Teens: Study

There may be a link between air pollution and psychotic experiences in teens, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 2,000 teens in Wales and England. They found that those exposed to the highest levels of three air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter — were 71 percent, 72 percent and 45 percent more likely, respectively, to report psychotic experiences than those exposed to the lowest levels of the pollutants, CNN reported.

And the odds of having a psychotic episode “gradually increase as you move from rural to suburb to urban settings,” noted study lead author Joanne Newbury, a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London. Teens in the “most urban settings” had “94 percent greater odds of psychotic experiences compared to those living in rural settings,” she said.

Study co-author Helen Fisher, a reader of developmental psychopathology at King’s College London, said that “when we talk about psychotic experiences, we are talking about people who are experiencing things like hearing or seeing things other people don’t or feeling very paranoid,” CNN reported.

The study was published March 27 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“One of the most consistent findings over the past few decades has been a link between cities and psychosis,” Newbury said. “Children who are born and raised in urban versus rural settings are almost twice as likely to develop psychosis in adulthood.”

She noted that the study does not show a cause-and-effect relationship but an association between air pollution and psychosis, CNN reported.

The study is “nice” but lacks rigor, according to Dr. Jim van Os,professor and head of the Brain Division at University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands. He was not involved in the study.

At best, it is “a hypothesis to examine in future work,” he wrote in an email, CNN reported.

There “is more work that needs to be done with this study,” Sophie Dix, a cognitive researcher and director of research at MQ, a nonprofit that funds mental health research, told the Science Media Center.

“There is no evidence that pollution necessarily causes psychosis or whether this is one of many factors or acting in isolation,” said Dix, who was not involved in the study, CNN reported.

“There is a bigger picture here, but that does not diminish the importance of these findings and the potential that comes from this,” Dix said.


Trump Administration Wants to Scrap Affordable Care Act

The Trump administration said Tuesday it wants to jettison the Affordable Care Act.

In a filing Monday with a federal appeals court in New Orleans, the administration said the health law should be declared unconstitutional after Congress repealed one part of it — fines on people without insurance, the Associated Press reported.

A repeal of the entire Affordable Care Act could leave more than 20 million people uninsured, including about 12 million low-income people with coverage through the act’s Medicaid expansion, and about 11 million with subsidized private health insurance through and state-run insurance markets.

The Trump administration’s court filing contradicts leading congressional Republicans’ statements that they didn’t plan to repeal other parts of the law, the AP reported.

And in an earlier stance in a lower court, the Trump administration said that only federal protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and limits on premiums charged to older, sicker people should be repealed.

The situation shows that Republicans “say one thing and they do another,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“Republicans did say during the campaign that they weren’t there to undermine the pre-existing condition benefit,” she noted. “Then they go to court to strip it and strip the whole bill.”

Pelosi said that if the entire Affordable Care Act is struck down, it would mean the end of popular measures such as coverage for adult children on parental insurance plans until age 26, the AP reported.


Rockland County, N.Y., Declares Start of Emergency During Measles Outbreak

In an effort to combat New York State’s largest measles outbreak in decades, Rockland County will declare a state of emergency and ban minors who aren’t vaccinated against the contagious disease from public places.

The declaration in the suburb of New York City takes effect at midnight Tuesday and expires in 30 days, The New York Times reported.

Rockland County, with a population of more than 300,000 people, has had 153 confirmed measles cases since October 2018, according to county spokesman John Lyon. Of those, 48 have occurred in 2019.

The measles outbreak in New York State began last fall and has so far mostly affected ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County and New York City, where vaccination rates tend to be lower and anti-vaccination misinformation is more widespread, public health officials have said, The Times reported.

In December, Rockland County barred unvaccinated children from schools with low vaccination rates.

In New York City, health officials have issued an emergency health measure ordering schools in certain ZIP codes to bar unvaccinated students from attending classes, The Times reported.


Purdue Pharma Reaches $270 Million Settlement With Oklahoma Over OxyContin

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma over the prescription painkiller’s role in the opioid addiction epidemic, officials said Tuesday.

The terms of the agreement will be announced by the state’s attorney general at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma has made billions from OxyContin but faces more than 1,000 lawsuits from state and local governments seeking to hold the company responsible for the opioid crisis that resulted in 48,000 deaths nationwide in 2017 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The settlement with Oklahoma was announced after the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from the drug maker to delay the start of the state’s trial in May.

A lawyer suing Purdue on behalf of local governments nationwide hailed the settlement.

“That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem,” Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, told the AP. “Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

Sandy Coats, an attorney for Purdue Pharma, did not immediately return a call seeking comment, the AP reported.


$775 Million Settlement Reached in Xarelto Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson and Bayer Co. will pay $775 million to settle lawsuits involving the blood thinner Xarelto, the companies said Monday.

The companies jointly sell the drug and the settlement will be split evenly between them, The New York Times reported.

Neither company admitted liability.

The settlement resolves state and federal lawsuits by patients who said the companies failed to warn about the risk of potentially fatal bleeding episodes when taking the drug, The Times reported.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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