Health Highlights: Sept. 29, 2014

By on September 29, 2014

Health Highlights: Sept. 29, 2014

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

Tobacco Companies’ Strong Warnings on E-Cigs Raise Eyebrows

U.S. tobacco companies are putting strong health warnings on their e-cigarettes, much to the surprise and skepticism of critics.

The warnings are voluntary and are seen by some experts as a way to reduce the companies’ legal liability or to enhance their reputations, The New York Times reported.

A warning on e-cigarettes made by Reynolds American — maker of Camels — cautions that the product should not be used by people “who have an unstable heart condition, high blood pressure, or diabetes; or persons who are at risk for heart disease or are taking medicine for depression or asthma.”

A warning from Altria — maker of Marlboros — says that “Nicotine is addictive and habit forming, and is very toxic by inhalation, in contact with the skin, or if swallowed,” The Times reported.

Altria is introducing a brand of e-cigarettes called MarkTen. A warning on a pack of nicotine cartridges for the e-cigarettes is longer than 100 words and advises that children or adults with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes should not use the product.

It also cautions that nicotine can cause dizziness, nausea and stomach pains, and may worsen asthma.

“When I saw it, I nearly fell off my chair,” Dr. Robert Jackler, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine and an expert on cigarette and e-cigarette advertising, told The Times.

“Is this part of a noble effort for the betterment of public health, or a cynical business strategy? I suspect the latter,” Jackler said.

Many other experts also question the tobacco companies’ motives, and believe their e-cigarette warnings are meant to protect themselves from future lawsuits and to make them appear open and responsible, The Times reported.

But the tobacco companies insist they have good intentions.

The e-cigarette warnings reflect “a goal to openly and honestly communicate about health effects” and are based on “scientific research” and “previously developed warnings” on nicotine products, Atria spokesman William Phelps told The Times.

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Respiratory Virus Eyed as Possible Cause of Paralysis in Children

A virus causing severe respiratory illness in children across the United States is being investigated as the possible cause of nine cases of muscle weakness or paralysis that occurred among nine youngsters in Colorado within the last two months.

Tests detected the virus — called enterovirus 68 — in four of eight of the children. The status of the ninth child is not clear. All the children are being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, the Associated Press reported.

While enterovirus 68 can cause paralysis, other germs can too, and doctors haven’t pinpointed the actual culprit in these nine cases.

“That’s why we want more information,” and for doctors to report similar cases, Dr. Jane Seward, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the AP.

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Drug Greatly Extends Breast Cancer Patients’ Survival: Study

The drug Perjeta (pertuzumab) appears to prolong advanced breast cancer patients’ lives much longer than other drugs, according to a new study.

Median survival time among patients who took the drug was nearly 16 months longer than among those in the control group. The researchers said that’s the longest length of time for a drug used as an initial treatment for advanced breast cancer, The New York Times reported.

Most cancer drugs extend survival in patients with advanced disease for a few months at most. The findings were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said study lead author Dr. Sandra Swain, of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, The Times reported. “It’s really unprecedented to have this survival benefit.”

Swain has been a paid speaker for Roche, the company that markets Perjeta.

The drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 and is considered the standard of care in the country, according to The Times.

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