Health Highlights: Sept. 8, 2017

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

Pfizer Did Not Investigate EpiPen Problems: FDA

Pfizer failed to properly investigate reports of malfunctioning EpiPens, including cases that resulted in severe illness or death, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a warning letter issued earlier this week.

EpiPens are devices that deliver lifesaving epinephrine to people suffering a severe allergic reaction. Pfizer manufactures EpiPens for drugmaker Mylan.

In the warning letter, the FDA said that despite receiving numerous complaints, Meridian Medical Technologies — a unit of Pfizer — did not adequately investigate problems with a critical part of the EpiPen, the mechanism that makes it fire and deliver the correct dose of epinephrine, The New York Times reported.

“Our own data show that you received hundreds of complaints that your EpiPen products failed to operate during life-threatening emergencies, including some situations in which patients subsequently died,” the FDA said in the letter.

The agency did not provide the number of patient deaths reported.

In a statetment, Pfizer spokeswoman Kim Bencker said the company was “very confident in the safety and efficacy of EpiPen products being produced at the site” and noted that it has distributed more than 30 million EpiPens since 2015, The Times reported.

“It’s not unusual to receive product complaints, especially when the product is frequently administered by non-medically trained individuals,” according to Bencker.

“We currently have no information to indicate that there was any causal connection between these product complaints and any patient deaths,” she added.


Officials to Investigate Mercury Brought Ashore by Hurricane Harvey

Liquid mercury that may have been washed or blown ashore east of Houston by Hurricane Harvey is being investigated by public health officials.

On Tuesday, Bobby Griffin found shiny silver mercury globules all over his San Jacinto riverfront property. It’s located a few hundred yards from the San Jacinto Waste Pits, a Superfund site that was swamped during the hurricane, The New York Times reported.

Superfund sites are highly contaminated locations designated by the federal government for clean up.

Officials will be sent to Griffin’s property as soon as possible, Lisa Montemayor, an environmental investigator for Houston’s health department, told The Times.

It’s not clear where the mercury came from, or how widespread the contamination was, she noted.

Liquid mercury is extremely dangerous to the brain and the nervous system. It is not well-absorbed through the skin, but its vapors can enter the lungs, The Times reported.

Harvey’s impact on industrial areas has led to concerns about pollution and runoff, especially at Superfund sites.


U.S. Teen Marijuana Use Declines

Marijuana use by American teens fell in 2016, while there was a slight increase in adult use, according to a federal government report released Thursday.

Past-month marijuana use among youth ages 12-17 decreased from 7 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2016. That’s the lowest level of marijuana use in this age group since 2002, said the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report also noted a steady decrease in marijuana use in the 12-17 age group since 2014, when the first states to make marijuana legal for adults began allowing regulated retail sales.

“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in. Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana,” Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release from the group.

“Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance,” she added.

The slight increase in past-month adult use of marijuana suggests adults may be substituting the drug for alcohol, according to the project.