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Health Highlights: April 18, 2019

Wash. State Employees Poised to Be First in U.S. to Get Long-Term Care Benefit Sixty People Charged in Massive Opioid Painkiller Investigation Enlarged Prostate Meds May Increase Diabetes Risk Stanford Faculty Members Cleared in Gene-Edited Babies Case

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

Wash. State Employees Poised to Be First in U.S. to Get Long-Term Care Benefit

A bill being considered by Washington lawmakers would make the state the first in the U.S. with an employee-funded insurance benefit to help cover the costs of long-term care.

Paying into the program -- a lifetime maximum of $36,500 per person -- would provide a benefit indexed to inflation, the Associated Press reported.

The bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, but the Senate made several changes before passing it earlier this week, so it now returns to the House for a final vote.

"This is a way to try and give people a benefit that they've paid into that will be able to keep them out of poverty and accessing a broad array of services they may need," said bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, the AP reported.

Advocates say the benefit will help an aging population that's likely unprepared for the rising costs of assistance as they age.

Seven in 10 state residents 65 and older will require some type of assistance to live independently, according to AARP of Washington, the AP reported.


Sixty People Charged in Massive Opioid Painkiller Investigation

Fifty-three medical professionals, including 31 doctors, are among the 60 people charged by U.S. authorities for their alleged involvement in the illegal prescribing and distribution of opioid painkillers.

They are linked to about 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills, and this is the largest ever takedown of illegal drug prescribers, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of Cincinnati, the Associated Press reported.

The doctors involved are "white coated drug dealers," said Robert Duncan, U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky. In some cases, prescriptions were written in exchange for sex, investigators allege.

Arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as authorities announced the charges at a news conference, the AP reported.

The operation was conducted by the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which was launched last year.

There were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, according to federal health officials, the AP reported.


Enlarged Prostate Meds May Increase Diabetes Risk

Men who took either of two widely prescribed drugs to treat an enlarged prostate were found to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study says.

Researchers looked at 39,000 men who took either finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart). They were compared to a control group of 16,000 men who took tamsulosin (Flomax), a different type of drug for enlarge prostate, The New York Times reported.

Over 11 years, the risk of developing diabetes was 32 percent higher among men who took Avodart and 26 percent higher among those who took Proscar, compared to those who took Flomax.

The study was published in the BMJ.

The increased risk of diabetes among men taking Avodart and Proscar is slight -- about an extra 16 cases for every 1,000 men treated over 10 years -- but it still a significant public health issue, according to study lead author Li Wei, associate professor, School of Pharmacy, University College London, U.K., The Times reported.

"We don't want anyone to suddenly change their drug," she said. "But you need to discuss it with a physician, especially if you are already at high risk for diabetes. You have to look at the overall picture of your condition in order to make a decision" about the best course of treatment."

Men with an enlarged prostate -- benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) -- can have difficulty urinating or increased frequency and urgency of urination.


Stanford Faculty Members Cleared in Gene-Edited Babies Case

There was no wrongdoing on the part of three Stanford University faculty members in connection with a Chinese scientist who claimed to have created the world's first gene-edited babies, the university said Tuesday.

The faculty members did not participate in or have financial or other ties to the work by scientist He Jiankui, and tried to discourage him from pursuing the research, according to a Stanford statement, the Associated Press reported.

Rice University in Houston is continuing to investigate the possible role of one of its faculty members, a spokesman said.

The scientist He said he altered the genes of twin girls when they were embryos in order to protect them against possible future infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The work was condemned as unethical and medically unnecessary by scientists worldwide, the AP reported.

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