Health Highlights: April 9, 2018
No Heart Risk From Stop-Smoking Drugs Chantix and Zyban: Study Opioid Painkiller Hashtags Blocked on Instagram U.S. Plutonium Plant Demolition Halted After Workers Exposed to Radiation More Muscle Improves Breast Cancer Patients' Survival Odds
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
No Heart Risk From Stop-Smoking Drugs Chantix and Zyban: Study
The popular stop-smoking drugs Chantix and Zyban pose no heart risks, according to a study paid for and conducted by the companies that make the drugs.
The study, which was requested by U.S. and European regulators and included thousands of smokers in North America and Europe, compared use of Pfizer's Chantix, GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban, nicotine patches or dummy pills for 12 weeks, the Associated Press reported.
After a year of follow-up, the two stop-smoking drugs were as safe for the heart as nicotine patches or dummy pills, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The findings are "enormously reassuring," Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, told the AP. She was not involved in the research.
"We now know it's a lot safer to use these drugs to help people quit smoking than to continue smoking," Rigotti said.
Nicotine patches and the stop-smoking pills can potentially increase blood pressure. Chantix's packaging information warns about a possible small increased risk for heart attack and strokes in smokers with heart disease, the AP reported.
The study did not include smokers with severe heart disease, but many had high blood pressure or other risks for heart problems, according to the researchers.
Other recent studies have suggested that the drugs are safe for smokers with severe heart disease, said Dr. Neal Benowitz, lead author of the news study and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the AP reported.
"The FDA is reviewing the findings of this study and substantial supporting documentation from the clinical trial, along with additional published medical literature, as we continue to evaluate this issue," Michael Felberbaum, a spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Opioid Painkiller Hashtags Blocked on Instagram
Hashtags using the names of prescription opioids have been blocked on Instagam, which is owned by Facebook.
The action against hashtags such as #fentanyl, #oxycontin, #opioids came just days after U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said social media companies were not doing enough to prevent their sites from being used to sell prescription opioid painkillers, CBS News reported.
The FDA has found offers to buy opioids on numerous social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, according to Gottlieb.
He said the FDA will invite the CEOs of major internet companies to a summit on the tech industry's role in the U.S. opioid crisis, CBS reported.
"I know that internet firms are reluctant to cross a threshold where they could find themselves taking on a broader policing role," Gottlieb said. "But these are insidious threats being propagated on these web platforms."
U.S. Plutonium Plant Demolition Halted After Workers Exposed to Radiation
Demolition of a plutonium processing plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state has been halted after it was discovered that workers were being exposed to radiation.
The U.S. Department of Energy said 42 workers tearing down the plant from the 1940s are known to have inhaled or ingested radioactive particles in the past year. In some cases, workers transferred radiation to their vehicles, the Associated Press reported.
The demolition will be halted until a safe plan can be developed, officials said.
The plutonium processing plant at Hanford made key parts of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Plutonium production at the site ended in the 1980s but Hanford is the nation's most polluted nuclear weapons production site, the AP reported.
An independent investigation into the workers' exposure will be conducted by an agency office not associated with the demolition at Hanford, the U.S. Energy Department said.
"This is a very disturbing set of incidents," Tom Carpenter, head of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge, told the AP.
"It's one of the more serious events to happen in the age of cleanup at Hanford," Carpenter said. "There have been other incidents, but none rose to the level of plutonium contamination of this many people and private vehicles and being found miles and miles away."
More Muscle Improves Breast Cancer Patients' Survival Odds
Breast cancer patients with more muscle have a better chance of survival, a new study finds.
It included more than 3,200 younger women with stages 2 or 3 breast cancer. Those with more muscle had higher survival rates, regardless of their age or cancer stage, ABC News reported.
It's not clear why less muscle is associated with lower survival, but cancer's impact on muscle tissue may play a role, according to the researchers. They said cancer-related inflammation may cause loss of muscle and an increase in fat.
The study was published April 9 in the journal JAMA Oncology.