Health Highlights: Dec. 11, 2015

FDA Advisors Call for Tighter Control of Codeine Use in Kids U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Rose 7 Percent in 2014 Rita Wilson Says She is Cancer-Free

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

FDA Advisors Call for Tighter Control of Codeine Use in Kids

Prescription drugs with the pain medicine codeine should not be used to treat cough or pain in children or most teens, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panels.

The outside experts also called for the halt of over-the-counter sales of codeine-containing cough syrup for children, which is currently allowed in 28 states and the District of Columbia, National Public Radio reported.

The recommendations were made after the FDA's Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee met all day Thursday.

While not required to follow the advice of its expert panels, the FDA usually does.

Along with its use in children's cough medicines, codeine is widely used with other painkillers to ease children's pain in a number of situations, such as after surgery, NPR reported.

However, codeine can cause rare but life-threatening breathing problems in some children and there have been at least two dozen deaths in the last decade.

The FDA has become increasingly concerned about this risk and asked the committees to advise on what, if any, measures were needed to restrict the drug's use.

Several of the experts noted that there are doubts about whether codeine even helps treat children's coughs, and that there may be safer alternatives for treating pain in children.

"My concern, were I to be prescribing codeine in children, would be that I would, frankly, kill them," pharmacist Maria Pruchnicki, Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, said, NPR reported.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the use of codeine or related painkillers for treating pain or cough in children, and wants the FDA to ban non-presciption sales of products with codeine.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents companies that make over-the-counter codeine products, noted that codeine was previously deemed to "to be generally recognized as safe and effective," and that any decision to halt non-prescriptions sales of products with codeine should go "thorough a multi-step process," NPR reported.


U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Rose 7 Percent in 2014

Heroin and narcotic painkillers were major factors in the seven percent rise in drug overdose deaths in the United States between 2013 and 2014, federal government data shows.

There were more than 47,000 overdose deaths last year. That included nearly 19,000 deaths from powerful prescription painkillers -- 16 percent more than in 2013 -- and about 10,500 deaths from heroin, a 28 percent increase from 2013, the Associated Press reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing the data in an effort to learn the reasons for last year's increases, agency director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

He added that the drug overdose situation clearly "is not getting better," the AP reported.


Rita Wilson Says She is Cancer-Free

Actress Rita Wilson says she is free of breast cancer.

She was diagnosed with the disease in March and had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery about a month ago, People magazine reported.

"I am cancer free. I'm one hundred percent healthy!" she announced Wednesday at an event in Los Angeles.

Wilson - who is married to Tom Hanks -- has returned to the stage and will begin her first tour with her band in February.

"I feel really blessed and very lucky," she told People. "Part of the reason for going on tour is that I want to show people that you can have cancer, and you can still be out there doing what you love to do, and it's not a death sentence like it used to be."

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