Health Highlights: Jan. 22, 2019

U.S. Government Shutdown Putting Workers' Health at Risk Chinese Researcher Who Edited Babies' Genes Acted on His Own: Officials FDA Chief Threatens to Halt E-Cigarette Sales Two Doctors Leave Care Facility Where Incapacitated Patient Gave Birth

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

U.S. Government Shutdown Putting Workers' Health at Risk

The U.S. government shutdown could pose a risk to the health of some employees who aren't receiving paychecks.

Even though they still have health insurance benefits during the partial shutdown that's lasted just over a month so far, the lack of pay makes it difficult to afford some health needs and medications, CNN reported.

Another problem is that"many agencies do not have the HR employees working that process paperwork for qualifying life events," according to Dania Palanker, assistant research professor, Center on Health Insurance Reforms, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University.

"This means that employees that are eligible to change their insurance election -- because they had a child, got married, or a family member lost coverage -- are not able to make the change until the government reopens," she told CNN.

"Another important piece is that after two pay periods where there were no paychecks, employees will receive bills for their vision or dental insurance," Palanker added.

One of the affected employees is Tamela Worthen, who told CNN that she hasn't been able to afford her diabetes medication in a week, and has "cried so much that it's just making my head hurt."

She said she normally takes her metformin diabetes medication twice a day to treat her type 2 diabetes, "and then I take high blood pressure medicine, one in the morning and one in the evening, and then I take my high cholesterol medicine."

Now, "I'm not able to get either one," the security worker at the Smithsonian Institution told CNN. "My body and everything is aching. I don't know whether it has something to do with because I haven't had my medicine."

Other federal workers going without paychecks due to the shutdown are Yvette Hicks, who said her children haven't been able to receive their proper asthma treatment, and John Kostelnik, who said he won't be able to learn if he has cancer until the shutdown is over, CNN reported.

Kostelnik is a local president of the American Federation of Government Employees and is worried about members who are military veterans and have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"With the shutdown and people having trouble putting food on the table, I'm worried this is an additional stressor," Kostelnik told CNN. "We are the ones that are suffering."


Chinese Researcher Who Edited Babies' Genes Acted on His Own: Officials

A Chinese scientist who said he edited the genes of twins to protect them against HIV acted on his own and could face punishment, according to investigators in the southern province of Guangdong.

They said Dr. He Jiankui coordinated funding for the experiment without outside assistance in violation of national guidelines, state news agency Xinhua said, the Associated Press reported.

He also edited the genes of another embryo yet to be born. That baby and the two twins will be kept under medical observation through regular visits overseen by health officials, according to Xinhua.

The news agency didn't specify which laws He may have broken, but said he faked an ethical review by others, the AP reported.

"This behavior seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad," according to Xinhua.

After He announced his research last year, Chinese officials put an immediate stop to his experiments, the AP reported.


FDA Chief Threatens to Halt E-Cigarette Sales

Sales of electronic-cigarettes could be halted if companies don't stop marketing the devices to youth, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned.

He's said he's horrified at the recent rise in teen use of the e-cigarettes and that FDA efforts to get companies to voluntarily eliminate candy-flavored products and aggressive marketing have had little effect, NBC News reported.

"I'll tell you this. If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat," he said Friday.

"It will be game over for these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process," Gottlieb warned.

The FDA has the authority to block e-cigarette sales and force makers to go through the formal FDA approval process, but has not done so to this point.

There has been a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use by U.S. high school students, and 3.6 million high school and middle school students now use e-cigarettes, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released late last year, NBC News reported.


Two Doctors Leave Care Facility Where Incapacitated Patient Gave Birth

Two doctors who provided care for an incapacitated woman who had a baby after being sexually assaulted are no longer looking after patients at the long-term care center in Phoenix.

One resigned and the other has been suspended, Hacienda HealthCare said Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

The patient, who is in her 20s, gave birth Dec. 29. She had been at the facility since suffering a near-drowning at age 3.

The case sparked an investigation by police, who have collected DNA from men who worked there, and reviews by regulators. Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons resigned after the case became public, the AP reported.

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