Health Highlights: June 28, 2017
111 Patients Took Own Lives in First Six Months After California Approved Doctor-Assisted Deaths Georgia Officials Warn About New Resistant Fentanyl Strains FDA Seeks to Increase Number of Generic Drugs Two More Plague Cases in New Mexico
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
111 Patients Took Own Lives in First Six Months After California Approved Doctor-Assisted Deaths
Government statistics show that 111 people in California took their own lives using lethal prescriptions in the first six months after physician-assisted deaths became legal in the state.
The rate of physician-assisted deaths in California between June and December 2016 was 6 per 10,000 deaths, much lower than the 2016 rate in Oregon, which was 37 per 10,000 deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In California, 191 prescriptions for life-ending drugs were written for terminally ill patients as of the end of December, even though only 111 of those patients had used the drugs by that point.
Most of the patients who took their own lives were white, college-educated cancer patients older than 60, the Times reported.
California was the fifth state to permit patients with less than six months to live to ask for end-of-life drugs from their doctors.
Georgia Officials Warn About New Resistant Fentanyl Strains
Two new strains of fentanyl so potent that they may be resistant to the lifesaving antidote naloxone have been confirmed in Georgia.
The strains are acrylfentanyl and tetrahydrofureon, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigators, Fox News reported.
Acrylfentanyl, which was outlawed in Georgia in April, has been linked to at least 44 overdose deaths in Cook County, Illinois, this year. Tetrahydrofureon is so new that it's not on Georgia's banned synthetic designer drugs list.
The GBI said forensic drug evidence containing the two drugs was submitted in April by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. Officials said it's not clear how the body will respond to either drug, Fox News reported.
FDA Seeks to Increase Number of Generic Drugs
New measures to increase the number of generic prescription drugs available to Americans were announced Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration.
The agency will now give priority reviews to new generic drugs until there are at least three on the market, the Associated Press reported.
That number tends to trigger sharp price decreases, up to to 85 percent off the brand name price.
The FDA also published its first list of brand name drugs that are no longer protected by a patent but don't yet have generic competitors, the AP reported.
Two More Plague Cases in New Mexico
Two newly-confirmed cases of plague in New Mexico bring the total number of cases so far this year in the state to three, health officials say.
Plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, which people can get if they are bitten by flea-ridden rodents. Althogh plague decimated medieval Europe, it is now rare in the United States and is easily treated with antibiotics.
The two recent cases involved two women, ages 52 and 62. The previous case occurred in a 63-year-old man, The New York Times reported.
All three patients were treated at Santa Fe-area hospitals and released after a few days, according to Paul Rhien, a state health department spokesman.
Plague is not unusual in New Mexico. Every year for the last few years, a few people in the state have contracted plague. There has been one death, The Times reported.