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Health Highlights: Nov. 3, 2017

EpiPen Problems Cited in 7 Deaths Reported to FDA This Year U.S. Gun Death Rate Rises Again More Than 40 Million Kidde Fire Extinguishers Recalled in U.S. and Canada

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

EpiPen Problems Cited in 7 Deaths Reported to FDA This Year

Seven deaths attributed to Epipen malfunctions have been reported so far this year in the United States, Food and Drug Administration records show.

As of mid-September, there had been a total of 228 reports of EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. failures. Along with the deaths, 35 people were hospitalized, according to FDA documents made available under a Freedom of Information request by Bloomberg News.

EpiPens inject the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) in order to treat potentially fatal allergic reactions. The devices are made by Pfizer Inc.'s Meridian Medical Technologies and sold by Mylan MV.

Accounts of EpiPen malfunctions have been rising in recent years, Bloomberg reported.

The FDA database shows that in 2012, there were four reports of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. failures to the agency, rising to 12 in 2013. In 2014, there were 67 reports, a more than 400 percent increase from the previous year.

"We are not aware of defective EpiPens currently on the market and recommend that consumers use their prescribed epinephrine auto injector," the FDA said in an emailed statement Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.

"We have seen circumstances in which adverse events reports increase once a safety issue is publicized, like a recall. We continue to monitor and investigate the adverse event reports we receive," the agency said.

The FDA documents don't explain how the EpiPens failed. However, a warning letter sent in September said FDA investigators who inspected Meridian's Missouri plant earlier this year found that epinephrine had leaked out of the devices in some cases and that the injectors didn't work properly in other cases, Bloomberg reported.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mylan said it was "confident in the safety" of the EpiPen. In a second statement issued on Thursday, the company said all adverse event reports "have been investigated by Pfizer and Mylan and reported to FDA. One needs to keep in mind that an anaphylaxis event can be deadly and, sadly, even an appropriately administered dose of epinephrine from a fully functional device may not prevent a patient from dying. We have not identified any causal connection between any reported patient deaths and Mylan's epinephrine auto injector products."

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg on Thursday, Pfizer said it is "confident in the quality, safety and efficacy of EpiPens manufactured by" its Meridian subsidiary. However, the company noted that "in the case of EpiPen, adverse events can also be due to epinephrine itself, for a variety of reasons as reflected in the product label."


U.S. Gun Death Rate Rises Again

Gun-related deaths in the United States rose from 11 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 12 per 100,000 in 2016, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says.

There were more than 38,000 gun deaths last year, compared with about 36,000 in 2015, and about 33,500 a year between 2011 and 2014, the Associated Press reported.

Before the increases in 2015 and 2016, the rate had remained at just above 10 since the late 1990s. In the early 1990s, the rate was as high as 15 deaths per 100,000 people.

Suicides account for about two-thirds of gun deaths and such deaths have been on the rise for about 10 years. And in the past two years, there has been a large increase in homicides involving guns, rising from about 9,600 in 2015 to nearly 11,000 last year, according to FBI raw data, the AP reported.

It's been two decades since there was any significant decline in the rate of gun deaths in the U.S., according to Garen Wintemute, a gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis.

The rate for the first three months of 2016 was similar to the same period in 2015, a possible indication that the rate is leveling off again, Wintemute told the AP.

But most gun deaths occur in warm weather, so it's too soon to get an idea of what is happening this year, according to Bob Anderson, the CDC's chief of mortality statistics.

The CDC also said that the death rate from drug overdoses rose from 16 per 100,000 in 2015 to 20 per 100,000 last year, the AP reported.


More Than 40 Million Kidde Fire Extinguishers Recalled in U.S. and Canada

More than 40 million Kidde fire extinguishers have been recalled in the United States (37.8 million) and Canada (2.7 million) because they can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge, meaning they may not work during a fire emergency.

In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall involves 134 models of two styles of Kidde fire extinguishers: plastic handle fire extinguishers and push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers made between Jan. 1, 1973 and Aug. 15, 2017.

There have been 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, 16 injuries such as smoke inhalation and minor burns, 91 reports of property damage, and one death, CPSC said.

The death was in 2014 and occurred when emergency responders could not get a Kidde fire extinguisher to work during a car fire after a crash.

Consumers with the recalled extinguishers should immediately contact Kidde for a free replacement fire extinguisher and to find out how to return their recalled product, CPSC said.

For more information, consumers can call Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, or go to the company's website and click on Product Safety Recall.

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