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Health Highlights: Nov. 4, 2015

Senate Committee to Investigate Huge Drug Price Hikes Xylitol Sweetener Can Kill Dogs Number of E. Coli Cases in Oregon, Washington Hits 37: Health Officials Typhoid Fever Cases in Colorado Linked to Restaurant Depression Not Cause of Robin Williams' Suicide: Widow France Lifts Ban on Blood Donations by Gay Men Ohio Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Proposal

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

Senate Committee to Investigate Huge Drug Price Hikes

Drug pricing by four companies will be investigated by the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging.

The four companies -- Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, Retrophin Inc. and Rodelis Therapeutics -- were sent letters asking why they introduced huge price increases for drugs, Bloomberg News reported.

The committee is particularly interested in why Turing boosted the cost of the anti-infection drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a tablet.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Dec. 9. The use of subpoenas if the drug companies don't cooperate is supported by panel leader Senator Susan Collins of Maine, according to a committee spokesman, Bloomberg reported.


Xylitol Sweetener Can Kill Dogs

A sweetener used in some sugarless gum and other products can kill a dog.

The sweetener Xylitol is safe for people but can cause severe low blood sugar, seizures and even liver failure in dogs, CBS News reported.

Along with sugar-free gum, Xylitol is also used in some sugar-free vitamins, candies, baked goods and peanut butter.

Xylitol-related calls to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center rose from 82 in 2004 to more than 3,700 in 2014, CBS News reported.

Dog owners should check all sugar-free products in their home to find out if they contain Xylitol, and should put any that contain the sweetener out of the reach of pets, Ashley Gallagher, with the Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C., recommended.


Number of E. Coli Cases in Oregon, Washington Hits 37: Health Officials

The number of E. coli cases linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon has risen to 37, health officials said Tuesday.

Twenty-five people in western Washington and 12 people in the Portland area have now become sick from E. coli., the Associated Press reported.

As news of the outbreak spreads, the list of potential cases is likely to grow, Marisa D'Angeli, medical epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health, told the AP.

Anyone who became sick with intestinal symptoms after eating at a Chipotle restaurant since mid-October should see their doctor and get tested, she advised. Anyone with blood diarrhea should see a doctor whether they have eaten at Chipotle or not, she added.

All 43 Chipotle restaurants in Washington State and Oregon were voluntary closed by the company. The reopening of the restaurants will be determined by the investigation into the outbreak, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told the AP.

There are no plans to close any other restaurants in other states, he added.

Typhoid Fever Cases in Colorado Linked to Restaurant

Three cases of typhoid fever in Colorado have been linked with a Qdoba Mexican Grill in Firestone, health officials say.

The illnesses occurred in August but were only confirmed in recent weeks because the bacterial infection has a long incubation period and diagnosis takes time, according to Dr. Lisa Miller of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CBS News reported.

The three patients had headaches, fevers and other symptoms, and two had to be hospitalized. All three have now recovered.

Health officials traced the source of the infection to a food handler at Qdoba. The employee had no symptoms of illness, CBS News reported.


Depression Not Cause of Robin Williams' Suicide: Widow

Depression did not lead to Robin Williams' suicide in 2014, his widow Susan Williams says in an interview with People magazine.

An autopsy revealed the actor and comedian had a devastating brain disease called Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia.

"It was not depression that killed Robin," Susan told People. "Depression was one of let's call it 50 symptoms and it was a small one."

"I've spent this last year trying to find out what killed Robin. To understand what we were fighting, what we were in the trenches fighting and one of the doctors said, 'Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it,' " she said.

In the months before his death, Williams symptoms worsened and he suffered severe anxiety attacks, muscle rigidity and other problems. But the brain disease was not diagnosed until after he died.

"This was a very unique case and I pray to God that it will shed some light on Lewy bodies for the millions of people and their loved ones who are suffering with it," Susan told People. "Because we didn't know. He didn't know."


France Lifts Ban on Blood Donations by Gay Men

Blood donations by gay men will no longer be banned in France as of next spring, Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced Wednesday.

She said the decision marked the end "of a taboo and discrimination," the Associated Press reported.

The blood donation ban will be lifted in stages so the government can study whether and how risks change, Touraine said. Lesbians were not covered by the ban.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed ending a 32-year-old policy of a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The proposal would ban blood donations from men who have had sex with men in the last year, the AP reported.

Similar policies are in effect in a number of countries, including Australia, Japan and the U.K.


Ohio Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Proposal

A ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for both recreational and medical use was rejected by Ohio voters on Tuesday.

The proposal would have allowed adults 21 and older to use, buy or grow certain amounts of marijuana, the Associated Press reported.

Many opponents were against a part of the proposal stipulating that commercially-sold marijuana would have to come from 10 authorized growing sites already spoken for. Critics said that arrangement amounted to an economic monopoly.

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and the District of Columbia, the AP reported.

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