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Health Highlights: Oct. 25, 2017

Expert Panel Recommends New Shingles Vaccine as First-Line Treatment Rock Pioneer Fats Domino Dead at 89 FDA Head Gottlieb Urges More Treatment to Curb Opioid Abuse Epidemic Trump Administration Wants to Limit Review of Toxic Chemicals

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

Expert Panel Recommends New Shingles Vaccine as First-Line Treatment

A new shingles vaccine that provides far more protection than its predecessor received the full blessing of a U.S. government vaccine advisory panel on Wednesday.

In a close 8-7 vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that Shingrix be chosen over Zostavax as the shingles vaccine of choice in adults aged 50 and older, the Washington Post reported.

Previously, a shingles vaccine had only been recommended for those aged 60 and older.

The panel went even further, and recommended that anyone who has been vaccinated with the Zostavax vaccine be re-vaccinated with the Shingrix vaccine -- that group numbers about 20 million people, the Post reported.

In total, more than 40 million people will be affected by the new recommendations, the newspaper said.

Shingles is an extraordinarily painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. It tends to strike older adults.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had just approved Shingrix last Friday, based on a study from its maker, GlaxoSmithKline. That research found Shingrix protected about 90 percent of patients, but Zostavax only protected 50 percent of patients. Shingrix requires two shots, while Zostavax only requires one shot.

"This represents a major advance for people who want to be protected against the disease and its complications," Kathleen Dooling, a medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Post.

The CDC, which sets immunization schedules, typically accepts the recommendations of its vaccine panel. If approved by the CDC director, the new guidelines will be published as policy early next year, the newspaper said.


Rock Pioneer Fats Domino Dead at 89

Rock and roll pioneer Antoine "Fats" Domino died Wednesday at age 89.

He died peacefully at his home in New Orleans, longtime friend Eric Paulsen told WWL-TV.

Domino had retired from performing shortly after Hurricane Katrina and had been in declining health for the past few years. The singer-songwriter's last performance was in 2007 at Tipitina's club in New Orleans.

Born in New Orleans on Feb. 27, 1928, Domino in 1949 had his first in a series of hits, which included "Blueberry Hill." His songs helped lead to rock and roll in the 1950s, according to WWL-TV.


FDA Head Gottlieb Urges More Treatment to Curb Opioid Abuse Epidemic

Greater use of medication-assisted treatment is needed to combat the opioid epidemic in the United States, according to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Expanded use of medication-assisted treatment -- a combination of medicines and counseling -- could reduce overdoses and deaths, he said Wednesday during a House hearing on the opioid epidemic, the Washington Post reported.

There are three FDA-approved medicines for use in medication-assisted treatment for addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers. The three medicines are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, and all work in different ways.

In a statement last month, Gottlieb said patients who receive medication-assisted treatment cut their risk of death in half, the Post reported.

Also at the hearing Wednesday, Gottlieb said the FDA will issue new guidance to manufacturers to promote the development of new opioid addiction therapies, including ones that treat a wider range of symptoms.


Trump Administration Wants to Limit Review of Toxic Chemicals

Firefighter, construction workers and others are condemning a Trump administration plan that would remove millions of tons of asbestos, flame retardants and other toxins in buildings nationwide from a congressionally mandated Environmental Protection Agency review.

Instead of looking at chemicals already in widespread use, the Trump administration wants to restrict the review to products still being manufactured and entering the marketplace, the Associated Press reported.

The review is meant to be the first step toward creating new regulations to protect the public, lawmakers say. But ignoring products already in use defeats that purpose, critics say.

For example, the Trump administration plan would limit the review to just a few hundred tons of asbestos imported each year and ignore nearly all of the estimated 8.9 million tons of asbestos-containing products that the U.S. Geological Survey said entered the national marketplace between 1970 and 2016, the AP reported.

Asbestos fibers can pose a deadly threat when disturbed in a fire or during renovations. the fibers can lodge in the lungs and cause problems such as a form of cancer called mesothelioma.

Despite the known dangers of asbestos, a 1989 attempt to ban most asbestos products was overturned by a federal court, and it remains in widespread use in the U.S., the AP reported.

Firefighters and construction workers are at risk of harm from asbestos due to its presence in materials such as insulation, roofing and flooring tiles in tens of millions of homes.

"Hundreds of thousands of firefighters are going to be affected by this. It is by far the biggest hazard we have out there," Patrick Morrison, assistant general president for health and safety at the International Association of Fire Fighters, told the AP.

"My God, these are not just firefighters at risk. There are people that live in these structures and don't know the danger of asbestos," he added.

A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that the rate of mesothelioma is twice as high among firefighters than in the general public, the AP reported.

The EPA review was ordered last year by Congress and is also supposed to include eight other highly toxic substances, including flame retardants used in furniture and other products.

"It doesn't matter whether the dangerous substance is no longer being manufactured; if people are still being exposed, then there is still a risk," law co-author New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall Udall told the AP.

"Ignoring these circumstances would openly violate the letter and the underlying purpose of the law," he warned.

The EPA is bending to the chemical industry's wishes rather than safeguarding Americans' health, said Rep. Frank Pallone of New York, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been criticized for hiring two people who formerly worked for the American Chemistry Council, the industry's lobbying arm. They are Nancy Beck, the EPA's deputy assistant administrator for chemical safety, and Liz Bowman, the EPA's associate administrator for public affairs, the AP reported.

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