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Health Highlights: Sept. 24, 2014

New Chantix Label Suggests Low Risk of Suicidal Behavior Replace FDA Commissioner: Anti-Addiction Groups

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

New Chantix Label Suggests Low Risk of Suicidal Behavior

There's little proof that the anti-smoking drug Chantix increases the risk of suicidal behavior, according to a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved label on the drug.

About five years ago, the FDA ordered that Chantix carry a black box warning -- the most serious type -- about the possibility of agitation, hostility, depression and suicidal behavior in patients taking the drug, the Associated Press reported.

The updated label includes data from recent studies that found little or no evidence of psychiatric problems or suicidal behavior in people taking Chantix. The update was requested by drug maker Pfizer.

Pfizer has also asked the FDA to remove the black box warning from Chantix. An FDA panel of experts will meet next month to review Chantix's risks, the AP reported.


Replace FDA Commissioner: Anti-Addiction Groups

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be replaced because the agency's policies are contributing to the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse in the country, more than a dozen anti-addiction groups said in a letter released Wednesday.

The letter addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asks her to replace FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who has held the position since 2009, the Associated Press reported.

Criticism of the FDA intensified last October when the agency ignored the advice of its own medical advisers and approved a powerful new painkiller called Zohydro. This is the first time that anti-addiction activists have called for Hamburg to be replaced.

"We are especially frustrated by the FDA's continued approval of new, dangerous, high-dose opioid analgesics that are fueling high rates of addiction and overdose deaths," states the letter signed by groups including Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, the AP reported.

Opioid abuse "is a serious issue and one that the secretary is focused on," Health and Human Services spokeswoman Tait Sye said in a statement.

"Secretary Burwell appreciates hearing from stakeholders on the important issue of prescription opioid abuse, and looks forward to responding to their letter," Sye said, the AP reported.

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