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Health Highlights: Sept. 3, 2014

Little Evidence of Testosterone Drugs' Benefits or Risks: FDA Perdue Halts Antibiotic Use in Hatcheries British Ebola Patient Released From Hospital CVS Halts Tobacco Sales

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

Little Evidence of Testosterone Drugs' Benefits or Risks: FDA

There is little evidence that testosterone drugs are either beneficial or pose serious health risks to men, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says in a review posted online Wednesday.

Millions of American men take the drugs, which come in various forms, including pills, patches and gels. Companies claim their products help counter low testosterone, which they link to fatigue, low libido and weight gain, the Associated Press reported.

However, the FDA review says the "the need to replace testosterone in these older men remains debatable."

There is a natural decline in testosterone levels after age 40, but it's not clear that this decrease actually results in aging-related issues such as loss of muscle and lower energy levels, the AP reported.

The FDA review was released in advance of a public meeting to discuss the benefits and risks of treatments to boost men's testosterone levels. The meeting, scheduled for Sept. 17, was announced after two federal government-funded studies found connections between testosterone treatment and heart problems in men.

Testosterone injections were first approved in the 1950s for men with abnormally low testosterone levels caused by injury or illness. However, recent marketing campaigns tout the benefits of testosterone therapy for otherwise healthy men with lower-than-normal testosterone levels, the AP reported.

The use of testosterone drugs in these men is "controversial" and "there are no reliable data on the benefit in such a population," according to the FDA review.

That's why it asked an panel of outside experts to decide whether the prescribing information on testosterone drugs should be changed to focus on a smaller group of patients.

The committee will also assess two recent studies that found higher rates of heart problems in men taking testosterone drugs. One study found that older men taking the drugs had a 30 percent higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death, while the other study concluded that testosterone therapy doubled the risk of heart attack in men 65 and older with an existing heart condition, the AP reported.

However, the FDA review noted that two other studies linked testosterone with longevity.

The expert panel will be asked whether drug companies should be required to do long-term follow-up studies to assess whether testosterone drugs increase heart risks, the AP reported.


Perdue Halts Antibiotic Use in Hatcheries

One of the largest poultry producers in the United States announced Wednesday that it was stopping the routine use of antibiotics in it hatcheries.

It's the latest step taken by Perdue over more than a decade to deal with concerns about antibiotic use. The widespread use of antibiotics in poultry and other animals raised for human consumption has been linked to increased antibiotic resistance in people.

"The hatchery was the last step we recently accomplished," company chairman Jim Perdue told The New York Times.

"We've gotten calls from different groups watching our products and asking questions about our use of antibiotics, and we thought, 'Why don't we just talk about it openly instead of just talking to one group?'"

By 2007, Perdue had stopped using human antibiotics in feed to promote growth in its poultry. However, the company will continue to give human antibiotics to poultry flocks as needed to control disease outbreaks, a Perdue official said.

Each year in the U.S., at least two million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 die from the, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency called the use of antibiotics in livestock "unnecessary" and "inappropriate."

The Food and Drug Administration is working on draft regulations to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals raised for human consumption, The Times reported.

Perdue's announcement "is a big step from the public health and consumer perspectives," Gail Hansen, senior officer for the Pew Charitable Trust's campaign on human health and industrial farming, told The Times.

"I would like to think it makes the other poultry companies look at what Perdue is doing and say 'Is this something we can follow?'" Hansen added.


British Ebola Patient Released From Hospital

A British man infected with Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa has fully recovered and been released from hospital.

William Pooley, 29, was given the experimental drug ZMapp and treated in a special isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, BBC News reported.

Pooley -- the first British person to contract the deadly virus -- was infected while working as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone. The RAF flew him back to the U.K. on Aug. 24.

"He is not infectious to anyone else now. The virus is cleared from the body, and there is no risk to the wider community in any way," said Dr. Michael Jacobs, an infectious diseases consultant at the hospital, BBC News reported.

Chemical decontamination is underway in the isolation unit where Pooley was treated, Jacobs added.


CVS Halts Tobacco Sales

As of midnight Tuesday, all CVS locations across the United States stopped selling tobacco products.

The company made the promise in February and the move is part of its program to become a health care destination with a new name: CVS Health, The New York Times reported.

CVS and other major retailers such as Walmart and Walgreens are competing to provide basic health care to customers, and eliminating tobacco products is one way that CVS hopes to attract patients.

"CVS is really trying very hard to position themselves as the winner in that marketplace," Skip Snow, a health care analyst at Forrester Research, told The Times.

"If they can be perceived as a place to go to receive health care, and buy health care products, as opposed to the place to go to buy a bottle of whiskey or get your film developed, then they can capture more of the retail medicine dollars," Snow explained.

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