Day: September 24, 2021

CDC director denies defying agency panel over COVID-19 booster recommendations

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky denied overruling an agency advisory committee that had reportedly refused to endorse Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots during a White House briefing Friday afternoon.
“I want to be very clear that I did not overrule an advisory committee,” Walensky said while speaking in a briefing alongside President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
Walensky noted that she had listened intently to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee as well as to the “exceptional group of scientists” who had deliberated for an hour over very difficult questions and “where the science was.”
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“I listened to the comments on the votes and this was a scientific close call,” she said. “And, I think you could tell by the duration of the meeting and the discussions that this was a scientific close call.”
In that situation, Walensky said, it was her call to make.
“If I had been in the room, I would have voted ‘yes,’ and that was … how my recommendations came out after listening to all of their scientific deliberations. To the extent that people are concerned about confidence, I would say they should listen to the deliberations themselves. We did it publicly, we did it transparently and we did it with some of the best scientists in the country,” she added.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
On Thursday, the CDC endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans, including President Biden, who joked Friday that it was “hard to acknowledge” he was over 65 years old.
“All kidding aside, I’ll be getting my booster shot as soon as I can get it done,” Biden told reporters from the White House.
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Those eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech boosters starting on Friday include people 65 years or older, adults 18 or older with underlying health conditions and those who are at increased risk of exposure, including people in prisons, grocery store workers, health care workers and teachers.
With health care systems once again at maximum capacity, Walensky said it was her job to recognize where actions can have the greatest impact and that the booster recommendations were made with the “intention to do the greatest good, even in an uncertain environment.”
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She said that she must do what she can to preserve the health of the country, and Murthy assured that the health of recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines matters “just as much as other vaccine recipients” with the goal of making booster recommendations for them a high priority in coming weeks.
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths spike in US, study shows

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Methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths nearly tripled from 2015 to 2019 in the United States, according to a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study.
The deaths involving the stimulant sharply rose during that time among people ages 18 to 64, the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported. The agency said that patterns of methamphetamine use have become riskier and diversified across the nation's population.
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While the number of people who reported using methamphetamine during this time did not increase as steeply, the analysis found that populations with methamphetamine use disorder have become more diverse.
In addition, the study – published in JAMA Psychiatry – suggests that increases in higher-risk patterns of methamphetamine use – including increases in methamphetamine use disorder, frequent use and the use of other drugs at the same time – may be contributing to the rise in overdose deaths.
Last year, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that more than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, which the NIH said marked the largest one-year increase in overdose deaths ever recorded.
The surge, NIH said, has largely been driven by rising overdoses involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and overdose deaths involving psychostimulants like methamphetamine have also risen sharply in recent years. Many of those deaths involved the use of an opioid at the same time.
“In addition to heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine are becoming more dangerous due to contamination with highly potent fentanyl, and increases in higher risk use patterns such as multiple substance use and regular use,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.
The study's authors analyzed data on overdose deaths involving psychostimulants other than cocaine sourced from cause of death files in the National Vital Statistics System from 2015 to 2019 and assessed the methamphetamine use patterns of American adults ages 18 to 64 as reported by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
From 2015 to 2019, the number of overdose deaths involving psychostimulant drugs other than cocaine – largely methamphetamine – rose by 180%, from 5,526 to 15,489, according to the data.
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The number of people who reported using methamphetamine increased by 43% over the same period.
The institute said its researchers also noted shifts in the populations using methamphetamine from 2015 to 2019, with American Indians and Alaska Natives with the highest prevalence of methamphetamine, as well as methamphetamine use disorder and methamphetamine injection.
“Public health approaches must be tailored to address methamphetamine use across the diverse communities at risk, and particularly for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, who have the highest risk for methamphetamine misuse and are too often underserved,” Volkow said.
Previous studies found that American Indians and Alaska Natives also had the greatest increases in methamphetamine overdose deaths in recent years.
VideoHistorically, methamphetamine has been most commonly used by middle-aged White people, the NIH said.
Furthermore, the analysis found that the prevalence of methamphetamine use disorder among those who did not inject the drug increased tenfold among Black people from 2015 to 2019 and that methamphetamine use disorder without injection quadrupled in young adults ages 18 to 23.
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The CDC says that nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose in the U.S.

Common painkiller acetaminophen could alter fetal development, researchers warn

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A group of researchers is calling for greater caution in the use of paracetamol during pregnancy.
Paracetamol, commonly known as acetaminophen or APAP, is the most common drug ingredient in America, according to The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition.
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The organization notes that it is the active ingredient in more than 600 pain-relieving medications, including Tylenol.
Acetaminophen, an external analgesic, works as a pain reliever for mild to moderate pain and as a fever reducer.
However, in a new study and consensus statement published Thursday in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology, an international group of experts urged precautionary action through focused research efforts and by raising awareness.
“A new Consensus Statement summarizes human epidemiological studies and experimental research in cells and animal models, which suggest that APAP exposure during pregnancy can alter fetal development and might increase the risk of certain neurodevelopmental, reproductive and urogenital disorders. The authors make several recommendations around minimizing exposure to APAP during pregnancy and increasing awareness, and present a call for focused research,” the statement began.
However, Nature noted both that paracetamol is widely considered to be the safest option for relief of pain and fever in pregnancy and that the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence states that APAP use during pregnancy is not thought to be harmful. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) advises that APAP can be used during pregnancy at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible frequency, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and EMA say studies investigating a possible connection between APAP use in pregnancy and disorders in offspring were inconclusive.
The researchers pointed out that the management of chronic pain associated with pregnancy has been understudied, arguing that a balance must be struck between “potential harm to pregnant people and/or their fetuses from untreated pain and fever and the increased risks of harm to the fetus from medications.”
“As such, the recommendations by Bauer and colleagues advise that pregnant people should only use APAP if medically indicated, that they should consult with their physician or pharmacist if they are uncertain about APAP use and that they should use the lowest effective APAP dose for the shortest possible time. These recommendations might not substantially differ from current advice in some countries,” the statement carried on. “However, the authors believe APAP-specific risk communication is needed between health professionals and pregnant people owing to prevalent APAP use and a widespread perception of negligible risk.”
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In the study, “Paracetamol use during pregnancy — a call for precautionary action,” the scientists, clinicians and epidemiologists summarized evidence for concerns about the alternation of fetal development and increased risk of certain disorders by conducting reviews of animal- and human epidemiological-based research spanning more than two decades.
They used only studies that investigated APAP as an independent exposure, searching experimental and epidemiological literature in English available on PubMed, including systematic reviews using the search terms “acetaminophen” or “paracetamol,” “endocrine,” “reproduction,” “urogenital,” “neurodevelopment,” “attention deficit disorder,” “autism spectrum disorder,” “hypospadias,” “anogenital distance” and “cryptorchidism.”
In human observational studies, conclusions suggested that prenatal APAP exposure might be associated with both reproductive and neurobehavioral ab..

Exercise and weight loss: Why working out may not help as much as you think

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A new study of how physical activity impacts the metabolism of humans suggests that increasing levels of activity may bring diminishing returns in energy expenditure.
This is due to “compensatory responses in non-activity energy expenditures,” international researchers wrote in the study, published in August in the journal Current Biology.
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For every 100 calories burned as a result of working out, the study says most people will net fewer than 72 calories burned.
“This suggestion has profound implications for both the evolution of metabolism and human health. It implies that a long-term increase in activity does not directly translate into an increase in total energy expenditure (TEE) because other components of TEE may decrease in response – energy compensation,” the study summary notes.
The group found that for 1,754 adults living “normal lives,” energy compensation averages 28% due to reduced basal energy expenditure (BEE) and that “this suggests that only 72% of the extra calories we burn from additional activity translates into extra calories burned that day.”
A young woman runs on a bridge. (Credit: iStock)
BEE is how many calories are burned simply by being alive.
The researchers subtracted numbers from TEE to understand energy expenditure from exercise and other movement and used statistical modeling to draw these conclusions.
In addition, the degree of energy compensation for different body compositions varied considerably.
The reason, the study suggests, could be due to among-individual differences in calorie compensation, with people who compensate more being more likely to accumulate body fat.
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Alternatively, the researchers said, the process might be within individuals – bodies compensating more strongly for calories burned during activity and making weight loss more difficult.
“Determining the causality of the relationship between energy compensation and adiposity will be key to improving public health strategies regarding obesity,” the study states.
Notably, the study did not examine food intake.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that adult obesity prevalence in the U.S. was 42.4% in 2017 to 2018.
VideoObesity also impacts some groups more than others, with non-Hispanic Black adults with the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity followed by Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic White adults.
Another study published this month in iScience points to increased physical activity and improvements in fitness levels as key to reducing the risk of obesity-related health conditions and mortality – even with the absence of weight loss.
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“We propose a weight-neutral strategy for obesity treatment on the following grounds: (1) the mortality risk associated with obesity is largely attenuated or eliminated by moderate-to-high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) or physical activity (PA), (2) most cardiometabolic risk markers associated with obesity can be improved with exercise training independent of weight loss and by a magnitude similar to that observed with weight-loss programs, (3) weight loss, even if intentional, is not consistently associated with lower mortality risk, (4) increases in CRF or PA are consistently associated with greater reductions in mortality risk than is intentional weight loss, and (5) weight cycling is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes including increased mortality,” the University of Arizona and University of Virginia authors wrote.
“Adherence to PA may improve if health care professionals consider PA and CRF as essential vital signs and consistently emphasize to their patients the myriad benefits of PA and CRF in the absence of weight loss,” they said.