Health Highlights: Dec. 6, 2015

Health Highlights: Dec. 6, 2015

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

Jimmy Carter Says Brain Scans Show No Signs of Cancer

Former President Jimmy Carter said on Sunday that brain scans have shown there are no longer any signs of the melanoma cancer that had spread to his brain.

The news comes roughly three months after he began treatment for four small tumors in his brain and had surgery to remove part of his liver. However, Carter said in a statement that he will continue to take Keytruda, a drug that helps his body recognize and fight any stray cancer cells.

“My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones,” Carter said in the statement.

Carter broke the news to a Sunday school class at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains. Ga., according to the Associated Press.

Carter, 91, first announced in August that he had been diagnosed with melanoma that spread to his brain. Along with the liver surgery, he received a round of radiation and Keytruda every three weeks, the AP reported.

Whether Carter’s medical team at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute has performed additional scans was unclear Sunday, the AP reported.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, told the wire service that doctors will often scan other parts of the body in melanoma cases, to make sure the disease has not spread.

“Circumstances may change over time or he may be in a situation where it does not recur for many years or at all,” Lichtenfeld said, adding that Carter’s medical team will most likely continue to monitor him closely.

During his treatment, Carter continued to do volunteer work, according to the AP.

“I’ve reacted well to the treatments,” Carter told the wire service in November. “I haven’t been uncomfortable or ill after the treatments were over. So that part of it has been a relief to me and I think to the doctors.”


First Generic Version of Gleevec Approved by FDA

The first generic version of the cancer drug Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency approved 100-milligram and 400-milligram pills of the generic version to treat chronic myeloid leukemia. The once-a-day pills are made by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. of India, which said U.S. sales of the pills will begin Feb. 1, 2016, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA gave Sun exclusive rights to sell generic Gleevec for six months. If the FDA approves other drug companies’ generic versions, there should be a significant drop in the cost.

Gleevec — sold by Novartis — costs about $10,000 a month for the 400-milligram daily dosage. Novartis is trying to limit the number of U.S. patients who start using the generic version by offering patients with private insurance discount cards that cap their monthly co-payment at $10, with the drug company paying up to $30,000 a year of the pharmacy tab. Insurers would have to cover the rest of the bill, the AP reported.

Patients who pay cash or those with government coverage are not eligible.


Chipotle Announces New Food Safety Measures

Food safety procedures are being overhauled at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, the company said Friday.

The changes come after at least 45 people in six states were sickened by E. coli after eating at Chipotle locations, USA Today reported.

The company said it had adopted all recommendations made by Seattle-based IEH Laboratories, which was hired to analyze Chipotle’s food safety measures.

The new procedures include: improved employee training; DNA tests of produce before it’s sent to restaurants, and additional oversight of suppliers, USA Today reported.


‘Rabbit Fever’ Cases Rise in the U.S.

There’s been a significant rise in cases of tularemia — also called rabbit fever — in the United States this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

There have been 235 cases of the rare illness so far this year, the most since 1984. The number of cases averaged about 125 a year over the last two decades, the Associated Press reported.

At least 100 of this year’s cases have been in four states: Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The bacteria that causes the illness is spread by ticks and deer flies from rabbits and other small animals to people, who can also get it from contact with dead animals or by breathing in the bacteria, the AP reported.

The reasons for this year’s high number of cases are unclear, but weather conditions that helped rodents and bacteria thrive in certain states may be a factor, according to health officials.

Tularemia is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms of the illness include sudden fever, muscle and joint pain, headache and weakness, the AP reported.


Halt Permanent Changes to Human Genes Until Risks Better Understood: Scientists

The use of gene editing to make changes to human genes that can be passed to future generations should be halted until the risks are better understood, an international group of scientists says.

At a meeting in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, the group said it would be “irresponsible to proceed” until more is known about the risks and until there was “broad societal consensus about the appropriateness” of such genetic changes, The New York Times reported.

The group also said that as more knowledge is gained, the issue of making permanent changes to human genes “should be revisited on a regular basis.”

“The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance,” conference leader David Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, said when he opened the meeting this week, The Times reported.

The meeting was organized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London.

The groups have no regulatory power, but their opinion is likely to be accepted by scientists in most or all nations, according to The Times.

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