Reuters Health News Summary

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Phone support tied to better outcomes for dementia patients, caregivers

Dementia patients and the family members who care for them may have a better quality of life when they have access to telephone and online support, the results of a clinical trial suggest. Researchers tested the effectiveness of a program known as the Care Ecosystem, which provided patient navigators and access to nurses, social workers and pharmacists along with regular phone check-ins to caregivers of dementia patients. After one year, dementia patients in the Care Ecosystem program had better quality of life and fewer emergency room visits and their caregivers had a lower risk of depression compared to a control group that received only usual care, the study found.

Prince Harry's wife Meghan backs better access for women to higher education

Meghan, wife of Britain's Prince Harry, said on Tuesday that empowering women through education could be transformational for communities during a visit to Johannesburg University in South Africa. Meghan, who is visiting southern Africa with Harry and their four-month-old son Archie, is herself a university graduate and women's rights advocate, and she spoke of how "deeply important and meaningful" the issue of education was for her.

India defends e-cigarette ban in court with attack on Juul

The impending introduction of Juul e-cigarettes in India was a factor in the government's decision to ban the sale of vaping products, a top government lawyer said in court on Tuesday while defending the order. The government took the step last month, warning Indians of a vaping "epidemic" among young people and dashing plans of companies such as U.S.-based Juul Labs Inc and Philip Morris International to sell products in the country.

Drug companies urge appeals court to remove judge from U.S. opioid litigation

Eight drug companies on Tuesday urged a federal appeals court to disqualify the judge overseeing nationwide opioid litigation, in a last-ditch effort to avoid having him preside over a landmark trial in three weeks. The request came six days after U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland refused to himself and said he had done nothing to favor the state and local governments suing for damages, including by encouraging settlements.

U.S. government watchdog faults DEA for slow response to opioid crisis

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A U.S. government watchdog on Tuesday harshly criticized the Drug Enforcement Agency for its response to the opioid crisis, saying that amid a surge in opioid-related deaths the agency failed to use its most powerful deterrent and authorized an increase in pain pill output. A report released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, whose office is an internal government watchdog, found the DEA was "slow to respond to the dramatic increase in opioid abuse" since 2000.

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Banned in Boston: Without vaping, medical marijuana patients must adapt

In the first few days of the four-month ban on all vaping products in Massachusetts, Laura Lee Medeiros, a medical marijuana patient, began to worry. The 32-year-old massage therapist has a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from childhood trauma. To temper her unpredictable panic attacks, she relied on a vape pen and cartridges filled with the marijuana derivatives THC and CBD from state dispensaries.

Routine infant rotavirus vaccination tied to fewer hospitalizations

More than a decade after the rotavirus vaccine was added to the roster of routine shots recommended for all infants in the U.S., vaccination is still reducing hospitalizations for severe infections, researchers say. Researchers tracked hospitalizations for children under age 5 from 2009 to 2016, a period following the debut of two new rotavirus vaccines in the U.S. They found that, compared to unvaccinated kids, children who got just one dose of the rotavirus were 82% less likely to be admitted to the hospital with a rotavirus infection and 75% less likely to have an emergency department visit because of the disease.

Long drive times in rural areas may be a barrier to opioid addiction treatment

Drive times to opioid treatment programs may be as much as six times longer in rural U.S. counties compared to urban ones, researchers report. In a study that looked at drive times to opioid treatment programs in urban and rural counties in the five states with the highest rates of opioid-related deaths, researchers found that it could take nearly 50 minutes to get a clinic that could dispense methadone, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

Ohio governor calls on lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to pass a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, saying he was alarmed by a nationwide surge in a sometimes deadly lung disease linked to vaping nicotine or marijuana e-cigarettes. U.S. health officials have linked vaping to 12 deaths and 805 cases of a mysterious respiratory illness.

Emergency abdominal surgery outcomes worse for nursing home residents

Older adults living in nursing homes who need emergency abdominal surgery are more likely to die or experience serious complications than counterparts living in the community, researchers say. The study examined data on 18,326 patients who had emergency abdominal surgery from 2011 to 2015, including 905 people who lived in skilled nursing facilities.

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