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EpiPen maker finalizes $465M settlement

Washington, D.C. — EpiPen maker Mylan agreed on Aug. 17 to pay the U.S. government $465 million to resolve claims it had mislabeled its lifesaving injection device as a generic drug—so that it wouldn’t have to pay Medicaid’s higher rebates for brand-name drugs, alleged the DOJ.


Uber sued for few NYC accessibility vehicles

New York, NY — Ridesharing pioneer Uber was sued in August by disability rights groups for allegedly violating New York City human rights laws due to having too-few accessible vehicles.


The class-action complaint accuses Uber of “pervasive and ongoing discrimination” because people in wheelchairs can use only a few dozen of its more than 58,000 vehicles in the city.


South Carolina sues drugmaker over opioids

Columbia, SC — South Carolina has become the latest state to accuse a drug manufacturer of exacerbating its opioid drug crisis by using deceptive marketing, the AP recently reported.


The suit accuses Purdue Pharma of failing to comply with a 2007 agreement it signed with South Carolina and dozens of other states over allegations of its promotion of its OxyContin.  That case had accused the company of encouraging doctors to prescribe OxyContin for unapproved uses.


Since that time, according to Attorney General Alan Wilson, the company has continued to mislead doctors about the risks of addiction, by saying that patients who appeared addicted actually needed more opioids, and that opioid drugs could be taken in even higher doses.


Measles warning for Europe travel: CDC

Washington, DC — Over 14,000 cases of measles have been reported in Europe since January 2016, according to the CDC—which recently issued travel notices for Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Romania.  Be sure you and your family have the measles vaccine before visiting those countries, the CDC says.


In other vaccine-related news, the FDA recently allowed the usage of French-made yellow fever vaccine Stamaril to fill in for the temporary unavailability of YF-VAX, the standard vaccine.


With huge implications, FDA to rule on ‘smokeless cigarettes’

Washington, DC — Over the next two months, the FDA is expected to internally decide whether to allow the IQOS “smokeless cigarette” product into the U.S. market—and issue a ruling in early 2018.


And because of the huge change in public health that IQOS could introduce, it’s a huge decision.


If IQOS is indeed far less toxic as its maker claims, IQOS is a healthier alternative to smoking.  But if IQOS is equally as toxic, or more toxic, it could introduce new generations to tobacco—and the resulting long-term public health problems.


Only one independent study has tested IQOS thus far.  Earlier this year, according to the Washington Post, Swiss academics found that “although IQOS generated many toxic chemicals at lower rates, some were much higher than Philip Morris claimed. It also found that IQOS produced 295 percent more of one hazardous compound than traditional cigarettes.”


The IQOS device consists of a tube that gently heats, not burns, tobacco in the form of insertable HeatSticks.  Maker Philip Morris, which has invested billions in IQOS and is hoping for an FDA approval, says that IQOS eradicates up to 95 percent of toxic compounds in cigarette smoke because no combustion is involved.


The FDA currently bars IQOS from sale in the United States.


Currently, IQOS is sold in 25 countries outside the U.S.  In Japan in particular, it has not only become very popular and successful, but has—according to Philip Morris—prompted 72 percent of Japan’s smokers to quit cigarettes and switch to IQOS.


Firehouse air pollution ups firefighter cancer risk

Boston, MA — When the Boston Fire Dept. approached Harvard University about young firefighters falling ill, researchers took air samples from four city fire stations, looking for tiny cancerous particles.


Airborne particles in the diesel exhaust of idling firetrucks, and particles carried from fires back to stations on firefighters’ gear, were in higher concentration in truck bays, Harvard found.


Tiny airborne particles can be inhaled into lungs, where they can lodge.  Such particles in diesel exhaust, or those released from burning trash, wood and gas, carry cancer-causing chemicals.


The study found that better exhaust ventilation, better washing of gear after fires, and better separation of living areas resulted in better firehouse air quality.


The study was published Aug. 2 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.