Health Highlights: April 13, 2016

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

New Project Aims to Speed Cancer Drug Development

Academic and drug company scientists will work together in a new project to hasten the creation of new cancer drugs that harness the immune system.

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy brings together researchers from six leading academic cancer centers, dozens of drug companies and other organizations, the Associated Press reported.

The initiative is being funded by a $250 million grant from Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president and the co-founder of the file-sharing site Napster.

The institute will create a virtual “sandbox” that will enable the sharing of findings by about 300 scientists from leading cancer centers nationwide, explained institute CEO Jeffrey Bluestone.

The researchers will focus on early research and when promising finds are made, make licensing deals with drug companies best able to develop the new drugs, the AP reported.

The institute will enroll patients at the six cancer centers in clinical trials to test the experimental drugs.

“We’ll make progress against three or four cancer types in the next several years,” Parker predicted, the AP reported.


Reser’s Recalls Macaroni, Potato and Tuna Salads

Macaroni, potato and tuna salads made by Reser’s Fine Foods of Oregon have been recalled in 29 states due to possible listeria contamination.

The recalled products all have “use by” dates from the end of April through the middle of May and also have a “#10” stamp. The salads are sold under Reser’s brand name and also other labels, CBS News reported.

No illnesses linked to the recalled salads have been reported, according to the company, CBS News reported.

Consumers should discard the recalled products or return them to stores for a refund, Reser’s said.


Coalition Calls for Changes to Hospital Patient Pain Assessments

U.S. hospital procedures and questionnaires used to manage patient pain lead to overprescribing of addictive opioid pain drugs and need to be changed, critics say.

The current system contributes to a nationwide epidemic of overdoses from prescription opioids, according to a letter sent by more than five dozen nonprofit groups and medical experts to the Joint Commission, the Associated Press reported.

The commission is a nonprofit agency that accredits U.S. hospitals. Only accredited hospitals can received payments from government plans such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The letter asks the commission to review its standards for pain management, and makes specific mention of guidelines instructing doctors to routinely ask patients to assess their pain, the AP reported.

“The Pain Management Standards foster dangerous pain control practices, the endpoint of which is often the inappropriate provision of opioids with disastrous adverse consequences for individuals, families and communities,” according to the letter co-signed by health commissioners from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Rhode Island.

In 2014, there were nearly 19,000 deaths from the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the highest number on record, the AP reported.

The coalition that sent the letter to the Joint Commission also filed a petition with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Aggressive management of pain should not be equated with quality health care as it can result in unhelpful and unsafe treatment,” according to the petition. It calls on the government to release a proposal for a new pain questionnaire for hospital patients within 90 days, the AP reported.


Back to Nature Cookies Recalled

Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies have been recalled because they may contain milk, which is not listed as an ingredient.

Some people are allergic to milk. The cookies are safe for people who do not have a milk allergy, CBS News reported.

The recall covers Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookie 12 oz., UPC 81989801103, best by dates of 10 SEP 16 and 16 SEP 16.

No illnesses have been reported, CBS News said.


Illinois Resident Dies of Bacteria Strain Linked to Wisconsin Outbreak

Illinois health officials have reported the death of person from the same strain of bacteria linked to an outbreak in Wisconsin.

The patient died after being infected with Elizabethkingia bacteria, the state’s public health department announced Tuesday. The person lived in the northern part of the state and had other health problems, the Associated Press reported.

There have been 57 confirmed cases, including 18 deaths, in Wisconsin. Michigan has had one confirmed case, which resulted in death.

Elizabethkingia bacteria is common in the environment, including soil and water, but rarely causes infections, the AP reported.

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