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    The World Health Organization on Monday announced Congo will start using a second experimental Ebola vaccine, as efforts to stop the deadly outbreak are stalled and Doctors Without Borders criticizes vaccination efforts to date. Since this outbreak was declared in August 2018, more than 200,000 people have received doses of a vaccine made by Merck which will continue to be used in Congo. The U.N. health agency in a statement said the second vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson, will be used from October in areas where Ebola is not actively spreading. Using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 'will ensure that we have potentially an additional tool to prevent the expansion of the outbreak,' said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Africa director. So far, more than 3,030 people have been sickened by the Ebola virus in this outbreak, the second-worst in history, and more than 1,990 have died. The question of whether the Johnson & Johnson experimental vaccine should be used was at the center of a dispute between Congo's former health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga and global health officials. Ilunga had insisted Congo would not use the vaccine because he said it wasn't sufficiently tested and would create confusion. He resigned as the health minister in July after the president replaced him as the head of Congo's Ebola response team. In his resignation letter, Ilunga criticized the 'strong pressure exercised in recent months' to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Separately, Doctors Without Borders is seeking an independent committee to oversee Ebola vaccination efforts, similar to those that have been formed internationally to respond to outbreaks of meningitis, yellow fever and cholera. The medical charity said greater transparency is needed and alleged that WHO is 'restricting the availability' of the Merck vaccine in the field. Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF, said the approximately 225,000 people vaccinated so far is 'largely insufficient' and that between 450,000 and 600,000 people should have been immunized by now. 'Not enough people are getting the vaccine because of some arbitrary rules that haven't been made clear,' Dr. Natalie Roberts, emergency coordinator for MSF, told The Associated Press. She said restricting the vaccine to people who are known contacts of Ebola cases is problematic. 'It comes down to very local control, when every morning it's someone from WHO who decides who is going to be vaccinated and how many vials to open,' she said. 'Trying to restrict eligibility for a vaccine for a disease that everybody is afraid of is just not going to work.' MSF has described WHO's strategy as 'like giving firefighters a bucket of water to put out a fire, but only allowing them to use one cup of water a day.' WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an email that the limited number of Ebola vaccines needs to be used sparingly. 'If all doses were sent to (Congo), there would be no reserves available to respond should cases emerge in any of the high-risk neighboring countries,' he said. 'That would jeopardize an effective, speedy response in those high-risk countries.' Beyond Congo, cases have been confirmed in Uganda and some health workers in Rwanda and South Sudan have been vaccinated preventively. Jasarevic said an international committee like the one called for by MSF is only used for licensed vaccines; both Ebola vaccines remain experimental and have not been approved by any regulatory agencies. 'When the vaccine is licensed, this would be an appropriate mechanism for managing supply of the vaccine,' he said. Roberts said the number of people vaccinated so far is ultimately a damning assessment of response efforts. 'If you had said at the beginning of the outbreak that we were going to vaccinate this many people, you would assume the outbreak would be over by now,' she said. 'But clearly the right people were not vaccinated.
  • Victims of a diabetes drug suspected in hundreds of deaths pleaded for justice as a massive trial involving more than 4,000 plaintiffs opened Monday for French pharmaceutical giant Servier Laboratoires and France's medicines watchdog. The company and the oversight body stand accused of involuntary manslaughter, fraud and other charges in their handling of the drug Mediator. 'My life is just not the same,' said Paquita Guardiola, who suffered severe health complications requiring a heart transplant after taking the drug. 'Now it's hard for me to even get dressed. My children dress me, my husband dresses me. He helps me in the shower, he does everything.' Although marketed as a diabetes drug, Mediator was also prescribed as a hunger suppressant and was taken by millions of people before sales were suspended in France in 2009. A 2010 study said Mediator was suspected in 1,000-2,000 deaths, with doctors linking it to heart and lung problems. The closely watched trial that opened in Paris is expected to last six months and is one of France's biggest in years. The trial dossier runs to nearly 700 pages — with around 300 pages taken up by plaintiffs' names. The trial was spread across five rooms, connected by video-link, at the Paris courthouse. Nearly 400 lawyers were working on the case. Guardiola, who has already received compensation from Servier, will testify as a witness. She said the drugmaker 'ruined my life.' Irène Frachon, a lung specialist who was among the first in France to sound the alarm about Mediator, said the scandal could not be simply brushed aside. 'You can't 'Put it behind you' when 2,000 people died,' she said. 'I'm really counting on this criminal case to put an end to this collective blindness to white collar crimes, especially with regards to what I call pharma-criminality.' She added: 'Whatever the financial stakes, there are red lines that need to be redrawn and that's why this trial is crucial.' Investigating magistrates concluded that Servier for decades covered up Mediator's harmful effects on patients. The national medicines agency is suspected of colluding in masking its dangers. François de Castro, a lawyer for Servier, said the pharmaceutical firm wasn't aware of risks associated with Mediator before 2009 — 33 years after it first went on sale. Speaking at the courthouse, the president of Servier, Olivier Laureau, expressed 'our deepest and sincerest regrets' to 'the patients who have suffered from Mediator' and 'to their families who have gone through a tragedy.' Servier is being tried on charges of manslaughter, unintentional harm, fraud and deceit about the chemical makeup of Mediator and the risks of taking it. France's medicines agency, meanwhile reformed and renamed, is also accused of manslaughter by negligence and causing unintentional harm. Also on trial are 12 representatives of the pharma giant and the medicines agency. 'This trial is a victory for the victims,' said Dominique-Michel Courtois, head of a Mediator victims group. He said they want answers on how Servier obtained a license to market the drug and how it 'hoodwinked the authorities.' Headquartered in a suburb of Paris, Servier employs 22,000 people worldwide and generated 4.1 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in turnover last year.
  • Britain's prime minister has promised to tell U.S. President Donald Trump that any notion of American firms buying parts of the U.K.'s beloved, state-funded health service will be off the table in future trade negotiations, and that the United States will have to open its markets to British goods if it wants to make a deal. Boris Johnson said he would draw his red lines for the protectionist president when the two leaders meet this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Johnson arrived at the global gathering on Monday with a balancing act to effect. He's trying to persuade European Union leaders to strike an elusive divorce deal with Britain, while also laying the groundwork for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States — seen by the government as one of the main prizes of Brexit. The Conservative prime minister is keen to forge a strong relationship with the Republican president, who has called the British leader 'a really good man.' But Johnson told reporters flying with him to New York that he would tell Trump 'that when we do a free trade deal, we must take sure that the (National Health Service) is not on the table, that we do not in any way prejudice or jeopardize our standards on animal welfare and food hygiene in the course of that deal, and that we open up American markets.' Opponents of Brexit fear the NHS — an overstretched but much-loved institution founded in 1948 to provide free health care to all Britons — will be opened to private U.S. firms as part of trade negotiations. They also have suggested Britain may have to accept chlorine-washed chicken, a U.S. poultry industry practice that is banned in the European Union. Johnson is likely to be dogged by Britain's divisive — and stalled — departure from the EU throughout his three-day trip to the U.N.'s annual gathering of world leaders. More than three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, the departure date has been postponed twice, and the U.K. Parliament has repeatedly rejected the only divorce deal offered. The country is facing a chaotic exit on Oct. 31 unless Johnson's government can, against the odds, secure a new agreement — or arrange another delay, something Johnson vows he will not do. The British leader is seeking to persuade a skeptical European Union to give Britain a new divorce deal before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31. At the U.N. he was holding a series of meetings with EU leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Johnson said he didn't think there would be a 'New York breakthrough,' but he was encouraged by the progress talks had made since he took office less than two months ago. He replaced Theresa May, who resigned in failure after her EU withdrawal agreement was rejected three times by Parliament. 'If you think about when I first became prime minister, everybody was saying there's absolutely no chance whatever of changing the existing agreement,' he said. 'And I think nobody's saying that (now).' 'I think a large number of the important partners really do want a deal,' he said. But many leaders of the 28-nation bloc mistrust Johnson, a brash Brexit champion who played a big role in persuading British voters in 2016 to opt to leave the EU. And they say Britain has not come up with proposals for maintaining an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland — the key sticking point in the dispute. An open border underpins both the local economy and the peace process that ended years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Monday that 'based on current UK thinking, it is difficult to see how we can arrive at a legally operative solution.' The U.K. says the border can be kept free of customs posts and other obstacles through a mix of as-yet unproven technology and an all-Ireland zone for animals and agricultural products. 'What we are working for is a solution that enables the U.K. and the EU to respect the principles of the (EU) single market ... to allow an open border in Northern Ireland; to respect the achievements of the Northern Irish peace process; but also to allow the whole of the U.K. to come out of the EU,' Johnson said. 'And there is a way to do that. I think colleagues around the table in Brussels can see how we might do that. All it will take is a political will to get there.' Johnson is also facing claims that during his tenure as mayor of London between 2008 and 2016, he gave public money and places on overseas U.K. trade trips to a close friend running a startup business. He refused to comment to reporters when asked repeatedly about the allegations, first reported in the Sunday Times newspaper. The British government is also bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on whether Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament for five weeks ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. Johnson says the suspension was a routine measure to prepare for a new session of Parliament. Opponents claim he acted illegally to stop lawmakers from interfering with his plan to leave the EU, with or without a Brexit deal. The 11 justices say they will rule Tuesday morning. A ruling that the suspension was illegal would be a huge blow to Johnson's authority and could see lawmakers recalled to Parliament immediately. ___ AP journalist Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed. ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • Several thousand people took to the streets across northwest Russia on Sunday to protest a controversial plan to build a major waste plant there. Police in the regional capital of Arkhangelsk said that about 1,000 people attended a rally there while local media reported that more than 2,000 protesters showed up. Locals held Russian flags and placards saying, 'Let's stand for the Russian north.' Protesters also rallied against the dump in more than a dozen towns. Russian media reported that three activists were detained at the Arkhangelsk rally on charges related to their participation in unsanctioned rallies earlier this year. The outcry against plans for the waste plant in a pristine Russian forest gained national prominence earlier this year after the regional government agreed to process and bury some of Moscow's waste at a new site at a remote railroad station. Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked local officials to heed public concerns but the construction project has not been shelved.
  • The World Health Organization has issued an unusual statement raising questions about whether Tanzania is covering up possible cases of the deadly Ebola virus, a significant cause for concern during a regional outbreak that has been declared a rare global health emergency. The statement Saturday says Tanzania's government 'despite several requests' is refusing to share the results of its investigations into a number of patients with Ebola-like symptoms and is refusing to ship patient samples to an outside WHO partner lab. Tanzania's government, which has said it has no Ebola cases, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday. The cases would be the first-ever Ebola infections confirmed in the East African country. The United Nations health agency says it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, of a patient suspected to have Ebola. A day later, it received unofficial reports that an Ebola test had come back positive. On Thursday, it received unofficial reports that a contact of the patient, who had traveled widely in the country, was sick and hospitalized. A rapid response is crucial in containing Ebola, which can be fatal in up to 90% of cases and is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms or with contaminated objects. The WHO statement said the lack of information from Tanzania made it difficult to assess potential risks. The Ebola outbreak based in neighboring Congo has infected over 3,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 of them. A few cases have been confirmed in neighboring Uganda as well, and other neighboring countries have been preparing for the outbreak's possible spread. This is not the first time health officials have raised serious questions about the suspected Tanzania cases. On Monday, the U.S. health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, told reporters in Uganda that he and others were 'very concerned about the lack of transparency' in Tanzania. Critics have shown increasing alarm as Tanzanian President John Magufuli's government has restricted access to key information and cracked down on perceived dissent. Lawmakers recently approved an amendment to a statistics law to make it a crime to distribute information not sanctioned by the government or which contradicts the government. The World Bank was among those expressing concern at that amendment. ___ Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • Registered nurses staged a one-day strike against Tenet Health hospitals in Florida, California and Arizona on Friday, demanding better working conditions and higher wages as the nation's labor movement has begun flexing muscles weakened by decades of declining membership amid business and government attacks. About 6,500 National Nurses United members walked out at 12 Tenet facilities after working toward a first contract for a year in Arizona and under expired contracts in California and Florida, the union said. They plan to resume working Saturday. Members passed out leaflets in Texas, where contracts at two Tenet hospitals in El Paso expire later this year. The Tenet walkout is one of several strikes and organizing efforts nationwide as unions work to rebuild from a steep membership decline that began 50 years ago. Many are focusing on white-collar, female-dominated and service-sector industries such as health care, teaching and the media, not just blue-collar, male-dominated industries like manufacturing, where the United Auto Workers is striking against General Motors. A recent Gallup poll showed Americans support unions by 2-to-1, up from a near split 10 years ago and nearly the highest level since the 1960s. About 30 nurses picketed outside Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, Florida, during intermittent rain Friday. They waved red flags with a white N and carried signs with such slogans as 'Happy RNs = Healthy Patients.' Yajaira Roman, a union leader and neurological intensive care nurse at Palmetto, said while Tenet nurses want higher wages — the company is offering raises of about $12 a week at Palmetto — they particularly want a lower patient-to-nurse ratio to avoid burnout and improve care. 'We are really proud of what we do and we're happy that we're serving the community, but we want to do it in a way where when patients leave the hospital they are extremely satisfied,' Roman said. In Tucson, Arizona, Fawn Slade said she and her colleagues want Tenet to work on nurse retention and lessen their workload so patients get optimal care. 'It's more important that our community recognizes that the nurses are here advocating for their safety,' Slade said. Tenet, which has 65 hospitals and 115,000 employees nationwide, said it has negotiated in 'good faith' and it is disappointed the union chose to strike. 'While we respect the nurses' right to strike, patients and their loved ones can be assured that our patients will continue to be cared for by qualified replacement registered nurses,' the Dallas-based company's statement said. According to the U.S. Labor Department, almost 3 million registered nurses are employed nationally, with an average annual salary of $75,510. Florida's average RN salary is $66,210, Arizona's is $77,000 and California's is $106,950, tops in the nation. Union membership has plummeted in the U.S. since the 1970s. About 10% of American workers are unionized today and only 7% in the private sector, down steeply from 40 years ago when a third of workers were represented, as jobs shifted from manufacturing to the service sector. When adjusted for inflation, the average American's wage has remained stagnant during those decades, according to the Pew Research Center. Government actions have also hurt unions. With support from business groups, Wisconsin and Michigan, both states with strong union histories, adopted 'right to work' laws this decade that prevent private-sector companies and unions from requiring employees to pay union dues or fees. Twenty-seven states , including Texas, Florida and Arizona, have such laws. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last year that government workers nationwide can't be forced to contribute to the unions that represent them in collective bargaining. Jeffrey Hirsch, a University of North Carolina law professor who specializes in labor issues, said such losses may spur unions to be more aggressive, but it also helps that unemployment is low. That makes workers more confident that a strike won't cost them their jobs. 'If the job market is better, they have more leverage because they aren't as easy to replace,' he said. Almost 50,000 General Motors workers went on strike this week as the UAW demands higher wages. It's the first U.S. auto industry work stoppage in a decade. In health care, 80,000 Kaiser Permanente workers plan a one-week strike next month to protest the hospital chain's wages and labor practices. Organizers say it might be the biggest U.S. walkout since 185,000 Teamsters struck United Parcel Service in 1997. Teachers walked out in several states over the last few years demanding higher salaries and more school funding, including in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and West Virginia. Unions have also organized at several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, and at websites such as BuzzFeed, Slate, HuffPost and Fusion. Mary Anne Trasciatti, chair of Hofstra University's labor studies program, believes unions will experience a growth period because of their improving public support, particularly among younger workers. She said people are realizing the manufacturing jobs of the 1950s and 1960s paid well because they were unionized. 'You've got people who are really struggling who are saying, 'Look our 'leaders' and our 'status quo' is not serving our needs' and they are pushing back,' she said. __ AP writer Astrid Galvan in Phoenix contributed to this report.
  • Walmart is getting out of the vaping business. The nation's largest retailer said Friday that it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam's Clubs in the U.S. when it sells out its current inventory. The nation's largest retailer said the move is due to 'growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity' regarding vaping products. It also comes after several hundred people have mysteriously fallen ill after vaping, and eight have died. Walmart's decision is the latest blow to the vaping industry, which has tried to position its products as healthier alternatives to smoking cigarettes, which are responsible for 480,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the industry has come under increased scrutiny after the deaths and illnesses — along with a surge in underage vaping. President Donald Trump has proposed a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products. Michigan banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes this week. In June, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes. The bulk of e-cigarettes are sold through vape shops, which number about 115,000 nationwide, with additional outlets including drug stores, grocery stores and tobacco outlets, industry experts say. E-cigarettes represent a very small part of Walmart's nicotine business, which also includes traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and nicotine gum, so the impact on the retailer will be small. But, it will be difficult for vaping companies to replace that access to shoppers given Walmart's size, said Greg Portell, global lead partner in the consumer and retail practice of A.T. Kearney, a strategy and management consulting firm. Walmart operates more than 5,000 stores under its namesake and Sam's Club in the U.S. 'Walmart's size and scale makes their decisions about what products to carry meaningful for the impacted products,' Portell said. 'Vaping companies will be especially challenged given the lack of direct consumer access.' The Vapor Technology Association, a trade group, was quick to slam Walmart's move against vaping products while keeping cigarettes on its shelves. 'The fact that Walmart is reducing access for adult smokers to regulated vapor products while continuing to sell combustible cigarettes is irresponsible,' Tony Abboud, executive director of the association, said in a statement. 'This will drive former adult smokers to purchase more cigarettes.' More than 500 people have been diagnosed with breathing illnesses after using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, according to U.S. health officials. An eighth death was reported this week. But health officials still have not identified the cause. In July, Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including all e-cigarettes, to 21. It also said then that it was in the process of discontinuing the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems. The moves come as Walmart is trying to become a better corporate citizen. It has adopted measures to become more environmentally friendly. It thrust itself in the country's gun control debate after a mass shooting at one of its stores killed 22 customers in August. Earlier this month it decided to discontinue sales of certain gun ammunition and requested customers no longer openly carry firearms in its stores, even where state laws allow it. 'Increasingly, consumer companies are blurring the line between business and social decisions,' Portell added. 'As the risks associated with new categories like vaping become more well known, we would expect retailers to make decisions on what role they want to play in those risks.' Target says it doesn't sell electronic cigarettes. CVS Health got out of the cigarette business five years ago, and says it doesn't sell any vaping devices. ___ Follow Anne D'Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio
  • What makes Impossible burgers possible? An engineered ingredient that makes the veggie patty look bloody — and one of many new concoctions food regulators expect to see more of in the coming years. Several new vegetarian products are competing to win over meat lovers, but two California companies — Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat — are grabbing attention for patties that are red before they're cooked, making them resemble raw beef. The ingredient Impossible uses hadn't been sold before, and regulators and the company disagreed about whether its purpose was to add color, or just flavor. The company's cooked burgers have been in restaurants since 2016, but it wasn't until July that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the OK that let Impossible sell its red, uncooked 'beef' in grocery stores. This week, Impossible announced its first retail locations, grocery stores in Southern California. WHAT'S THE INGREDIENT? To replicate the taste of beef, Impossible Foods said it scanned plants for molecules that would mimic a protein in meat that contains iron and makes blood red. It eventually settled on something called soy leghemoglobin, found in the root of soy plants. To make it, Impossible inserts synthetic versions of sections of soy DNA into yeast so the yeast produce soy leghemoglobin during fermentation. 'No plant is actually touched in the process of us making this protein,' said Smita Shankar, a biochemist with Impossible Foods. The ingredient is supposed to be no more than 0.8% of the patty. DO NEW INGREDIENTS HAVE TO BE APPROVED? For many ingredients, companies don't have to get FDA approval before putting them in food. Companies and the scientific experts they hire can independently declare ingredients to be 'generally recognized as safe,' or GRAS. They don't have to tell regulators, but often do to generate confidence among investors and the public. The FDA doesn't technically approve a company's GRAS declaration, but will issue a letter saying it has 'no questions,' which is seen as agreement. Impossible says soy leghemoglobin had 'self-declared GRAS status' since 2014 when a panel of experts it convened declared the ingredient safe. The company also later submitted a GRAS notification to the FDA that received a 'no questions ' response last year. MORE INGREDIENTS COMING They don't usually get much attention, but companies are constantly developing new flavors, sweeteners and other ingredients. As startups try to change the way food is made, including by replicating meat and eggs without animals, the regulators expect innovation to accelerate. The FDA notes companies are responsible for ensuring the safety of their food and that it has the power to determine a substance is not safe. Still, groups including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Environmental Defense Fund have criticized the system that lets companies make their own safety determinations. A lawsuit by advocacy groups challenging the system is ongoing. IS 'BLOODY' A LOOK OR A TASTE? Unlike some other ingredients, new color additives have to be approved to be used in food. That led to a quibble between Impossible and regulators. Impossible Foods has said the sole purpose of soy leghemoglobin is flavor. But the FDA noted the company's own website said the ingredient contributes to the patties' meat-like color. Impossible responded by removing such language, emails show. The FDA still said soy leghemoglobin would need to be approved as a color additive for the uncooked meat substitute to be sold in supermarkets, since the red color would be part of the appeal. The dispute was resolved after Impossible filed paperwork to get the ingredient approved as a color additive. The FDA approved that in July. Beyond Meat's patties, which have already been available in supermarkets, get their color from beet juice extract and their meaty taste from 'natural flavors.' Companies don't have to specify what's in them, but natural and artificial flavors are common in packaged foods. Natural flavors are also part of Impossible's recipe. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • More than 500 people have been diagnosed with vaping-related breathing illnesses, but the cause remains unknown, U.S. health officials said Thursday. An eighth death was also reported. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration revealed that its criminal investigations unit started tracking leads early on, as cases pointed to black market vaping products. The agency's tobacco director, Mitch Zeller, stressed that it is not interested in prosecuting individuals who use illegal products but is lending a hand because of the unit's 'special skills.' The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 530 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory, up from 380 a week ago. Missouri joined the list later Thursday, announcing the death this week of a man in his mid-40s at a St. Louis hospital. Canada reported its first case Wednesday, a high school student who was on life support and has since recovered. All patients had used an electronic cigarette or other vaping device. Doctors have said the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, no single vaping product or ingredient has been linked to the illnesses, though most patients reported vaping THC, the high-producing ingredient in marijuana. The man who died in Missouri told his family he started vaping in May for chronic pain, but investigators have not yet determined if he was vaping THC, according to a spokeswoman at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. Two-thirds of the cases involved 18- to 34-year-olds. Three-quarters are men. Some of the first cases appeared in April. CDC hasn't said when most people got sick. A congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing on the outbreaks on Tuesday. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The U.S. government will spend $3 million to find out if marijuana can relieve pain, but none of the money will be used to study the part of the plant that gets people high. Nine research grants announced Thursday are for work on CBD, the trendy ingredient showing up in cosmetics and foods, and hundreds of less familiar chemicals. THC research was excluded. The federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug, but more than 30 states allow it use for a range of medical problems, some without good evidence. The science is strongest for chronic pain, the most common reason people give when they enroll in state-approved medical marijuana programs. But little is known about which parts of marijuana are helpful and whether the intoxicating effects of THC can be avoided. 'The science is lagging behind the public use and interest. We're doing our best to catch up here,' said Dr. David Shurtleff, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is funding the projects. THC has been investigated extensively, Shurtleff said, and its potential for addiction and abuse make it unsuitable for treating pain. Other federal agencies have supported marijuana research, but much of the focus has been on potential harms. Shurtleff said the grants answer the call in a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, which concluded a lack of marijuana research poses a public health risk. Another driver is the nation's opioid addiction crisis, with its roots in overuse of prescription painkillers. The crisis has sparked new scientific interest in marijuana's pain-easing properties. Dr. Judith Hellman, a grant recipient from University of California San Francisco, said scientists need to better understand pain and to find more ways to treat it. 'It's very exciting to have the opportunity to do that,' she said. Hellman's research involves the body's ability to produce signaling molecules similar to marijuana's ingredients. Her and Dr. Mark Schumacher's work involves human immune cells in the lab, then tests on mice. Human test subjects will be involved in only one of the grant projects. University of Utah researcher Deborah Yurgelun-Todd will scan the brains of human volunteers with lower back pain to see how CBD extract — mixed with chocolate pudding — affects pain-signaling pathways. Half the volunteers will get pudding without CBD as a control group. Two more human studies may be funded in a second round of grant awards, NCCIH said. In July, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said it would grow 2,000 kilograms (4,409 pounds) of marijuana this year at the University of Mississippi, which holds the sole federal contract for producing research cannabis. Those plants won't be used in many of the new projects, which instead will use lab-made versions of the chemicals. Researchers in Illinois hope to create a library of useful compounds found in cannabis plants. 'We make them from scratch and test them one by one,' said David Sarlah of the University of Illinois. Marijuana contains such tiny amounts of the interesting ingredients that it's too costly and time consuming to isolate enough for research, Sarlah said. Sarlah, an organic chemist, will make the chemicals. His colleague Aditi Das will run tests to see how they react with mouse immune cells. 'There are so many beneficial effects that patients report. We need to know the science behind it,' Das said. ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson on Twitter: @CarlaKJohnson ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.