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CVS agrees to buy insurance giant Aetna

CVS has agreed to buy Aetna in a $69 billion deal, The New York Times reported.

>> Read more trending news

The deal would combine the drugstore chain with one of the United States’ largest health insurers.

Under the terms of the deal, CVS will pay about $207 a share, the Times reported, quoting an anonymous source. Roughly $145 a share of that would be in cash, with the remainder in newly issued CVS stock.

An announcement could come later Sunday, the Times reported.

The deal would transform CVS’ 9,700 pharmacy storefronts into community medical hubs for primary care and basic procedures, The Washington Post reported.

If approved, the merger would allow CVS to provide a broad range of health services to Aetna’s 22 million medical members at its nationwide network of pharmacies and walk-in clinics, the Post reported.

“I think it will create more consolidation among the insurers and retailers, blurring the lines,” Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners, told the Post.

Mother of two dies just day after flu diagnosis

A young mother of two in Arizona died just one day after receiving a flu diagnosis, devastated family members said.

Alani Murrieta, 20, was diagnosed with the flu Monday and died Tuesday in the hospital, family members told KSAZ.

>> Read more trending news

Murrieta, the mother of a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, was healthy before the sudden illness, with no pre-existing health conditions, according to family. She first experienced symptoms Sunday, when she left work early. On Monday, she went to urgent care, where she was diagnosed with the flu and sent home with medications. She was admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning as her symptoms became more severe and she was having difficulty breathing, KSAZ reported.

At the hospital, doctors performed tests and diagnosed Murrieta with pneumonia. She was placed on a ventilator, but her heart stopped. The efforts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

While family members said Murrieta didn't get a flu shot, early results show this year's formula may not be very effective at combatting this year's flu strains.

Librarians learning to administer Narcan to stop heroin, opioid overdoses

Staff members at the New Orleans Public Library had life-saving training this week as they learned how to administer a drug that can stop a drug overdose in its tracks.

NOLA.com reported that librarians and staff on Wednesday received a lesson on naloxone, a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug that reverses an overdose of opioids, including heroin and pain medications like morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. The training was provided by the New Orleans Health Department.

>> Read more trending news

Library administrators reached out for the naloxone training as libraries and other public agencies across the country receive training on dealing with the fallout of the opioid epidemic.

“Anyone who is regularly in contact with the public should know how to use it,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, director of the Health Department, told NOLA.com.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, naloxone, which is also known by the brand name Narcan, blocks a person’s opioid receptor sites and reverses the toxic effects of the drug overdose. Naloxone can be administered through a nasal spray, by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection or through an IV injection. 

What is Narcan? 12 things to know about the drug

Naloxone is also used in the treatment of addiction. It is combined with buprenorphine to form the drug Suboxone, which is used to wean addicts off narcotics.

WGNO in New Orleans reported that the training participants included more than 50 staff members from all 14 library branches in the city, which officials say has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. The city saw 166 opioid deaths in 2016.

It was the first time in the city’s history that drug overdose deaths surpassed homicides, the news station reported. Statewide, Louisiana’s rate of opioid overdoses was above the national average. 

Training for the library staff included learning how to recognize an opiate overdose and how to administer naloxone in the form of nasal spray. Participants in the training said administering the drug was simple.

“You literally take off three colored pieces, screw something on, screw the other part and you’re ready to go,” participant Marta Siuba told WGNO.

New Orleans is not the first major city to start training its librarians to help battle the overdose crisis. Public libraries in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco have all trained their staff members to become first responders when patrons overdose. 

With the uptick in deadly opioid overdoses, there has been a spate of fatal overdoses in libraries across the nation, CNN reported in June. Libraries are often daytime places of refuge for the homeless, and they offer vital services needed by residents in poor communities. 

“We have to figure out quickly the critical steps that people have to take so we can be partners in the solution of this problem,” American Library Association president Julie Todaro told CNN

Charles Brown, executive director of the New Orleans Public Library, told WGNO that he hopes to make library space available in the future for public training in the administration of naloxone. 

“This is just a pervasive issue in our community, and the library wants to be as helpful and proactive as possible,” Brown said

Could medical marijuana help fight the opioid epidemic?

New research suggests medical cannabis may play a key role in ending the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation.

>> Read more trending news

The findings from Aclara Research, a cannabis patient and consumer insights group, come soon after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in the U.S. as an estimated 175 Americans die from opioids each day.

The study, which will be released in full in early 2018, was conducted in partnership with pharmacists active in the cannabis industry and included online surveys of more than 400 patients using prescription opioids nationwide.

» RELATED: Trump declares US opioid emergency but pledges no new money

Researchers also examined 500 pharmacists’ perceptions of medical cannabis and its role in the industry.

According to the Aclara study, the preliminary findings showed that 67 percent of the patients stopped using opioid medications after using medical cannabis.

» RELATED: Walgreens to begin selling OTC Narcan to combat opioid epidemic

And another 29 percent reported a decrease in the number of opioid medications used after starting medical cannabis.

Thirty percent of the patients said they stopped using any and all prescription drugs after using medical marijuana.

» RELATED: US gun death rate up for second straight year, drug deaths rising faster than ever

Of the 500 pharmacists surveyed, 87 percent said medical cannabis should be legalized, and 69 percent said pharmacists should dispense medical cannabis and counsel patients on medical cannabis use.

Another recent study, published in the Public Library of Science last week, found opioid users were more likely to stop usage if they had access to medical marijuana.

» RELATED: What is fentanyl? 10 things to know about the potentially deadly drug

That study involved 66 patients using opioids to treat chronic pain. Over a 21-month period, patients who used medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opioids, and patients who didn’t use cannabis on average increased their opioid use by 10 percent over that time period, according to the research. 

Research from 2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationalso found states that had legalized medical marijuana saw lower rates of fatal opioid overdoses.

Aclara researchers said they will continue to collect data and examine the results in conjunction with additional pharmacy partners. The study’s final results will be released in January 2018.

Read more about the study at aclararesearch.com.

Dog owners less likely to die of heart attacks, study suggests

Owning a dog could quite literally save your life, a new study has revealed.

>> Read more trending news

Dog owners who live alone have a 36 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those without dogs. When it comes to dog owners who live with family members, the risk decreases by 15 percent.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," Mwenya Mubanga, a study author and PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, told CNN.

» RELATED: This Texas woman’s heart literally broke when her dog died, doctors say

Published in “Scientific Reports,” the study was conducted by researchers in Sweden who examined medical and pet ownership records of 3.4 million people. Those analyzed by the study were between 40 and 80 years old. Participants were followed for up to 12 years, with around 13 percent owning pet dogs.

Researchers also noted that individuals who owned dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, saw even greater benefits. It's unclear exactly why this is, but researchers suggest that these breeds require more exercise, meaning the owner is necessarily more active and healthier.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

However, while the study clearly shows correlation between dog ownership and better heart health, it may not necessarily prove causation.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and senior author of the study, told the BBC.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health."

At the same time, previous research has also pointed to the positive health benefits of owning dogs. For example, one study showed that children with dogs at home had a 15 percent reduced risk of asthma. Authors of that study suggested this was due to the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that too clean of an environment actually increases an individual's susceptibility to allergies.

» RELATED: Sheriff: Toddler’s dog stayed with him while he was missing

In fact, the authors of the new study also said a possible reason for the positive effect of dogs on the heart may be connected to bacteria. According to the researchers, dogs actually change the dirt in their owners’ environment, meaning they may also influence their owner's bacterial microbiome. This collection of microscopic species lives in the gut and may benefit cardiovascular health.

But perhaps the biggest factor the research points to is the social aspect of owning a dog.

» RELATED: Ever wonder why dogs are so darn friendly? Science says it’s in their genes

"[Dog ownership] may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events," Dr. Rachel Bond, associate director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CNN.

And of course, dogs definitely increase an individual's overall happiness.

» RELATED: 7 dog hacks for pet parents in the city 

"As many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy," Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation told BBC.

"Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them,” she said.

» RELATED: Do people care more about suffering dogs than suffering humans?

Energy drinks pose serious and scary health risks, scientific review shows

Although energy drinks may provide the boost you need to make it through a long day, that extra push may come with far more negative side effects than you realized.

» RELATED: Coroner: Caffeine overdose from soda, coffee and energy drink led to death of S.C. teen

Mental health problems, risk-seeking behavior, increased blood pressure, obesity, tooth erosion, adverse cardiovascular effect and kidney damage are some of the many negative health consequences linked to energy drinks, a recently published review of scientific articles on the topic has revealed. Furthermore, these risks are often hidden by clever marketing and a lack of regulation.

"The negative health effects associated with energy drinks (ED) are compounded by a lack of regulatory oversight and aggressive marketing by the industry toward adolescents," authors wrote in the article published in “Frontiers in Public Health.”

» RELATED: How dangerous are energy drinks, really? Study finds link to serious heart problems

According to one of the review's coauthors, the problems associated with the drinks are so numerous, even the researchers were surprised.

"The wide range of conditions that energy drinks can negatively impact was quite astounding," study author Josiemer Mattei, assistant professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Men's Health.

Energy drinks contain excessive amounts of several key ingredients that lead to adverse effects, according to the review. The drinks' high amounts of sugar, caffeine and stimulants such as guarana all can cause a variety of negative health consequences.

» RELATED: The truth about the dangers of dietary supplements

"The excess caffeine may contribute to cardiovascular outcomes, such as increased blood pressure," Mattei told Yahoo News.

Whereas caffeine has also been linked to health benefits, a recommended daily limit is 400 milligrams for adults. Energy drinks may contain more than 200 milligrams per ounce.

» RELATED: World’s strongest coffee finally available in U.S., but beware of health risks 

Just as alarming as the high concentration of caffeine is energy drinks' high sugar content. The average 16.9 ounce energy drinks contains about 54 grams of sugar, significantly more than the recommended limit of 36 grams per day for men and 25 grams for women.

As the American Heart Association points out, "added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health."

» RELATED: Common painkillers increase risk of heart attack by one-third, new study finds 

In addition to weight gain, excessive sugar intake can lead to range of conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Over time, consistent high blood pressure may damage blood vessels and nerves, which can lead to heart disease and kidney problems. 

On top of energy drinks' own negative effect, they are often combined with alcohol, compounding the health risks. The article pointed out that this trend also appears to lead to higher levels of alcohol consumption, especially among young people.

» RELATED: Half of US adults now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines

"Researchers attribute this to the fact that consumption of ED masks the signs of alcohol inebriation, enabling an individual to believe they can still safely consume more alcohol, leading to 'awake drunkenness,'" researchers wrote. "As a result of this increased alcohol consumption, those who drink alcohol-mixed ED are more likely to experience severe dehydration and alcohol poisoning."

Despite the numerous health risks, aggressive marketing has led to rapid growth and popularity of energy drinks throughout the world. Sales have increased in the U.S. by more than 240 percent since 2004, and the industry is expected to reach $21 billion in the country by this year. As a result, the article's authors argued that more regulation and oversight is necessary to address energy drinks as a public health challenge.

» RELATED: Here’s how much caffeine it takes to kill you

"Public health and policy action must be taken to mitigate the negative health effects and public health challenges associated with ED," researches noted, outlining specific steps the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) should take to properly label energy drinks. The authors also suggested that marketing should be regulated, specifically as it targets minors.

Pointing to the growing evidence reviewed in the article, the authors argued that energy drinks "should be considered a significant public health problem that warrants attention." 

Read the full study at frontiersin.org.

Lawsuit: Woman claims Brazilian butt lift left her paralyzed

A nurse from Oklahoma is suing a plastic surgery center in Texas and her surgeon after she said a procedure has left her permanently paralyzed.

Rolanda Hutton, 44, went to the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute in January for a Brazilian butt lift, WFAA reported. What was supposed to be an outpatient procedure turned into a nightmare for Hutton.

>> Read more trending news

 

When Hutton awakened from the procedure, she couldn't feel her legs or feet. She told staff, but she says they placed her in a post-operative hotel room instead of taking her to the hospital.

The lawsuit alleges that the doctor injected too much fat into her gluteal muscles, which put pressure on her sciatic nerve. Hutton's attorney, Les Weisbord, called Hutton's condition a medical emergency. By the time Hutton was taken to the hospital, it was too late to repair the nerve damage, WFAA reported.

Doctors have told Hutton she'll never walk again.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, is asking for $5 million to cover Hutton’s future care and lost wages.

Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute referred all questions about the lawsuit to its attorney.

Heart attack sidelines president of American Heart Association during scientific conference

The president of the American Heart Association was recovering this week after suffering a minor heart attack at the organization’s scientific conference.

Dr. John Warner had the cardiac episode on Monday in Anaheim, California, and was taken to a local hospital, where doctors inserted a stent to open a clogged artery, according to a press release from the organization. His wife, son and daughter were with him as he recovered.

>> Read more trending news

Warner’s family was on-hand to see him deliver his presidential address Sunday afternoon, during which Warner, 52, talked about the toll heart disease has taken on his family. Both his father and paternal grandfather required bypass surgery in their 60s, and he lost a maternal grandfather and great-grandfather to heart disease.

He was 6 years old when his great-grandfather died suddenly, Warner said in his speech. It was the first time he was exposed to the term “heart attack,” he said. 

Heart disease continued to plague his family as he grew up and into his adulthood. 

“After my son was born and we were introducing him to his extended family, I realized something very disturbing,” Warner said, according to the release. “There were no old men on either side of my family. None. All the branches of our family tree (were) cut short by cardiovascular disease.”

He told those at the conference that many other families have had the same experience with heart disease in the U.S. and around the world.

“Together, we can make sure old men and old women are regulars at family reunions,” he said. “In other words, I look forward to a future where people have the exact opposite experience of my family, that children grow up surrounded by so many healthy, beloved, elderly relatives that they couldn’t imagine life any other way.”

Click here to learn more about heart attacks.

Following Warner’s heart attack on Monday, Nancy Brown, the chief executive officer for the AHA, said that his sudden illness highlights the organization’s message to the public.

“John wanted to reinforce that this incident underscores the important message that he left us with in his presidential address yesterday -- that much progress has been made, but much remains to be done,” Brown said

“Cardiac events can still happen anytime and anywhere.”  

Warner, a practicing cardiologist, is chief executive officer of UT Southwester University Hospitals in Dallas, the news release said. 

Can’t seem to lose weight? You may have this special gene

Are you envious of your friends who seem to eat whatever they want without gaining a pound, while a single slice of pizza causes you to gain several? Genetics may be related to the difference, according to a new report. 

» RELATED: How to lose weight: Take a break from your diet for two weeks 

Researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently conducted an experiment, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, to target mutations in a gene called ankyrin-B, which is associated with weight gain among heavier people. 

To do so, they engineered mice that had human variants of ankyrin-B. They found the mice grew quicker and faster than mice without the gene, even when getting the same amount of exercise and nutrition. 

"We call it fault-free obesity," senior author Vann Bennett said in a statement. "We believe this gene might have helped our ancestors store energy in times of famine. In current times, where food is plentiful, ankyrin-B variants could be fueling the obesity epidemic."

»RELATED: Why this diet praised by Jennifer Aniston could work for you

Why is that?

They discovered these rodents stored calories in fat tissues as opposed to the other tissues that burn the calories and use them as energy. This causes the glucose to produce even more fat, which is unusual. Normally, a special membrane works as a door to keep the glucose from spreading to other cells, but the mutation keeps the “flood gates opened.”

"We found that mice can become obese without eating more, and that there is an underlying cellular mechanism to explain that weight gain," Bennett said. "This gene could enable us to identify at-risk individuals who should watch what kind of calories they eat and exercise more in order to keep their body weight under control."

>> Read more trending news

For future studies, researchers hope to identify humans with the gene to determine how it could affect other variants of health. 

»RELATED: Lose the belly pooch: 7 do’s and don’ts to accomplish a flat stomach

Quick-thinking teachers save life of boy impaled by pencil

A Florida 8-year-old is alive because of the quick thinking of two teachers who sprang into action when he accidentally impaled himself on a freshly sharpened pencil earlier this month.

Kolston Moradi, a third-grader at Equestrian Trails Elementary School in Wellington, was waiting for his mother to pick him up from school the afternoon of Nov. 1 when he sat down with other students on the floor of the dismissal room. According to the Palm Beach County school district, the weight of his body drove a pencil in the side pocket of his backpack into his arm near the armpit.

“I didn’t really feel anything,” Kolston said in a news release on the district’s website. “But when I went to put (the pencil) in my backpack, I realized it was in me, and I pulled it out.”

Blood immediately started pouring from the wound and onto the floor. The pencil, which was driven about four inches into his body, had punctured an artery.

The frightened student went to Mandi Kapopoulos, a reading teacher who was standing nearby, and showed her his injury, school district officials said. Elizabeth Richards, the school’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) coordinator, was also nearby and ran to help.

Kapopoulos pulled her arm out of her shirt sleeve and used the sleeve as a tourniquet as Richards, who went to nursing school before becoming a teacher, ran to get gloves so she could apply pressure to Kolston’s wound.

Richards laid on the floor with the boy, applying pressure and keeping him calm as they awaited paramedics. 

“There were hundreds of other kids in the hall, but I didn’t see or hear them,” Richards told school district officials. “I just focused on Kolston. I kept telling him, ‘You’ve got this. It’s going to be OK.’”

>> Read more trending news

Meanwhile, Kolston’s mother, Annalisa Moradi, was outside, waiting her turn in the car pickup line. An administrator called her and asked her to come inside.

“When I saw the ambulance, my heart sank,” Moradi said

Carrying two of Kolston’s siblings, she hurried inside, where teachers tended to her little ones while the school’s principal, Michele Johnson, took Moradi to her son’s side, the news release said.

“At first, I didn’t understand what happened, but as soon as I walked in, I felt like the situation was under control,” Moradi said. “They were calm, and they kept me calm.”

Paramedics who responded to the scene told the mother of four just how dire the situation could have been. 

“The EMT told me that if the teachers hadn’t acted as quickly as they had, my son would be dead,” Moradi said. 

Instead, Kolston’s experience ended with two staples in his arm to close the wound. He was back at school the next day.

Since the freak accident, school administrators and teachers are reminding their charges to always keep their pencils in a pencil case. 

Johnson told district officials that the incident was a first in her career.

“I have been an educator for 28 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Johnson said

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