Health Highlights: Feb. 12, 2018

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

Bogus Calls Are Claiming to Be From National Poison Help Hotline

Americans are being warned about unsolicited, bogus calls that claim to be from the National Poison Help Hotline.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) said it has received reports from Poison Control Centers across the country of individuals and healthcare providers receiving unsolicited calls from a caller ID badge identified as the National Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-2222, but these are not legitimate calls.

The AAPCC said the types of calls have included silence, robo-calls, aggression, and asking for money or personal information.

In some cases, the caller has identified himself as "Justin" or has been said to have a Caribbean-sounding accent. In many cases, the caller targets the elderly, suggesting that they have little time left to live, according to the AAPCC.

It said poison control centers never ask for personal information such as a social security number or credit card information and only call individuals to follow up on medical issues.

Anyone who receives this type of call should contact the National Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 and provide as much detail as possible, the AAPCC said.

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Rare Disease Gives Arizona Woman British Accent

A rare disease is the reason why an Arizona woman has woken up with different accents three times in the past seven years, doctors say.

Michele Myers has never left the United States, but about seven years ago she suddenly had an Irish accent after waking up from a headache-triggered nap, United Press International reported.

The accent lasted about a week. Three years later she woke up with an Australian accent, which also lasted about a week. In 2015, she woke up with a British accent after a severe headache and still has the accent.

Doctors say Myers has Foreign Accent Syndrome, which can occur after a stroke or other condition that affects the brain, UPI reported.

Myers suffers from a condition known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which includes rupturing blood vessels, easy bruising and joint pain.

The mother of seven says her accent changes the way she pronounces her children's names, UPI reported.

People need to take this condition seriously, Myers said.

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Opioid Maker Stops Marketing the Painkillers to Doctors

Faced with lawsuits and blame for contributing to the United States' opioid epidemic, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced that it will stop promoting its opioid painkiller drugs to doctors.

The company is slashing its sales force in half to 200, and the remaining representatives will no longer visit doctors to market Purdue's opioid products, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers," according to a company statement. "Going forward, questions and requests for information about our opioid products will be handled through direct communications with our medical affairs department."

The announcement was welcomed by Brandeis University researcher Dr. Andrew Kolodny, but, "It's pretty late in the game to have a major impact," he told the Times.

"The genie is already out of the bottle," said Kolodny, executive director and co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

"Millions of Americans are now opioid-addicted because the campaign that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers used to increase prescribing worked well. And as the prescribing went up, it led to a severe epidemic of opioid addiction," Kolodny told the Times.

Purdue faces dozens of lawsuits from U.S. cities that want to hold the company financially responsible for the opioid epidemic.

A Times investigation found that Purdue had significant evidence that its opioid pills were being illegal trafficked but often did not share it with local law enforcement agencies or halt supplies of the drugs.

It's estimated that more than 7 million Americans have abused OxyContin since it became available in the U.S. in 1996, the Times reported.

It's not clear if other opioid painkiller makers will also stop marketing the drugs to doctors, Kolodny noted.

"We would have more success in encouraging cautious prescribing if drug companies stopped promoting aggressive prescribing," he told the Times.

Another questions is whether Purdue will continue marketing opioid painkillers to doctors outside the U.S. through its international arm.

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