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Health Highlights: Feb. 8, 2019

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

Walgreens Worst Pharmacy in Tobacco Sales to Minors, FDA Says

Walgreens' high rate of violations for selling tobacco products to minors has led U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb to ask for a meeting with the company to discuss the issue.

He said in a statement Thursday that he is "deeply disturbed that a single pharmacy chain racked up almost 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to minors across the country," CNN reported.

Gottlieb said he requested a meeting with Walgreen Co. to discuss whether there are company-wide violations of the restrictions on selling tobacco products to minors and warned the company that it may face "additional enforcement avenues."

The FDA is examining data on large national retail chains to identify those that have high rates of repeat violations of selling tobacco products to minors, CNN reported.

Walgreens is the leading violator among pharmacies that sell tobacco products, with 22 percent of inspected stores having illegally sold tobacco products to minors, the FDA said.

In an email, Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said the company takes this matter "very seriously," and welcomes "the opportunity to meet with the FDA Administrator," CNN reported.

Walgreens has taken a number of steps to address this issue, including now requiring "identification for anyone purchasing tobacco products regardless of age in all of our stores nationwide," Caruso said.

"In addition, we are training all of our store team members on the new requirements and strengthening disciplinary actions against store employees who violate the policy."

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Scientists May Have Made Significant Advance in Adult Gene Editing

In what may be the first successful gene editing inside the body, two patients with a rare genetic disorder now have a corrective gene at very low levels, researchers say.

Even though those low levels may not result in successful treatment of the two men, this is a significant advance in efforts to alter DNA in adults to treat diseases caused by defective genes, the Associated Press reported.

The preliminary results were presented Thursday at a conference in Orlando, Fla.

"This is a first step," said Dr. Joseph Muenzer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who helped test the treatment and presented the results. "It's just not potent enough."

He consulted for the gene therapy's California-based maker, Sangamo Therapeutics. Efforts to develop a stronger version of the treatment are underway, the AP reported.

Sangamo's research involves men with Hunter or Hurler syndrome, who are missing a gene that makes an enzyme to break down certain sugar compounds. Without this gene, sugars accumulate and damage organs, and patients often die by their teens.


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