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Health Highlights: April 16, 2019

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

Only Half of Patients Taking Statins Reach Cholesterol Targets: Study

Just half of patients who take statins to prevent heart disease achieved their cholesterol reduction goals, a new study finds.

It included more than 165,000 people in the U.K. who had not been treated for heart disease or stroke and were prescribed a statin between 1990 and 2016, CNN reported.

An "appropriate" response to statin therapy was defined as a 40 percent or more decline in "bad" LDL cholesterol.

After two years of taking the drugs, only 48.8 percent of the patients reached that target, according to the study published Monday in the journal Heart.

The researchers also found that patients who did not have adequate declines in their LDL cholesterol levels were 22 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those who did meet their cholesterol reduction goals.

Just over one-third of all American adults, 78 million, take statins or are eligible to take them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of Americans on statins who don't achieve cholesterol reduction goals is likely similar to the British findings, said Dr. David Fischman, co-director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

"Taking care of patients, treating them with statins, is a job. It's a lot of work. It's not easy. It's a time commitment to get it right," he told CNN. "When you start someone on a cholesterol medication, you're supposed to check their cholesterol in four to 12 weeks and then make adjustments, and this highlights the importance of doing that."

Some of the findings may be due to prescribing practices, Dr. Marcio Bittencourt, a cardiologist at the University Hospital of Sao Paulo in Brazil, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

He said that patients who achieved their cholesterol reduction goals were more likely to be prescribed stronger statins, probably because they started with higher levels of cholesterol, CNN reported.

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555 Confirmed Measles Cases in U.S. Since Jan. 1: CDC

The 555 confirmed cases of measles reported in 20 states between Jan. 1 and April 11 this year is the second highest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in the nation in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

States that have reported measles cases to the CDC are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

Measles outbreaks (three or more cases) are currently ongoing in New York State; Rockland County, N.Y.; New York City; Washington; New Jersey and California.

The outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries where large measles outbreaks are occurring, including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, the CDC said.

The agency emphasized the need for Americans get vaccinated against measles before they travel to other countries.

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Terminally Ill People in New Jersey Given Right to End Lives

Terminally ill adults in New Jersey will soon be allowed to seek medical help to end their lives.

The new law takes effect Aug. 1 and allows adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live to get a prescription for life-ending, self-administered pills that can be taken at home, CNN reported.

Before a prescription is given, a psychiatrist or psychologist must confirm that the patient has the mental capacity to make the decision to end his or her life.

"Allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement, CNN reported.

"By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face."

New Jersey is the ninth jurisdiction in the United States to allow physician-assisted suicide. The others are California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, Montana and the District of Columbia, CNN reported.

Nineteen other states are considering physician-assisted suicide bills.

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