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Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2016

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

Cancer Research Task Force Created by President Obama

A federal task force to accelerate cancer research has been created by President Barack Obama.

The presidential memo signed Thursday to establish the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force says the objective is to double the rate of progress on cancer treatment and prevention, the Associated Press reported.

Vice President Joe Biden will chair the task force, which will involve about a dozen federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Pentagon.

A report is to be submitted to Obama at the end of December, the AP reported.


Many on U.S. Pain Committee Have Links to Drug Industry

Nearly one-third of members of a U.S. government advisory panel that recently panned efforts to reduce the use of prescription painkillers have financial links to drug companies, according to the Associated Press.

Five of the 18 Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee members who attended a Dec. 3, 2015 meeting to discuss how the federal government handles pain issues have drug industry connections.

One is a Duke University pain specialist who has received thousands of dollars from drug companies, including pain drug OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and generic painkiller maker Teva Pharmaceuticals, the AP reported.

Another committee member is a patient advocate who holds a nonprofit position created by a $1.5 million donation from Purdue Pharma.

The committee includes federal scientists, patient representatives and outside experts. Last month, the panel criticized Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to cut back on painkiller prescriptions for chronic pain in order to reduce painkiller overdoses, the AP reported.

A week later, the CDC announces it planned to gather more public input on the guidelines.

Drug industry critics said the committee members should have revealed their financial links at the meeting and some should have voluntarily removed themselves from the discussion.

These conflicts of interest "reflect failings of the federal staff" who vetted the committee members, Dr. Michael Carome, of the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, told the AP.

"It corrupted the process, or gives the perception of corrupting the process," he said.

All current members of the committee "have met the criteria for membership, including disclosure requirements," a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said in a statement, the AP reported.

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