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Health Highlights: April 4, 2014

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

States Oppose New Powerful Painkiller

Some state officials are taking steps to limit the availability of a controversial new painkiller because they believe it could worsen an already serious prescription drug abuse problem.

Zohydro was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last fall and became available last month. There is concern about the pill because it's not tamper resistant and has up to five times more of the narcotic hydrocodone than other pills, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick placed a ban on prescribing and dispensing Zohydro until it is sold in a form that makes it difficult to abuse. On Thursday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin implemented an executive order that makes it more difficult for doctors to prescribe the drug.

Shortly after Zohydro was approved, 28 state attorneys general sent a letter to the FDA asking the agency to revoke the drug's approval or to force the manufacturer to make the drug more difficult to crush for snorting or injection, the AP reported.

Two members of Congress have introduced legislation that would force the FDA to withdraw the drug. The FDA approved the drug against the recommendation of an internal advisory panel.

More than 4.5 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to a 2013 Drug Enforcement Administration report. Experts say abuse of prescription painkillers can lead to heroin addiction, the AP reported.

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New Law Funds Childhood Cancer Research

A new law that eliminates taxpayer funding for political conventions and redirects the money to study pediatric cancer and other childhood health disorders was signed Thursday by President Barack Obama.

Over the next decade, the law will provide $126 million in funding to the National Institutes of Health for those areas of research, the Associated Press reported.

The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act is named after a 10-year-old girl who died of brain cancer last October. Before she died, Gabriella posted an emotional video to YouTube in which she told politicians: "Stop talking and start doing."

Gabriella's parents and brother were on hand to witness Obama sign the bill, the AP reported.

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Mali Reports Suspected Ebola Cases

Three suspected cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been reported in Mali near it's border with Guinea, and Mali officials have implemented tight controls on people entering the capital, Bamako, from the border area, according to BBC News.

For example, passengers at the airport in Bamako are being screened with thermal-imaging cameras to detect any signs of fever.

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea has killed 86 people. Neighboring Liberia has had six deaths in 12 suspected cases, and suspected cases have also been reported in Sierra Leone. Senegal has closed its border with Guinea, BBC News reported.

On Friday morning, an Air France plane that arrived in Paris from Guinea was quarantined for two hours because the crew suspected a passenger was infected with Ebola. A test on the passenger found no evidence of the virus, according to an airline spokesman.

There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, which kills 25 to 90 percent of people who are infected with the virus, BBC News reported.

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