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HEALTH

France recalls diuretic pill after two deaths

France's health regulator has taken the diuretic medication Furosemide off the shelves after a batch of the pills were found to be dangerously contaminated and linked to two separate deaths, it was reported on Tuesday.

France recalls diuretic pill after two deaths
A 30-tablet packet of the diuretic medication Furosemide Teva; 40 mg. France's health regulator has recalled it after two deaths. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

France's health regulator on Monday recalled a diuretic used to control high blood pressure after some packets of the drug were found to contain sleeping  pills  a mistake feared linked to two deaths.

Stressing this was a precautionary measure, the ANSM regulatory agency urged people to return all boxes of Furosemide Teva 40 mg to their pharmacists.

The agency suspended sales of two batches of the drug last Friday after a pharmacist reported sleepiness in a patient.

Prosecutors opened a probe the following day after the death of a nonagenarian in the southern city of Marseille. A box of the pills from one of
two contaminated batches was found at the patient's house.

On Monday, the ANSM reported another death and one person falling ill, and said one of them had been taking the same medicine.

The agency did not specify which one of the patients, nor why it linked the other person to the case.

"Other reports are being investigated," it added.

The agency urged people to return the medicine to their pharmacist "as soon as possible"  regardless of the lot number, to be replaced by another brand.

Furosemide Teva 40 mg is a diuretic used to treat water retention in people with congestive heart failure and disorders of the liver, kidney and lung.

The drug works by increasing the amount of urine produced and excreted, and removing excess water in the body. It is also used for high blood pressure.

France has had a series of medical scares since it emerged domestic company PIP had produced breast prostheses containing industrial-grade silicone gel.

An estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have received faulty implants.

Last month, it was revealed that French surgeons had fitted 1,300 people with replacement hips not certified as meeting European standards.

Also in May, an EU medicines watchdog endorsed the safety of acne drug Diane-35, also widely used as a contraceptive, despite France suspending use of the drug which it linked to four deaths from blood clots.

France is also behind a European probe of the safety of third- and fourth-generation birth control pills, associated with a higher risk of potentially deadly thrombosis.

In April, France called for Europe-wide controls on a paper product containing bisphenol A after a domestic watchdog agency said the chemical widely used in plastic bottles and the linings of food cans may expose unborn children to breast cancer.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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