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CDC: Vaping-linked lung injuries declining; vitamin E tie to outbreak grows

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported findings that strengthen vitamin E acetate's link to vaping-associated lung injuries and show a decline in the number of emergency department visits.

The CDC analyzed medical test results from patients in 16 states that show vitamin E acetate was identified in 48 of 51 patients.

The findings reinforce the link announced in November between vitamin E acetate in THC vaping products and the outbreak of electronic-cigarette use associated lung injury. The CDC has found that vitamin E acetate is used as an additive to thicken THC oil used in vaping products.

The CDC said the outbreak of lung injuries can largely be attributed to vitamin E acetate found in THC products obtained from informal sources like friends and families. The CDC said other chemicals and substances could also be causing lung injuries.

New findings confirmed a decline in the number of emergency department visits related to vaping-associated lung injuries. In June there was a sharp rise in the number of emergency department visits for vaping-associated lung injuries, said Anne Schuchat, a CDC principal deputy director, during a call with reporters Dec. 20. The emergency department visits peaked in September and have been declining since, Schuchat said.

As of Dec. 17, 2,506 lung injury cases had been reported to the CDC from all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 54 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and Washington, D.C.

The CDC said there have been lung injury patients who have been readmitted to hospitals and some who have died after being discharged from medical care. The CDC issued new guidance for health care providers that recommends patients be clinically stable before being discharged and have a follow-up with a clinical provider within 48 hours of hospital discharge, which is a shorter follow-up time than the previous recommendation of one to two weeks.

Separately, on Dec. 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced they had seized 44 websites advertising the sale of illicit vaping cartridges containing THC as part of an investigation into the supply chain of vaping products associated with the recent lung injuries. The agencies did not identify the websites they seized or their previous owners.

The CDC has said the vaping-associated lung injuries cannot be attributed to a single brand of vaping product.