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This Week In Health Headlines
Actress Angelina Jolie said this week that she has had a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. Jolie wrote about it in the New York Times. She said the surgeries reduced her 87% genetic risk of breast cancer to only 5%. The American Psychiatric Association is releasing the latest version of its manual on mental illness this week. But critics already say it adds too many conditions that are really just normal behavior. An expert group spoke out this week against very low limits on sodium in the diet. It said there's not enough evidence to back the lowest limits recommended for some people. A government agency has endorsed a stricter standard for drunken driving. The blood alcohol limit would be lowered from .08 to .05.
A study published this week found no benefit from fish oil pills for people at high risk of developing heart problems. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that he had a procedure called gastric banding several weeks ago to promote weight loss. The makers of two vaccines have joined a health coalition to help women in poor countries prevent cervical cancer. The companies said they will sell the vaccines at a low price for this purpose. They help prevent infection with human papilloma virus, which causes most cases of cervical cancer. Government numbers released this week show that hospital charges vary widely for the same care. This is true both across the nation and within the same city. But most insurance plans pay much lower prices that they negotiate. The U.S. government announced plans this week to tighten regulations on indoor tanning. A drug company said this week that its new Alzheimer's drug did not slow decline for people with mild to moderate disease.
The Obama administration decided this week to appeal a judge's order to have emergency birth control put on drugstore shelves for broader access. But officials decided to let one product be sold to girls at least 15 if they show ID. Surveys released this week suggest that more children have skin and food allergies than kids did 10 years ago. Suicide rates for middle-aged Americans are up sharply, the government said this week. U.S. food regulators said this week that they will look into the growth of snack products containing caffeine. They expressed concern about the effects on children.
More people reported injuries, such as ringing in the ears, this week in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. But doctors treating those injured said they expect no more deaths. The New York City Council will consider changing the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21. Supporters announced plans to introduce the bill this week. A group of doctors said this week that the "cinnamon challenge" promoted on the Internet is dangerous. The stunt involves swallowing a teaspoon of cinnamon without water. Many serious injuries have been reported.
Medical techniques refined in recent wars helped doctors and other responders save lives and limbs after the Boston Marathon bombing this week. Artificial limbs also have improved. The patent for OxyContin expired this week. But U.S. drug regulators said they will not approve generic versions unless they are altered to reduce abuse. A report by House Democrats said states are not doing a good job of regulating compounding pharmacies. One such pharmacy made the steroid syringes that were linked to a meningitis outbreak last year. A new study released this week suggests there may be a link between colic in babies and migraines in older children.
President Obama's budget, released this week, contains several changes in health-related spending. A study published this week found that pain produces a "signature" pattern of brain activity. A functional MRI scan showed the pattern when painful heat was applied to skin. Another study tallied how many antibiotics U.S. doctors prescribe. The total is enough for 4 out of 5 Americans to get antibiotics every year. U.S. officials say researchers in a study did not explain its risks well enough. The study tried to find the best oxygen doses to help premature babies.
The costs of caring for people with dementia exceed those for either heart disease or cancer. That's the finding of a study published this week. Bird flu also made news this week. A strain not known before to infect people has killed 5 in China. A group of government and private groups announced a plan this week to wipe out polio by 2018. The World Health Organization also is involved in the effort.
Older patients do just as well after bypass surgery performed with a heart-lung machine as with the "beating heart" procedure, a study finds. The study was published this week. A state judge this week overturned New York City's ban on sales of large sweetened drinks. He said the law exceeded the Board of Health's authority. A study released this week found an increased risk of heart problems in women who had radiation for breast cancer. The women's overall heart risk was small, however.
A baby treated with three anti-HIV drugs shortly after birth apparently has been cured of the disease, doctors said this week. The baby was born to a woman whose HIV infection was diagnosed when she was in labor. The child's treatment lapsed, but she still has no traces of the virus at age 2 1/2, doctors said. U.S. health officials said this week that another big class of bacteria is becoming hard to cure. These antibiotic-resistant infections are caused by Enterobacteriaceae. They have now been seen in 42 states. An experimental treatment may have helped 3 women with extreme anorexia nervosa to gain weight, researchers said this week. The treatment uses stimulation with electrodes implanted deep in the brain. A new analysis of U.S. death statistics shows a downward trend in length of life for women in many places. This trend includes almost half of U.S. counties, the study found.
People randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, a new study has found. They also were less likely to die of related causes. People in the study followed either a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet for five years. The study was published this week. Another new study has found genetic links among five mental health conditions. Researchers found the links by analyzing genes of more than 61,000 people. First Lady Michelle Obama launched a new program this week to increase physical activity during the school day. She also visited Mississippi to praise efforts that have helped reduce child obesity in that state.
U.S. health officials issued more rules related to the 2010 health reform law this week. They said that polyp removal during a routine colonoscopy is preventive care. Therefore, private insurance must cover the service at no cost to patients. The government also released numbers on how well this season's flu vaccine worked. The vaccine provided only 9% protection for seniors against the worst type of flu that's making people sick. A study released this week looked at costs for hysterectomy. Far more of the operations are being done with robotic assistance. The costs are higher, but results are no better, the study said.
Health policy research released this week found that it's hard to get a price estimate for surgery and that anti-smoking efforts can produce big health-care cost savings. A survey found that 1 in 9 young U.S. women have used the "morning-after pill." A study of Medicare patients showed that those who had surgery right away for kidney cancer were more likely to die than those who opted to wait. The Institute of Medicine focused this week on the problem of fake drugs. It called for a tracking system to help ensure quality.
A vaccine that has shown promise in preventing tuberculosis in adults does not work for babies, a study published this week found. Another study related to child health found a link between low birth weight and air pollution. A conference on stroke research also produced news this week. One study presented there found differences in stroke risk based on diet. Southern food, such as fried foods and sweet drinks, was linked with the greatest risk. Another study showed that about 8% of stroke survivors consider suicide or think it would be better if they died. Other research released this week found that steroid shots don't help tennis elbow in the long run. They may actually hinder recovery, the study concluded.
In a long-term study published this week, most men surveyed reported problems with having sex 15 years after treatment for prostate cancer. Another study took aim at myths related to obesity and weight loss. Among other things, the study said that slow weight loss is not better and that sex doesn't burn many calories. U.S. health officials released a report this week on foods that were connected to disease outbreaks. Greens were the No. 1 type of food. About half of the cases were linked to plant sources and half to animal sources.
A group of women's doctors called on its members this week to ask patients about "sabotage" of birth control by their partners. They said abusive men have put holes in condoms, forced women to have unprotected sex or done other things to cause pregnancy. Some states that cut back on mental health services during the recession are restoring funds, the Associated Press said. The change of direction was prompted by two mass shootings last year. Bird flu studies will resume after adoption of new safety rules in several countries, researchers said this week. A court hearing has begun over New York City's planned restrictions on the size of sodas sold in restaurants and movie theaters. The soft drink industry and several other groups oppose the rules.
The U.S. government said this week that emergency room trips linked with energy drinks doubled in the last 4 years. People came to hospitals with symptoms such as irregular heartbeat and anxiety. New research published this week showed that flu shots during pregnancy can cut baby deaths in half. The study looked at pregnancies during the "swine flu" pandemic in 2009 and 2010. A New York state law signed this week drew criticism from mental health professionals. They said the law, which requires them to report patients who may become dangerous, could discourage people from seeking care.
U.S. drug regulators this week cut the recommended doses of Ambien and other sleep drugs containing zolpidem. They said the current doses could impair driving the next morning for some people. A report on health in wealthy nations cited wide access to guns as one reason for the high rate of U.S. deaths from violence. Health officials reported this week that flu is widespread in 47 states. That's earlier than usual for seasonal flu. Four sisters have settled their suit against Eli Lilly Co. They claimed that their mother's use of the drug DES during pregnancy caused them to have early breast cancer. A poll released this week found that Americans know some health effects of obesity, but not others. A new study found less risk of dementia in people with high blood pressure who have it treated.
The shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School stirred discussions this week about mental health services and gun laws. In Pakistan, 9 health workers in a polio vaccination campaign were killed this week. The Taliban opposes the campaign but denies killing the workers. A survey released this week found that many U.S. teens don't think marijuana is dangerous. The numbers were the lowest in at least 20 years.
Child deaths have dropped worldwide in the last 20 years, a study published this week shows. But long-lasting illnesses such as heart disease are causing most deaths for adults, as well as years of poor health, the study says. Lawyers for people who caught meningitis in a recent outbreak say they don't know if their clients will be able to collect from a pharmacy linked to the illness. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed. But the pharmacy is closed and has surrendered its license. Starting in 2014, the government will require a fee of up to $63 a year for each person insured under health plans. The fee will be imposed for 3 years. Most of it will go to offset insurance companies' costs from a new requirement that they cover people with pre-existing health conditions.
Influenza cases already are increasing fast in some parts of the country, U.S. health officials said this week. That's about a month earlier than average. A new study published this week found that taking the breast cancer drug tamoxifen longer can reduce death rates. Buckingham Palace announced this week that the Duchess of Cambridge had a recent hospital stay for severe morning sickness. This condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
The number of children injured while playing in inflatable bouncers has increased rapidly in the last few years. That's the main finding of a study that released this week. U.S. officials announced a plan that they said could lead to an "AIDS-free generation." But a new report showed growth of HIV infection among young U.S. adults. Research released this week offered good news about infection control in hospitals. New procedures adopted by seven hospitals caused a drop in infections after colorectal surgery.
Members of Congress sought answers this week about a meningitis outbreak caused by a fungus. People who were infected had used steroid drugs from a compounding pharmacy with a troubled history. The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testified before a House committee. She said that the FDA let state officials enforce compliance with rules. The reason is that the FDA lacks clear authority over compounding pharmacies. Researchers said this week that they have found a tripled risk of Alzheimer's disease for people with one form of a gene. In a survey, government researchers found that U.S. adults. Americans get nearly as many calories from alcohol as from soda.
Research published this week suggests that even very healthy U.S. adults have a 1 in 3 chance of getting heart disease. Taking multiple vitamins won't help to reduce that risk, another study concluded. The head of the Massachusetts pharmacy board was fired this week. The reason was failure to follow up on a report that a compounding pharmacy was going beyond its license and making large batches of drugs. Drugs made by the pharmacy are suspected of causing an outbreak of meningitis. Voters in Los Angeles this week approved new regulations on the porn movie industry. Now condoms will be required during filming of sex scenes.
An expert panel in the United Kingdom said this week that regular mammograms save lives for women older than 50. But that comes at a cost. Three women are treated for breast cancers that would not have harmed them for every life saved, the panel said. A review of research released this week found health benefits as a result of public smoking bans. It found that hospital stays for heart attacks and strokes drop in places with the bans. Another review published this week questioned the benefits of taking antidepressant drugs during pregnancy. It found that risks to the baby may outweigh the benefits. During the storm Sandy this week, New York University Langone Medical Center had to evacuate 300 patients. The exodus began after the power went off and backup generators failed. Researchers reported promising results this week for a new drug to reduce LDL cholesterol. People in the study already were taking a statin. Adding the new drug lowered LDL more than just raising the statin dose.
Medicare officials this week announced a policy that may pay for some people to receive treatment longer. The policy says payments for physical therapy and other services will continue if they help a person not get worse. Improvement is not required. An outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to steroid shots continued to grow this week. Doctors said treatment of the previously rare infection has been a challenge. Massachusetts officials found problems this week during a surprise inspection of the pharmacy that made the shots. New details also emerged about past complaints. A study released this week found that puberty for boys is starting earlier than it did in past decades. Another study found that most people with advanced cancer expect too much from chemotherapy treatments. An expert panel said this week that pregnant women should get vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough). The panel advises U.S. health officials.
New research published this week finds a slightly lower cancer risk among older men who take standard multivitamins. Another study shows a drop in cholesterol levels for U.S. adults. Officials this week confirmed that some steroids from a compounding pharmacy contain a fungus. The same type of fungus has caused more than 250 cases of meningitis. The number of deaths from the outbreak also reached 20 this week.
Cases of meningitis linked to tainted steroid shots climbed to more than 184 this week, U.S. officials said. At least 14 people have died. The infections were caused by a fungus. A panel appointed by the President said this week that more privacy safeguards are needed for gene information. The panel said that "mapping" a person's DNA soon will be cheaper and more widely done. Germany's government this week proposed a law that would allow circumcision for young boys. In May, a regional court banned the procedure after a boy developed problems from it.
Researchers published results this week for a major project that has "mapped" all gene mutations in breast cancer. The findings may lead to changes in treatment. Other new research suggests that a warning from doctors about driving may reduce accidents for older adults and others with possible impairments. When it comes to walking, older adults are using surgery more often to stay mobile. A report released this week found that knee replacement operations for Medicare patients have increased 162% in the last 20 years.
American children get way too much salt, a new report finds. And the top salt eaters are the most likely to have high blood pressure. Another report released this week found that cancer is the top cause of death for U.S. Hispanics. It replaces heart disease in the No. 1 spot. Two advocacy groups predicted this week that more than half of adults in 39 states will be obese by 2030. That's higher than U.S. government estimates. Consumer Reports magazine published measurements of arsenic in 223 rice products this week. The consumer group behind the magazine urged the U.S. government to set limits on arsenic in rice.
U.S. officials this week announced more conditions that are eligible for medical care through a special government fund. The fund covers World Trade Center rescuers, cleanup workers and area residents. People with 50 types of cancer now can get care through the fund. Researchers said this week that the current vaccine for whooping cough becomes less effective quickly after kids take their fifth dose. That helps explain a large increase in whooping cough cases. Children's deaths around the world are dropping, a United Nations agency said this week. But most deaths that still occur could be prevented, the report said. The New York City Board of Health this week adopted a controversial rule banning big sodas from restaurants. The limit for eateries and concession stands will be 16 ounces.
The leading U.S. group of children's doctors said this week that circumcision of baby boys has more benefits than risks. The new policy statement comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics. A study published this week suggests that heavy pot use in the teen years may affect IQ. The long-term study found a drop of 8 IQ points for people who said in surveys that they were dependent on marijuana. U.S. health officials said this week that reported cases of West Nile illness had jumped about 40% since last week. They now total 1,590, with 66 deaths. Yosemite National Park has warned some recent visitors about possible exposure to a virus carried by wild deer mice. Six people who stayed in the park cabins were diagnosed with hantavirus. Two of them died. Yosemite sent e-mails or letters this week to 2,700 people who had stayed in the cabins this summer.
West Nile virus infections are surging this year, U.S. health officials said this week. As of mid-August, three times the usual number of cases had been reported. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported this week on a lengthy outbreak of drug-resistant illness last year. The outbreak occurred at the NIH's own hospital. Gene analysis helped to trace it and bring it under control. A new study published this week found that surgery to promote weight loss may help to prevent diabetes in very obese people. Other research found that rates of early heart disease are two to three times the average among people with close family members who died young of heart disease.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved the vaccine formulation for the 2012-2013 influenza (flu) season. A study published this week found that people with blood types A, B, or AB have a slightly higher risk of heart disease than people type O. Having type A blood increased risk by 8 percent, type B by 11 percent, and type AB by 20 percent. Johnson & Johnson announced this week that it expects to remove potentially harmful chemicals from its baby products and adult skin care products by 2015. The company has been under pressure from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to take the chemicals out of their products. New figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week identify 12 states where at least 30 percent of adults are obese. Finally, state laws to curb the sale of junk food and sugary drinks in school seems to be having some success in lowering obesity rates among kids.
A new type of swine flu is causing more cases in humans, U.S. health officials announced this week. This type is mostly mild and affects mainly people who have been in contact with pigs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new advice this week about sexually transmitted diseases. It said some heterosexuals may benefit from an HIV-prevention pill that was approved for gay and bisexual men. The CDC also asked doctors to change how they treat gonorrhea. The disease is now resistant to most antibiotics. A new study published this week found that the percentage of U.S. children with high cholesterol has dropped in the last decade.
More people are getting very sick with West Nile virus this year, U.S. health officials said this week. They said the rate of serious illness is the worst since 2004. The Associated Press wrote this week about the lack of research on the health effects of a newer gas drilling technique. Researchers this week reported longer survival for women with advanced breast cancer who took two hormone-blocking drugs. The combination was compared with women who took one drug.
World health systems still face challenges to control the spread of HIV. But speakers at a conference this week expressed hope that the next generation could be AIDS-free. "There is no excuse scientifically to say we cannot do it," said Anthony Fauci, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health. The United States pledged an extra $150 million to for prevention and treatment in poor countries. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said one step that can occur by 2015 is to treat pregnant women to make sure no babies are born infected. Dr. Fauci said research shows that treatment can reduce the chance of spreading the infection by 96%. That requires starting treatment as soon as someone is diagnosed. For men, circumcision is "stunningly successful" in reducing the risk of infection by a female sex partner, Dr. Fauci said. Challenges include the high rate of infection among gay black men in the United States. Among those age 30 and under, nearly 6% are infected each year. Women in Africa need better ways to protect themselves when partners won't use condoms. A new study will test a drug-coated ring worn inside the vagina. The Associated Press and USA Today wrote about the conference.
U.S. drug regulators announced two major approvals this week. They said that a pill used to treat HIV infection can also be marketed for prevention. They also approved Qsymia, a weight-loss drug. In other drug news, researchers reported that four people taking Gammagard for Alzheimer's had no decline in mental function for three years. Another small study focused on children with egg allergy. It found that giving them tiny but increasing amounts of egg white powder each day helped some of them become able to eat eggs. Other research released this week compared men with early prostate cancer who received surgery or no treatment. Death rates were the same in both groups.
U.S. drug regulators said this week that they will require makers of narcotic drugs to help doctors prescribe them safely. The companies must offer training programs by March 2013. A new study says that 1 out of 5 adults over 65 has a mental illness or substance abuse problem. This is expected to grow as baby boomers get older. A report released by a data-tracking company says that drug sales will grow more slowly in the next 4 years. New generic versions of popular drugs are the main reason. In a new survey, 9 out of 10 Russians said that drug addiction is at least a "very serious" problem in their country. People cited addiction more often than any other problem.
GlaxoSmithKline agreed this week to plead guilty to health care fraud and other charges. The drug maker will pay a record $3 billion fine. U.S. regulators this week approved the first quick at-home test for HIV. A new report shows that deaths from overdoses of methadone have fallen. And research released this week suggests that the last few weeks of pregnancy are important for learning. Reading and math problems were more frequent for those born at 37 weeks than those born at 41 weeks.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the 2010 health care reform bill. The approval included a requirement that almost everyone have health insurance. U.S. officials this week approved the first new weight-loss pill in 13 years. A group of experts said that doctors should refer obese patients to intensive weight loss programs. A new study found that many young children with food allergies have allergic reactions even after their families know about the allergy.
People who have one type of weight-control surgery are more likely to drink a lot of alcohol 2 years later, a study released this week says. A hospital stay can speed the decline of people with Alzheimer's disease, other research finds. And a new report shows a large increase in a major eye disease. The disease, diabetic retinopathy, is caused by persistent high blood sugar.
A panel of experts said this week that healthy women should not take low-dose vitamin D and calcium pills to prevent broken bones. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said the pills don't help and might increase the risk of kidney stones. Two news reports this week came out of a major sleep conference. One found that much higher risk of stroke for people who sleep less than six hours a night. Another study found that many adults with insomnia are afraid of the dark. Also, the World Health Organization said this week that diesel exhaust causes cancer.
The World Health Organization said this week that gonorrhea soon may be resistant to all known treatments. It urged more research to find a cure for the sexually transmitted disease. At a breast cancer conference, researchers presented results for a new "targeted" drug. It combines Herceptin, which binds to cancer cells, with a powerful chemotherapy drug. The poison is released only inside cancer cells. Disney said this week that it is banning junk food adds from its TV and radio stations and websites. New research released this week focused on cancer risk from radiation received in childhood. One study found a higher rate of breast cancer for women treated for cancer as children. Another study found higher leukemia and brain cancer risk for people who had computed tomography (CT) scans before age 22.
A study has found support for allowing use of smokers' lungs for transplant. People who got the lungs lived longer than those who stayed on a waiting list. But they didn't live as long as people who got nonsmokers' lungs. Other research published this week found that contact with live poultry caused a salmonella outbreak. Cases dated back as far as 2004. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week proposed limiting the size of sodas sold in the city. The Associated Press wrote this week about new procedures being tried for hard-to-control blood pressure.
Three medical groups this week endorsed CT scans to screen for lung cancer in some smokers. Annual tests are recommended for older adults who are or used to be heavy smokers. An expert group that advises doctors on preventive care has rejected the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for routine use. The group said using the test to screen for prostate cancer does more harm than good. A new study released this week suggests that people who take calcium pills may have a higher risk of heart attack. Another study found that more teens today are at risk of heart disease than teens a decade earlier. That's because they are more likely to be overweight or have diabetes or high blood pressure.
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