Friday, September 22, 2006

Health Highlights: Jan. 1, 2006

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Medicare Drug Benefit to Take Effect Jan. 1
Medicare's long-awaited "Plan D" drug benefit program kicks in Sunday. The program works with private plans to supplement drug costs, and is especially designed to help low-income elderly get the medications they need.

Yet many potential beneficiaries still find the program confusing, with seniors forced to choose from up to 60 competing plans, depending on their locale.

While everyone agrees the plan could save seniors thousands of dollars in drug costs, a survey released in November found that low-income elderly are the least likely to understand it.
And a survey done jointly by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that half of the people who make less than $15,000 a year didn't know about the program or didn't think they were eligible.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the Internet is the most highly touted source of information on the new plan -- even though 76 percent of seniors polled admitted they had never surfed the Web.
Accutane Registry Created to Help Prevent Birth Defects
A long-awaited national registry has begun accepting the names of Americans who take the acne-fighting drug Accutane, part of a federal effort to limit its use by pregnant women because the medication has a high risk of birth defects.

Doctors, wholesalers and pharmacies had until Friday to register with the computerized "iPledge" registry if they want to continue prescribing or selling Accutane and any of the three generic versions of the drug, known as isotretinoin. Generic versions are sold as Amnesteem, Claravis or Sotret, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tried for more than 20 years to limit fetal exposure to the drug. The reason: If a woman uses Accutane during pregnancy -- or becomes pregnant within a month of taking the drug -- her baby runs a high risk of brain and heart defects or mental retardation, the AP said.

The drug is prescribed to about 100,000 Americans a month; patients typically take it for five to six months.

To receive the drug, Accutane users must now enroll by telephone at (866) 495-0654 or through the Internet at They also must sign a document that tells them of the drug's risks, which also includes the chance of depression or suicidal thoughts, the AP said.

And women of childbearing age must undergo two pregnancy tests before they can be prescribed the drug, along with a monthly follow-up test before each refill. They also must agree to use two different forms of birth control at the same time or not to have intercourse for one month before starting the drug, during treatment and for one month after treatment has ended, according to the news service.
Some Canned Tuna Could Be Checked by FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will investigate a newspaper report that some canned light tuna contains a species of the popular fish that has higher mercury levels, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

The review was prompted by a recent series in the Chicago Tribune that found that, instead of the skipjack tuna commonly used, the yellowfin variety was present in some cans of light tuna even though the labeling did not say so.

Yellowfin tuna is considered by many in the fishing industry to have mercury levels that match those of albacore tuna. The U.S. government has advised high-risk people, such as young children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age, not to eat albacore tuna in large amounts, the Tribune reported. High mercury levels might cause learning disabilities and developmental problems in children, and damage to the kidneys, heart and nervous systems in adults.

FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza told the AP that the agency will review the newspaper report to see if further action is warranted.

The tuna industry would work with the FDA on any inquiry, David Burney, executive director of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, told the AP. The foundation lobbies for StarKist, Bumblebee and Chicken of the Sea, the major producers of canned tuna in the United States.
Company Says FDA Has OK'd its Sodium Treatment Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an intravenous drug for hospital patients suffering from potentially fatal depressed levels of sodium, the drug's manufacturer said Friday.
Astellas Pharma US Inc. said it would sell the drug, conivaptan hydrochloride, under the brand name Vaprisol, the Associated Press said.

The drug will be used to treat euvolemic hyponatremia, a condition that can occur in hospital patients suffering from syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone (SIADH), advanced kidney failure, hypothyroidism, cancer and chronic high blood pressure, according to the Tokyo-based company. Euvolemic hyponatremia occurs when the body retains excessive amounts of water but not sodium, the AP said.
Hyponatremia is typically treated by administering diuretics, saline solution or restricting fluid intake. Vaprisol works by increasing urine output while stemming the loss of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, the company said.
New Jersey Medical School Agrees to Financial Monitor
The nation's largest medical school, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), has appointed a monitor to oversee its finances amid a federal investigation into whether it committed Medicare and Medicaid fraud, the Associated Press reported.

UMDNJ agreed to the appointment last week after U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie threatened to indict the school and effectively shut it down, the wire service said.

The school's University Hospital has been under investigation for allegedly improperly billing Medicare and Medicaid, and for allegedly awarding millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, the AP said.

UMDNJ has already reimbursed the federal and state governments $2 million for the improper bills, the wire service said.

On Thursday, the school's trustees named Herb Stern, 69, a former federal prosecutor and judge, as its federal monitor. Stern led the grand jury probe into the 1965 killing of civil rights leader Malcolm X, the AP reported.
Women in Labor Should Push Less: Study
The delivery room doctor's traditional mantra to "push, push" is largely unnecessary and may even lead to bladder problems, a new study finds.

Some 320 women were divided into two groups, one of which was coached to push for 10 seconds during contractions, while the other was told to "do what comes naturally," according to a study account by the Chicago Sun-Times. Those who were urged to push ultimately had slightly less bladder capacity and more overactive bladder muscles, the newspaper reported of the study, to be published in January's American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

While the coached women spent an average of 13 fewer minutes in labor, the tradeoff was an increased risk of incontinence, wrote study author Dr. Steven Bloom, interim chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

No comments:

Weight Loss Ebook - Secrets Revealed - Revised Edition

Weight Loss Ebook - Secrets Revealed - Revised Edition

[ learn more ]

Add to Cart

This is not only a weight loss program, it is also a plan for "TOTAL HEALTH". If you want a quick fix (taking metabolism boosters, etc.), only to gain more weight when you stop, do not even consider this program. Our program is designed to change the way you think and live your life. Change is only a decision away. You can do this! If you are motivated, and truly care about taking care of your body, and you are willing to make changes in your life, then this program is for you! - E-Book Version.(WL)