Health Highlights: Nov. 28, 2008

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  • Federal Trade Commission Discontinues Tar and Nicotine Test
  • FDA Announces Recalls of Weight-Loss Pill, Dietary Supplement
  • FDA Insists Melamine Found in Infant Formula Poses No Threat
  • Web Health Searches Often Result in 'Cyberchondria'
  • Epilepsy Drugs May Cause Skin Reactions in Asians: FDA

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

Federal Trade Commission Discontinues Tar and Nicotine Test

After 42 years, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ended a test to measure the amount of tar and nicotine in cigarettes.

According to the Associated Press, the FTC decided to discontinue the testing for two reasons: the test itself was flawed, and tobacco companies could use the results to promote one brand of cigarette over another.

The test was known as the Cambridge Filter Method, the A.P. reports, and on Nov. 26 the FTC commissioners voted unanimously to discontinue it. Saying that the FTC would no longer be a "smokescreen" for tobacco companies' marketing programs, Commissioner Jon Leibowitz told the wire service, "Our action today ensures that tobacco companies may not wrap their misleading tar and nicotine ratings in a cloak of government sponsorship."

Over the years, many cigarette advertisements had promoted low tar and nicotine levels in some brands, using the phrase, "by FTC method." Insofar as the testing itself was concerned, it had long been criticized by scientists because it never took into account how people smoked, such as how deeply they inhaled, the A.P. reports.

The National Cancer Institute acknowledged that the Cambridge Filter Method did measure changes in design and quantity of tar and nicotine, but there has never been any evidence that so-called light cigarettes reduced disease caused by smoking, the wire service reports.

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FDA Announces Recalls of Weight-Loss Pill, Dietary Supplement

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday the recall of a weight-loss product -- Zhen De Shou Fat Loss Capsules -- and a dietary supplement -- Starcaps Diet System dietary supplements, according to published reports.

San Diego-based Fashion Sanctuary said it was recalling all lot codes of Zhen De Shou Fat Loss Capsules sold in 10-count blister cards. The recall was prompted by the FDA after a lab analysis found the product to contain undeclared sibutramine, making it an unapproved drug. Sibutramine is an FDA-approved drug used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss. It's known to increase blood pressure and pulse rate in some people, and may pose a risk for patients with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias or stroke, the agency said.

No illnesses or injuries have been reported so far in connection with the product, the FDA said.

Balanced Health Products Inc. was voluntarily recalling Starcaps Diet System dietary supplements, lot 12/2011 - 84810, which was sold in 30 capsule plastic bottles. This lot contains an undeclared drug ingredient called bumetanide, which is a prescription-only diuretic, the FDA said.

Health risks linked to the use of bumetanide include significant fluid and electrolyte loss, an elevation of uric acid concentrations, as well as low blood pressure and fainting, the FDA said.

The company has received no reports of illness associated with use of the product, the agency said.

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FDA Insists Melamine Found in Infant Formula Poses No Threat

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continued to insist Wednesday that trace levels of the industrial chemical melamine detected in some U.S. infant formulas pose no threat to infants. Last month, the agency said it couldn't identify any level of melamine exposure as safe for infants, the Associated Press reported.

But Consumers Union, the national consumer advocacy group, and the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, demanded that the FDA issue a recall of the products.

In China, melamine in formula has killed at least three babies and made at least 50,000 ill. The chemical, used in the production of plastic products, can cause kidney or bladder stones and, in severe cases, kidney failure. There have been no reports of illnesses in the United States.