Health Highlights: March 7, 2008
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Many Later-Stage Premature Babies Require Long-Term Care
About a third of premature babies born between 29 and 33 weeks still need specialist care at age 5, says a French study that looked at 400 full-term babies (40 weeks) and 1,800 born before 33 weeks.
It was already known that very early birth greatly increases the risk of physical and learning problems later in childhood. But this new study suggests that many children born at a later stage of prematurity still require long-term care, BBC News reported.
All the children in the study underwent physical and mental assessments at age 5. As expected, those born before 28 weeks had the highest disability rate (195 children/49 percent), but the actual number of children with disabilities was highest among those born between 29 and 33 weeks -- 441 children/36 percent.
When the researchers examined the specialist health services (such as physiotherapy, psychology, occupational therapy) required by the children, they found that these resources were used by 42 percent of children born at 24-28 weeks, 31 percent of children born at 29-32 weeks, and 16 percent of children born at 39-40 weeks.
The study appears in The Lancet.
New Anesthesia Recovery Drug Appears Effective: FDA
A new injectable drug designed to reverse the effects of anesthesia in patients after surgery appears effective, but there are still questions about its safety, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis posted Friday on the agency's Web site.
The Schering-Plough Corp. drug, called Bridion, will be the subject of a review next Tuesday by an FDA panel of experts, the Associated Press reported. The panel's recommendation will be an important factor as the FDA considers whether to approve Bridion.
In its analysis, the FDA said the drug appears safe in healthy adults, but said more studies may be needed to investigate concerns about allergic reactions and Bridion's effects on children's teeth.
While there are already similar drugs on the market, Schering claims that Bridion is unique because it reverses the effects of mild and serious anesthesia, the AP reported.
Hamilton Beach, Proctor-Silex Toasters Pose Fire Hazard
About 482,000 Hamilton Beach and Proctor-Silex toasters are being recalled due to a potential fire hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.
The 2-slice and 4-slice toasters can remain on after popping up and ignite flammable items covering or in contact with the toaster. To date, there have been 63 reports of malfunctions, but no reports of fires or injuries.
The recalled toasters, made in China, were sold across the United States from August 2007 through February 2008 for between $13 and $40. The toasters are black, red, white chrome or brushed chrome and have Hamilton Beach or Proctor-Silex printed on the side, the CPSC said.
Consumers with these toasters should immediately stop using them and contact Hamilton Beach Brands Inc. of Glen Allen, Va., for instructions on how to receive a free replacement toaster. Contact the company at 1-800-574-6800 for more information.
U.S. Senate Passes Bill to Improve Safety of Children's Products
A public database of consumer complaints and new safety standards for toys are among the measures included in a U.S. Senate bill meant to improve the safety of children's products made outside the United States.
The bill, approved Thursday by a 79-13 vote, would also ban lead in children's goods, boost the ability of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to certify the safety of foreign-made goods, and increase the civil penalty cap for safety violations, the Associated Press reported.
The Senate bill also calls for a ban on phthalates -- chemicals in plastic believed to be a health threat to youngsters -- from children's products.
In December, the House of Representatives passed its own version of a children's product safety bill. Negotiators from each chamber will now try to reconcile their differences.
These moves by U.S. lawmakers are in response to recalls last year of millions of Chinese-made toys that posed a health and safety threat to children, the AP reported.
Companies Charged in Connection With Tainted Toothpaste
Prosecutors in Los Angeles have filed criminal charges against a company alleged to have imported and distributed nearly 90,000 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste that contained diethylene glycol, a poisonous substance used in antifreeze and as a solvent.
Selective Imports Corp. sold the toothpaste to distributors across the United States between December 2005 and May 2007, according to prosecutors, who have also charged a wholesaler, Vernon Sales Inc., of buying some of the toothpaste and reselling it to Los Angeles-area stores, the Associated Press reported.
The misdemeanor charges against the companies and their top executives were filed Monday. Selective Imports, its president Frahad Nazarian and vice president Yones Ghermezi each were charged with two criminal counts of receiving, selling and delivering products containing diethylene glycol (DEG). Vernon Sales, its president Kamyab Toofer and vice president Pejman Mossay each were charged with 14 criminal counts of receiving, selling and delivering an adulterated drug.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, the AP reported.
DEG has been used by some Chinese manufacturers as a cheaper alternative to glycerin, which is used to thicken toothpaste. Exposure to DEG can cause kidney and liver damage over time, the news service said.
Soy, NSAIDs May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk: Studies
Women with the highest levels of genistein, a compound found in soybeans, were one-third less likely to develop breast cancer than those with the lowest levels, says a Japanese government study that followed about 25,000 women, ages 40-69, for an average of 10.5 years, Agence France-Presse reported.
In Japan, traditional soybean-based foods include tofu, miso soup or fermented beans known as natto. In this study, the women with the highest concentrations of genistein in their blood consumed 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of tofu or 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of natto per day. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
However, the researchers at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo warned that excessive intake of genistein -- especially through supplements -- may actually increase the risk of breast cancer, AFP reported.
In related news, another study suggests that taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the risk of breast cancer. British researchers reviewed 21 studies conducted over the past 27 years and found that the use of NSAIDS cut breast cancer incidence by 20 percent, AFP reported.
"NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in the first place and may provide a useful addition to treatment currently available to women who already have the disease," said study author Professor Ian Fentiman of Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital in London.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
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