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Health Highlights: Aug. 3, 2007

Green Beans Recalled for Botulism Risk Simple Cervical Cancer Test Could Save Millions of Lives Abstinence-Only Programs Ineffective: Study U.S. House Provision Would Permit Drug Imports Recalled Contact Lens Solution Poses Serious Infection Risk FDA Given Access to U.S. Military Health Data

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

Green Beans Recalled for Botulism Risk

Due to the possibility of botulism contamination, consumers should not eat certain brands of French cut green beans in 14.5-ounce cans made by Lakeside Foods Inc., of Manitowoc, Wis., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The agency said the canned beans may have not been processed adequately to eliminate the potential for botulism toxin, which can cause life-threatening illness. Symptoms of botulism -- such as double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness -- can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating food that contains botulism toxin.

There have been no reported cases of illness linked to the green beans, the FDA said. The beans were sold under a number of labels, including: Albertson's, Happy Harvest, Best Choice, Food Club, Bogopa, Valu Time, Hill Country Fare, HEB, Laura Lynn, Kroger, No Name, North Pride, Shop N Save, Shoppers Valu, Schnucks, Cub Foods, Dierbergs, Flavorite, IGA, Best Choice, and Thrifty Maid.

The products were distributed in portions of Canada and in the following 20 states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Specific codes involved in the recall are: EAA5247, EAA5257, EAA5267, EAA5277, EAB5247, EAB5257, ECA5207, ECA5217, ECA5227, ECA5297, ECB5207, ECB5217, ECB5227, and ECB5307.

These products or any foods made with these products should be thrown out immediately, the FDA said. For more information, contact Lakeside Foods at 1-800-466-3834, ext. 4090.

This recall is not related to an earlier botulism-related recall of more than 90 products including canned chili, stew, hash, and pet food products made by Castleberry's Food Co.


Simple Cervical Cancer Test Could Save Millions of Lives

An inexpensive visual screening test that detects early signs of cervical cancer could save the lives of millions of women in the developing world, says a study published Friday in The Lancet medical journal.

For this test, a woman's cervix is held open with a speculum and washed with vinegar-soaked cotton gauze. After one minute, pre-cancerous lesions turn white and can be detected under a halogen lamp, the Associated Press reported.

Study authors used this method to screen nearly 50,000 women in India and found that it reduced the number of cervical cancer cases by 25 percent and the cervical cancer death rate by 35 percent.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Though largely preventable, it kills about 250,000 women worldwide each year. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths occur in developing nations, the AP reported.

One expert hailed this as a landmark study and others noted that it would be fairly easy to introduce the test to developing nations.


Abstinence-Only Programs Ineffective: Study

Abstinence-only programs do not stop young people from engaging in risky sexual behavior or help prevent unwanted pregnancies, says a study by British researchers at Oxford University.

They analyzed data from 13 U.S. trials that included more than 15,000 people ages 10 to 21, finding that abstinence programs had no effect on rates of unprotected sex or sexually transmitted infections, BBC News reported.

The findings appear in the British Medical Journal.

One-third of U.S. President George W. Bush's HIV budget goes to abstinence programs, but the study authors said programs that promote the use of condoms are much more effective at reducing the risk of HIV infection, BBC News reported.

"Our analysis suggests that abstinence-only programs that aim to prevent HIV are not effective," said lead author Kristen Underhill. "This finding has key implications for policy and practice, especially in the U.S., where abstinence-only programs receive both federal and state funding."


U.S. House Provision Would Permit Drug Imports

A provision to allow less-expensive prescription drugs from Canada and other nations to be imported into the United States was included in a bill passed Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The provision was included in a $91 billion spending measure for nutrition programs and farm subsidies for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, the Associated Press reported. The bill passed by a vote of 237-18.

The White House opposes the imported drug provision, which would permit individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import lower-cost U.S.-made and FDA-approved prescription drugs from other countries.

Supporters of prescription drug imports say the provision would offer consumers considerable savings. Critics say there's no system in place to protect American consumers from counterfeit or unsafe drugs.

President Bush has said he will veto the bill because of its cost, which is about $1 billion more than he requested, the AP reported.


Recalled Contact Lens Solution Poses Serious Infection Risk

More than 25 percent of contact lens users who suffered serious eye infections linked to a recalled lens cleaner have required corneal transplants, says an update released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A worldwide recall of Advanced Medical Optics' Complete MoisturePlus lens cleaner was issued in May. For reasons that are not clear, the product fails to protect some soft lens users from an infectious microbe called acanthamoeba, The New York Times reported.

In the United States, there had been 102 confirmed cases of acanthamoeba infections as of June 25. There are about 30 million U.S. soft lens users.

A recent CDC survey of 151 contact lens users revealed that more than half weren't aware of the MoisturePlus recall, and fewer than 27 percent of those who said they knew of the recall could correctly identify the product, The Times reported.

Of the 21 respondents who were using MoisturePlus at the time of the recall, 15 had not heard about the recall and were still using the product.

U.S. health officials are concerned that consumers' and doctors' lack of awareness about the recall may be leading to unnecessary risks, The Times reported.


FDA Given Access to U.S. Military Health Data

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon will have access to data from the U.S. Military Health System that's expected to help the agency better assess the safety of drugs, medical devices and other products that it regulates, it was announced Thursday.

"Currently, most drug studies performed prior to FDA approval involved about 1,000 patients, and follow up studies use similar numbers," Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in a prepared statement. "Data from the Military Health System will expand the possibilities to include millions of patients when it comes to follow up research."

He noted that the data-sharing agreement includes TRICARE, the agency that administers the health care plan for 9.1 million members of the uniformed services, retirees and their families. TRICARE prescription information is likely to be the first data shared with the FDA, Casscells said.

The FDA and Department of Defense will meet later this year to discuss specific procedures and safeguards necessary to implement the agreement.

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