Health Highlights: Aug. 31, 2011

ER Visits Due to Air Gun, Paintball Injuries Declining U.S. Ranks 41st in Newborn Survival: Study Avastin Linked to Eye Infections Judge Rules Against Texas Abortion Sonogram Requirement U.S. Needs Compensation for Research Injuries: Panel

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

ER Visits Due to Air Gun, Paintball Injuries Declining

Air and paintball gun injuries accounted for more than 20,000 emergency department visits in the United States in 2008, a federal government report says.

While a large number, it's a 20 percent decrease from 2006, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Children and teens 17 and younger accounted for about 60 percent of air and paintball gun injury emergency department visits in 2008, and more than 25 of the visits were for children ages 10 to 14.

Males accounted for five times more visits than females. Visits for air and paintball gun injuries were higher in rural areas (92 per 1 million population) than in urban areas (61 per 1 million), and were nearly three times higher among low-income children (93 visits per 1 million people) than among children from higher income families (34 per 1 million).


U.S. Ranks 41st in Newborn Survival: Study

Newborn babies in countries such as Cuba, Poland and Malaysia now have a better chance of survival than newborns in the United States, according to a study that looked at 20 years of data from all 193 member nations of the World Health Organization.

The figures also show that newborns in Qatar, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates now die at about the same rate as newborns in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

With a newborn death rate of 4.3 per 1,000 live births, the United States now trails 40 other countries in terms of newborn death risk. The U.S. had the 28th lowest risk in 1990.

"It's not that things are worse in the United States than before, it's that the U.S. isn't making progress like other countries," Dr. Joy Lawn, a pediatrician who works for Save the Children, told the AP.

Lawn conducted the study with researchers from WHO and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England. They found that babies under 4 weeks old account for 41 percent of child deaths worldwide and that the three leading causes of newborn death are preterm delivery, asphyxia and severe infections.

Proper care can prevent all three problems, Lawn told the AP.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.


Avastin Linked to Eye Infections

Injections of the drug Avastin caused severe eye infections in at least 16 people in two states and some of them have been blinded, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and lawyers representing the patients.

Avastin is a cancer drug that's widely used off-label to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss. Avastin has the same mode of action as Lucentis, a drug approved as an eye treatment. But Avastin costs about $50 an injection, compared with $2,000 for Lucentis. Both drugs are sold by Genentech, The New York Times reported.

Bacterial contamination is a risk when a vial of Avastin is divided into many small doses for eye injections, and that appears to be what happened to the patients in Florida and Tennessee, the newspaper said.

An FDA alert issued Tuesday said at least 12 patients treated at three clinics in Miami suffered eye inflammation and some of them lost all remaining vision in the treated eye, the Timesreported.

All the infections were traced to a single lot of Avastin that was divided and repackaged by a pharmacy in Hollywood, Fla., the FDA said.


Judge Rules Against Texas Abortion Sonogram Requirement

A major part of Texas' new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion has been struck down by a federal judge.

In his ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said the measure violates the free-speech rights of both patients and doctors. He also struck down a requirement that women who don't want to see the sonogram must sign a statement that they are pregnant as a result of sexual assault or incest, the Associated Press reported.

Sparks ruled that the state can't force a woman to disclose such private information and such forced disclosure is an attempt "to permanently brand women who choose to get an abortion."

The case involved a New York-based reproductive rights group that sued to block the Texas law, which was set to take effect Thursday, the AP reported.

A number of other states are moving to implement measures to restrict abortion.


U.S. Needs Compensation for Research Injuries: Panel

A compensation system for people harmed while taking part in scientific research should be established by the United States, says a subcommittee of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

The recommendation was made Tuesday on the second day of a two-day public hearing to release findings from a commission investigation into medical experiments conducted by U.S. government researchers in Guatemala in the 1940s, the Washington Post reported.

The subcommittee described the United States as an "outlier," noting that many other countries have methods to compensate victims of scientific research.

"The panel felt strongly that it was wrong and a mistake that the United States was an outlier in not specifying any system for compensation for research subjects other than, "You get a lawyer and sue,'" said Commission Chair and subcommittee member Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, the Post reported.

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