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Health Highlights: Dec. 11 2009

Crestor Benefits Patients With No Heart Disease History: FDAMajor Problems in U.S. Food Tracing Program: ReportSenate Bill Would Let Insurers Limit Annual Medical CostsConsumerism Boosts Teen Mental Health Problems: Study

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

Crestor Benefits Patients With No Heart Disease History: FDA

The cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in patients with no history of heart disease, according to documents posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site.

But the review by FDA scientists also noted several safety concerns about the drug, including an increased risk of diabetes, the Associated Press reported.

The documents were posted in advance of a meeting next week by an FDA panel of outside experts. They'll make a recommendation on whether the FDA should approve drug maker AstraZeneca's application to allow broader use of Crestor.

An AstraZeneca study released last November found that patients with lower cholesterol and few heart risks could still benefit from taking Crestor, the AP reported.


Major Problems in U.S. Food Tracing Program: Report

Serious gaps exist in the U.S. government's ability to trace food through the supply chain to ensure its safety, says a report by the inspector general's office of the Department of Health and Human Services.

A survey of food manufacturers required to register with the FDA found that nearly half failed to give the agency accurate contact information, investigators found, the Associated Press reported.

The food tracing program was established to allow quick retracing of contaminated food that causes outbreaks and to keep food safe from bioterrorism. The flaws exposed in the investigation are "appalling," said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chair of the House spending panel that oversees the FDA budget.

"The weakness in our food safety system that are highlighted in the report are unacceptable," DeLauro said, the AP reported. "Congress should pass comprehensive food safety legislation to give FDA the statutory authority it needs."


Senate Bill Would Let Insurers Limit Annual Medical Costs

Patient advocates are upset about language in the Senate health care bill that would allow insurers to put yearly limits on medical care costs for people with expensive-to-treat illnesses such as cancer.

The bill would permit annual limits, as long as they're not "unreasonable," the Associated Press reported. But there's no actual definition of what level of limits would be permitted.

Such limits would have been banned under legislation passed by the Senate health committee last summer. However, a weakened version of that provision is in the bill the Senate is now considering.

The change surprised officials at the American Cancer Society Action Network, who said they haven't been able to get a satisfactory explanation, the AP reported.

"We don't know who put it in, or why it was put in," said group policy expert Stephen Finan.


Consumerism Boosts Teen Mental Health Problems: Study

Consumerism may be a major reason why psychological problems among American teens have been on the rise since the 1930s, a new study finds.

"We have become a culture that focuses more on material things and less on relationships," and this emphasis on things is affecting mental health on a societal level, said lead researcher Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, ABC News reported.

Twenge and colleagues analyzed data collected between 1938 and 2007 on the mental health and personality of more than 63,000 high school and college students.

The researchers found that students today feel much more isolated, misunderstood and emotionally sensitive or unstable than in previous decades, ABC News reported. In addition. teens today are more likely to be narcissistic, have poor self-control and to say they're worried, sad, and dissatisfied with life.

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