Health Highlights: Dec. 16, 2011

Recalled Defibrillator Leads Could Injure or Kill Patients: Report Drug Shortages Caused by Production Problems: GAO Asthma, Bronchitis Among Top Kids' Medical Conditions: Report

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

Recalled Defibrillator Leads Could Injure Patients: Report

Riata defibrillator leads have been recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because they can potentially injure or kill patients, device maker St. Jude Medical said Thursday.

The devices are used to connect defibrillators to the heart. The company said about 79,000 patients have the Riata leads, Bloomberg News reported.

Wires inside some leads can penetrate the insulation and compromise the device's integrity, St. Jude said. The devices may inappropriately deliver a shock to a patient's heart or fail to deliver a needed shock. The company stopped selling the Riata leads last year.

"At this time, no blanket statement can be made about clinical recommendations," Anne Curtis, chairwoman of medicine at the University at Buffalo in New York and a member of St. Jude's medical advisory board, said in a news release, Bloomberg reported.

"Until more data are collected, physicians should follow standard practice of care to manage their patients with Riata silicone leads," Curtis advised.


Drug Shortages Caused by Production Problems: GAO

Production problems and factory shutdowns are the main reason for the shortages of important drugs in the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the federal Government Accountability Office.

The GAO said the number of shortages of crucial drugs, including cancer drugs and nutritional products, has more than tripled since 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Manufacturing problems were the primary cause of most shortages," the GAO concluded in its analysis of the situation.

The GAO said the solution includes giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to force manufacturers to give immediate notice when they experience problems that will halt production, and to require manufacturers to "take certain actions to prevent, alleviate or resolve shortages," the WSJ reported.


Asthma, Bronchitis Among Top Kids' Medical Conditions: Report

Acute bronchitis, asthma, trauma-related disorders, middle-ear infections and mental disorders were the five most commonly treated medical conditions among U.S. children in 2008, a federal government report says.

More than 40 percent of the nation's children age 17 and younger were treated for at least one of those conditions that year, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

About 12 million children were treated for acute bronchitis, making it one of the most common ailments. However, bronchitis had the lowest treatment cost, an average of $226 per child.

Mental disorders were the fifth most commonly treated condition (5 million children) and had the highest treatment cost, an average of $2,483 per child.

Medicare paid the largest share of treatment costs for asthma (51 percent) and mental disorders (46 percent), while private insurance paid the largest share for the treatment of middle-ear infections (64 percent), trauma (62 percent) and bronchitis (55 percent).

Consumer News