Health Highlights: Feb. 8, 2012

U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rate at 40-Year Low Ulcer, Acid Reflux Drugs May Raise Risk of Diarrhea: FDA Walmart Introduces New Healthy Food Standards, Labels FDA Should Review Inhaled Caffeine Product: Senator White House Aims to Ease Religious Groups' Concerns About Contraception Rule More Autism-Friendly Musicals on Broadway

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

U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rate at 40-Year Low

The teen pregnancy rate in the United States reached a 40-year low in 2008 after falling 42 percent from its peak in 1990, according to a Guttmacher Institute study released Wednesday.

The pregnancy rate was 68 per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 in 2008, compared with 117 per 1,000 in 1990. The birthrate among teens fell from 61.8 to 40.2 births per 1,000 teens between 1991 and 2008, a 35 percent drop, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The abortion rate among teen girls decreased 59 percent from a peak of 43.5 per 1,000 in 1988 to 17.8 per 1,000 in 2008, the study said.

It also found that teen pregnancies fell among teens in all racial and ethnic groups since 1990, with decreases of 50 percent for whites, 48 percent for blacks, and 37 percent for Hispanics, the Journal Constitution reported.


Ulcer, Acid Reflux Drugs May Raise Risk of Diarrhea: FDA

A widely-used class of stomach acid-suppressing drugs used to treat conditions such as stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease may be associated with an increased risk of clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

These types of drugs are called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and include brand name drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec, as well as generic drugs. A diagnosis of CDAD should be considered for patients taking PPIs who develop diarrhea that does not improve, the FDA said.

Clostridium difficile is a type of bacteria that can cause watery stool, abdominal pain and fever. Patients with the condition can develop more serious intestinal problems.

The FDA said it is working the drug makers to include information about the increased risk of CDAD on the labels of PPIs. The agency is also reviewing the risk of CDAD in people who take histamine H2 receptor blockers, another class of drugs used to treat conditions such as ulcers and acid reflux disease.


Walmart Introduces New Healthy Food Standards, Labels

Walmart said Tuesday it will introduce new standards to identify and label healthy foods for consumers.

Beginning this spring, bright green labels with the words Great for You will appear on the company's own Great Value and Marketside food items and on signs around displays of fresh fruits and vegetables, The New York Times reported.

Walmart also plans to allow other brands to use the label on products that meet the criteria and they won't have to pay a licensing fee.

"This is not meant to lecture our customers," Leslie A. Dach, Walmart's executive vice president for corporate affairs, told The Times. "They can buy a dessert when they want to. But when they want to buy a cracker, we can help them steer them to a healthier cracker if that's what they're looking for."


FDA Should Review Inhaled Caffeine Product: Senator

A new lipstick-sized tube that gives an inhaled shot of caffeine should be reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a senator says.

AeroShot went on sale last month in Massachusetts and New York. It costs $2.99 for a single unit and can be bought at convenience, liquor and online stores. Each canister contains 100 milligrams of caffeine powder, about the amount in a large cup of coffee, the Associated Press reported.

N.Y. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer says he fears young people will use AeroShot as a club drug so that they can drink until they drop. He wants the FDA to review the product.

An FDA spokeswoman would not comment on the matter and told the AP the agency will respond directly to Schumer.


White House Aims to Ease Religious Groups' Concerns About Contraception Rule

Obama administration officials say they're looking at ways to ease religious groups' concerns about a new rule that would require all health insurance plans -- including those offered by Catholic universities and charities -- to offer free birth control to women.

For example, some religious-affiliated institutions may be allowed to offer side insurance plans that are not directly paid for by the institution, The New York Times reported.

However, White House officials insisted that President Obama will not reverse his decision that employees at religious-affiliated institutions receive access to birth control.

Despite vocal opposition from Roman Catholic bishops and some Catholic institutions, Obama administration officials noted that recent polls show the majority of Catholics in the United States favor the new contraceptive rule, The Times reported.


More Autism-Friendly Musicals on Broadway

Autism-friendly performances of the Broadway musicals "Mary Poppins" and "The Lion King" will be offered this spring and fall.

The specially designed matinee showings of "Mary Poppins" on April 29 and "The Lion King" on Sept. 30 were arranged by the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund, which focuses on providing access to live theater, the Associated Press reported.

The Fund received enthusiastic responses after a pilot project last October that featured an autism-friendly performance of "The Lion King."

"It went so much better than any of us had hoped," Victoria Bailey, the Fund's executive director, told the AP. "The value of being able to go to the theater as a family with kids on the autism spectrum and their siblings in an environment that felt safe was huge."

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