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Health Highlights: Jan. 10, 2012

Lawsuits Launched Over Alleged DES-Breast Cancer Link Guatemalan Victims of American Research Can't Sue U.S.: Obama Administration North Carolina Sterilization Victims Should Receive $50K Each: Task Force $1,000 Genome Mapping Soon Available, Company Says

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

Lawsuits Launched Over Alleged DES-Breast Cancer Link

Fifty-three women in the United States are suing drug companies who made the synthetic estrogen DES (diethylstilbestrol), which was given to millions of pregnant women in the U.S. and other countries to prevent miscarriages, premature birth and other problems.

The women say they developed breast cancer because their mothers took the drug, which was available from about 1938 to the early 1970s, the Associated Press reported.

In 1971, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told doctors to stop prescribing DES to their pregnant patients after a study had found that daughters of women who took DES during pregnancy seemed to be at increased risk for a rare vaginal cancer.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed since the 1970s alleging links between DES and cervical and vaginal cancer, as well as infertility. But a case in Boston is believed to be the first major lawsuit alleging a connection between DES and breast cancer in DES daughters older than 40, the AP reported.

The case is being watched closely by DES daughters across the U.S.


Guatemalan Victims of American Research Can't Sue U.S.: Obama Administration

The Obama administration says a 1940s U.S. experiment in which Guatemalans were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases without their consent was "shameful" but argues that the victims cannot sue the United States.

Soverign immunity protects federal health officials from litigation stemming from the experiment, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday in its first response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the experiment's victims, the Associated Press reported.

Guatemalan prisoners, prostitutes, mental patients and soldiers were exposed to STDs in order to test the effects of penicillin.

In it's filing, the Justice Department said the research was "a deeply troubling chapter in our nation's history," the AP reported.

However, government attorneys added that the "lawsuit is not the proper vehicle, and this court is not the proper forum, through which the consequences of this shameful conduct may be resolved."


North Carolina Sterilization Victims Should Receive $50K Each: Task Force

People in North Carolina who were sterilized against their will should receive $50,000 each in compensation, a state task force voted Tuesday.

It said the money should go to verified, living victims of the eugenics program, including those who are alive now but may die before politicians approve any payments, the Associated Press reported.

More than 7,600 people in North Carolina underwent forced sterilization between 1929 and 1974. A task force report released last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those people were still alive and the state has verified 72 victims.

Survivors will have three years to apply for compensation payments after they are approved, the AP reported. The total cost to the state could be about $100 million.


$1,000 Genome Mapping Soon Available, Company Says

A U.S. genomics company says it will be able to offer $1,000 genome sequencing by the end of the year.

California-based Life Technologies Corp. is expected to introduce Tuesday a machine that can map a person's entire genetic makeup for $1,000 and deliver the information within a day, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Currently, the cheapest genome sequencing costs about $3,000 and takes a week. A large reduction in cost could be a major step in advancing the use of DNA to develop personalized medicine.

Some experts believe it will eventually be routine to use a patient's genetic code to guide prevention and treatment of health problems throughout life, the WSJ reported.


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