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Health Highlights: Jan. 18, 2007

Magazine Retracts Negative Review of Infant Car Seats Maryland Can't Force Wal-Mart to Boost Employee Health Insurance: Court Concussions Linked to Depression in NFL Player Who Committed Suicide Doctor Conducting Illegal Stem Cell Transplants: FDA Young, Educated Women More Likely to Binge Drink Than Less-Educated Peers

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

Magazine Retracts Negative Review of Infant Car Seats

Consumer Reports has retracted this month's blistering review of infant car seats, which included an assertion that most of the seats "failed disastrously" in crash safety tests, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The original report, published Jan. 4, said the magazine had tested the seats at speeds as low as 35 mph. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the tests "were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph," the A.P. reported.

The wire service quoted NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason as saying that more than 100 worried parents had contacted the agency on the day the report was released.

"Consumer Reports was right to withdraw its infant car seat test report and I appreciate that they have taken this corrective action," Nason said. "I was troubled by the report because it frightened parents and could have discouraged them from using car seats."

In a statement, the magazine said it would retest the seats and publish a new evaluation as soon as possible, the AP reported.

Consumer Reports tested the type of seat that faces the rear and snaps into a base. Only two of the 12 seats tested were recommended, and the magazine advised that one of the seats -- the Evenflo Discovery -- be recalled nationally. Evenflo immediately disputed the magazine's findings.

Consumer Reports, however, said it was sticking by its original claim that the Evenflo product should be recalled, the AP reported.


Maryland Can't Force Wal-Mart to Boost Employee Health Insurance: Court

The state of Maryland violated federal law when it passed a law requiring retail giant Wal-Mart to increase spending on employee health insurance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Thursday.

The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that the Maryland law violated a federal labor law. That law was designed to permit companies to establish a uniform system of health benefits across the United States, rather than having to deal with state-by-state rules, The New York Times reported.

The 2-1 decision appears to mark the end of a year-long struggle between Wal-Mart and Maryland state legislators, organized labor and health care advocates.

The appeals court ruling may also be a major setback to similar efforts around the United States to move millions of working poor from state-sponsored insurance programs, such as Medicaid, to employer-based plans, The Times reported.

After Maryland passed its legislation last year, lawmakers in dozens of other states announced they would introduce similar measures in order to reduce increasing Medicaid costs.


Concussions Linked to Depression in NFL Player Who Committed Suicide

Football-related brain damage may have led to the depression of former NFL player Andre Waters, who committed suicide last November, suggests a University of Pittsburgh neuropathologist.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, a leading expert in forensic pathology, examined the remains of the player's brain and concluded that the brain tissue had degenerated to the point where it resembled that of an 85-year-old man with early Alzheimer's disease, The New York Times reported.

Waters was 44 years old when he died. It's likely that successive football-related concussions caused or significantly accelerated the brain damage, said Omalu, who plans to do further investigation into the case.

His conclusions, which have not been corroborated or reviewed, add more fuel to the growing debate about whether athletes and others who suffer multiple concussions are at increased risk for depression, dementia and suicide as early as midlife, The Times reported.

The NFL would not comment specifically on the Waters case. Later this year, the league will begin a study of retired players in order to examine the issue of football concussions and subsequent depression, said Dr. Andrew Tucker, a member of the NFL's mild traumatic brain injury committee.


Doctor Conducting Illegal Stem Cell Transplants: FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has sent a warning letter to a Las Vegas doctor who the agency says has been implanting stem cells harvested from placentas into patients in violation of federal law.

The letter sent to Dr. Alfred Sapse of Stem Cell Pharma Inc. and dated Nov. 22, 2006 was released by the FDA Thursday.

The agency said Sapse failed to properly obtain, store, test and process the placentas. He also failed to screen both the suitability of the donors and the patients. The FDA said at least 16 patients received the stem cells, the Associated Press reported.

The warning letter also said that Sapse failed to seek or obtain federal approval to conduct the stem cell procedures. He also failed to allow an FDA investigator to see and copy records on his stem cell implant patients during an inspection of his company on July 6, 2006.

The FDA letter orders Sapse to explain what measures he's taken or plans to take in order to correct the violations and prevent them from recurring, the AP reported.

On his Web site, Sapse says he's done 42 stem cell implants on patients with different kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Alzheimer's. He charges $6,000 per procedure.


Young, Educated Women More Likely to Binge Drink Than Less-Educated Peers

Well-educated women in their 20s are about a third more likely to binge drink than less-educated women in the same age group, says a U.K. study in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

However, the researchers, from at the Institute of Child Health, also found that by age 40 less-educated women were two times more likely to be binge drinking than women with more education, BBC News reported.

For this study, binge drinking among women was defined as have more than seven units of alcohol in one session. A large glass of wine or a pint of normal-strength beer was considered two units of alcohol.

The study included 11,500 women and men, born in 1958, who were asked to recall their drinking habits at ages 23, 33 and 42.

Men with less education were three times more likely to binge drink than men with more education. This difference did not vary much with age, BBC News reported.

The age-related differences in binge drinking among women may be due to domestic circumstances, suggested study author Barbara Jefferis.

"For example, among women, the less educated are more likely to have children earlier than more educated women, and also have different types of employment with differing drinking cultures," Jefferis wrote.

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