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Health Highlights: Jan. 30, 2007

EU Considering Total Ban on Public Smoking Statins More Effective for Male Heart Attack Patients: Study Test May Predict Risk of Bone Marrow Transplant Rejection YAZ Birth Control Pill Can be Used to Treat Acne: FDA McDonald's Starting to Use Trans-Fat-Free Oil for Fries Jury Awards Woman $1.5 Million in Prempro Lawsuit

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

EU Considering Total Ban on Public Smoking

European Union officials may propose a total smoking ban in public places for all 27 member countries.

In a policy paper released Tuesday, EU regulators said they favor a ban that does not include any exemptions for establishments, such as bars serving food, Bloomberg news reported.

However, the EU is delaying introducing legislation to guarantee a smoke-free environment across the entire bloc because "the desirable level of EU involvement in promoting smoke-free legislation is an open question."

So far, 13 EU nations have drafted rules to restrict smoking in public. However, smoking bans have met strong opposition in some countries, including Germany, which is Europe's biggest tobacco market, Bloomberg reported.

Each year in the EU, secondhand smoke is responsible for the deaths of 79,000 adults, according to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

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Statins More Effective for Male Heart Attack Patients: Study

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are more effective for men than women in reducing the risk of death after a heart attack, says a study published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal compared the death rates of more than 14,000 heart attack patients treated with statins and more than 23,000 patients who did not receive statins, CBC News reported.

They found that the use of statins after a heart attack was associated with a lower death risk in men than in women, whether it was cardiac-related death or death from other causes.

The researchers suggested that men and women may process statins differently, CBC News reported.

"If corroborated by independent studies on the effects of statins on serum cholesterol levels, these results would suggest a possible need for reappraisal of target daily doses for statins," the researchers wrote. "Women might require a higher dose to achieve preventive effects similar to those observed in men."

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Test May Predict Risk of Bone Marrow Transplant Rejection

A potential method of predicting whether transplants from specific bone marrow donors are likely to be rejected by a recipient has been developed by Canadian researchers.

They analyzed 19,000 genes from 50 bone marrow donors and found that the activity of 17 specific genes could help them identify so-called "dangerous donors" whose bone marrow was likely to be rejected, the Canadian Press reported.

If this approach is confirmed, it would help doctors plan bone marrow transplants and post-transplant treatments in order to reduce recipients' risk of graft-versus-host disease.

It may also be possible for doctors to use this test to determine which recipients are likely to reject different kinds of solid organ transplants (for example, kidneys and livers), the CP reported.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

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YAZ Birth Control Pill Can be Used to Treat Acne: FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that the oral contraceptive YAZ can also be used by women to control moderate acne, the Associated Press reported..

The decision means that YAZ, made by Bayer Schering Pharma AG, is the first oral contraceptive to be approved by the FDA for three distinct uses, the drug maker said in a statement released Monday.

Along with birth control and acne treatment, YAZ is also approved in the United States to treat the physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, the AP reported.

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McDonald's Starting to Use Trans-Fat-Free Oil for Fries

After years of testing, McDonald's Corp. has finally chosen a trans-fat-free cooking oil for its french fries, the company said Monday. But the fast-food giant did not say when the new oil would be used in all its 13,700 U.S. restaurants.

McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker did say the oil is currently being used in more than 1,200 U.S. restaurants and is being phased in around the country, the Associated Press reported.

According to the Chicago Tribune, McDonald's tested 18 varieties of oil in more than 50 blends during the last seven years.

McDonald's trails fast-food rivals Wendy's International Inc. and Yum Brands Inc.'s KFC and Taco Bell in using oils that are free of artery-clogging trans fats, the AP reported.

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Jury Awards Woman $1.5 Million in Prempro Lawsuit

The Prempro menopause drug contributed to an Arkansas woman's breast cancer, and drug maker Wyeth should pay her $1.5 million in damages, a state court jury in Philadelphia decided Monday.

The jury deliberated for a total of about nine hours over two days before it concluded that Wyeth's conduct was "malicious, wanton, willful or oppressive," and awarded punitive damages to plaintiff Mary Daniel, Bloomberg news reported.

Wyeth failed to provide proper warnings about Prempro's cancer risk, the jury said. The jurors will return Tuesday to consider awarding further damages to Daniel, who took Prempro for about 16 months before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2001.

This is the second trial loss for Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth, which faces about 5,000 lawsuits over its hormone-replacement drugs, including Prempro and Premarin, Bloomberg reported.

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