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Health Highlights: July 13, 2006

New Jersey Jury Backs Merck in Vioxx Trial Malnutrition Causes Mental Harm to Children: Report Maker Recalls Inflatable Watercraft Linked to Deaths FDA: Avoid 'Natural' Impotence Pills Sold on Internet Mom Has Quadruplets 3 Years After Triplets 'Doctor Death' Says He Wouldn't Choose Suicide

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

New Jersey Jury Backs Merck in Vioxx Trial

A New Jersey jury said Thursday that drug maker Merck & Co.'s painkiller Vioxx did not cause the heart attack of 68-year-old Elaine Doherty. The decision may be an important legal victory for Merck, which faces more than 13,000 product liability lawsuits.

This case was the first to consider whether Merck failed to warn patients about potential cardiac risks posed by Vioxx, the Associated Press reported. Previous trials considered whether the company failed to warn doctors about those risks.

The jury of five men and two women concluded that Vioxx did not cause Doherty's heart attack. The decision means that Merck will not have to pay compensatory or punitive damages, the AP reported.

The jurors also said that Merck did not violate New Jersey's fraud law. This means they believed the company's marketing of Vioxx met state standards for honesty and good faith and that Merck did not hide information about the drug's cardiovascular risks.

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Malnutrition Causes Mental Harm to Children: Report

The mental harm that malnutrition inflicts on millions of children in poor nations is almost as serious as the physical damage, warns a report released Thursday by the United Nation's World Food Program (WFP).

Children plagued by hunger can suffer irreversible mental stunting, lowered IQs, and a reduced ability to learn, the report said. It's estimated that malnourishment is the reason why the average IQs of 60 affected countries are 10 to 15 points lower than they could be, Agence France Presse reported.

It's believed that more than 300 million children worldwide regularly go to bed hungry. Illnesses related to malnutrition kill about 25,000 people a day, the report found. That's more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The report noted that learning and hunger are linked. So, even if an undernourished child is able to go to school, they're often not able to concentrate on their lessons, AFP reported.

More emphasis on school feeding programs can help improve both nutrition and education, the UN team said.

"Education and learning is about more than just buildings and books. It's also about feeding the mind so that the mind can in fact take advantage," said Sheila Sisulu, deputy head of the WFP.

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Maker Recalls Inflatable Watercraft Linked to Deaths

Due to a number of deaths and serious injuries, Sportsstuff, Inc. of Omaha, Neb. is recalling about 19,000 Wego Kite Tube watercraft, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said Thursday.

The company has received two reports of deaths and numerous serious injuries. The CPSC said it knows of 39 injury incidents, including a broken neck, punctured lung, chest and back injuries and facial injuries. Sportsstuff said it hasn't been able to determine the cause of the injuries.

The Wego Kite Tube is a 10-foot-wide, circular, yellow inflatable watercraft designed to be towed behind a power boat. A rider in the tube becomes airborne by pulling on handles attached to the floor of the tube. The tubes, which cost $500 to $600, were sold through marine distributors, mail order catalogues, and other retailers from October 1, 2005 to July 11, 2006.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled watercraft and contact Sportsstuff to find out how to obtain free replacement products. Call the company at 1-866-831-5524 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday.

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FDA: Avoid 'Natural' Impotence Pills Sold on Internet

So-called "natural" alternatives to impotence drugs such as Viagra, sold over the Internet, illegally contain the same active ingredients as the prescription medicines and should be avoided, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The list of seven dietary supplements includes Zimaxx, which FDA testing shows contains sildenafil, the same active ingredient in Viagra. Viagra, made by Pfizer Inc., is sold only by prescription in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

Other products cited were Libidus, Neophase, Nasutra, Vigor-25, Actra-Rx and 4Everon. Analyses showed the products contain either chemical ingredients that are similar to sildenafil or a second drug called vardenafil, the active ingredient in Levitra, another impotence drug sold legally by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Schering-Plough Corp., the FDA said.

The FDA has sent letters to the six companies warning them that they are marketing illegal drugs based on the claims made for the products or their ingredients.

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Mom Has Quadruplets 3 Years After Triplets

A Los Angeles woman who had triplets three years ago gave birth to quadruplets earlier this month in what doctors called a rare occurrence of multiple births.

Angela Magdaleno, 40, gave birth to the quadruplets July 6 by Caesarian section. She said had used fertility treatments to conceive the triplets, but not the quads, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The new additions were two boys and two girls. Mother and children were reported to be healthy and resting at home.

Three years ago, Magdaleno gave birth to the triplets after undergoing in vitro fertilization. She said her husband wanted many children, but after the birth of her quadruplets said she thought she was done having babies.

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'Doctor Death' Says He Wouldn't Choose Suicide

Jack Kevorkian, known as "Doctor Death" for his role in assisting at least 130 deaths in the 1990s, said he still believes in assisted suicide but would not choose it for himself.

Kevorkian, who is being held at the Lakeland Correctional Facility near Coldwater in southwestern Michigan, is in failing health. He is eligible for parole in June 2007, but his attorney, Mayer Morganroth, has said he doubts the doctor will live that long, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

"Remember that I did not advocate assisted suicide," Kevorkian, 78, said in a written response to questions from The Detroit News published Thursday. "I only advocated that a person should have the right to have the option if he or she, in sound mind, needed and desired it while in irremedial pain and suffering and terminal."

The former pathologist, imprisoned since April 1999, has promised he would not assist in a suicide if he were released from prison. The Michigan Parole Board has rejected four of Kevorkian's requests for early release, the AP reported.

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