Health Highlights: July 14, 2007

China Rejects U.S. Meat, Poultry Imports $35 Billion Cigarette Tax Increase Approved By Senate Committee Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease India May Establish Abortion Registry Fellow Airline Passengers Suing Atlanta Lawyer With TB

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

China Rejects U.S. Meat, Poultry Imports

In an act of apparent retaliation to the United States' cracking down on imports of many of its food products, China has suspended importing a number of U.S. meat products, including poultry from the world's largest producer, Tyson Foods of Arkansas.

The Associated Press reports that that the Chinese government, following months of U.S.-rejected imports ranging from pet food additives to toothpaste, announced late last week that many U.S. meat products contained substandard materials, including Tyson frozen poultry, which the Chinese agency known as the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said contained salmonella bacteria.

Other banned meat products contained residue of an anti-parasite drug in pork and a leanness-enhancing food additive, the AQSIQ said. Representatives from Tyson Foods had not responded to the A.P. late Saturday.

In a statement, Li Yuanping, director of the AQSIQ's import and export bureau, said that China had always been diligent in controlling the quality of its exported food. "There is no such thing as zero risk. China-made products should not be labeled as substandard just because of a few bad producers," the wire service quotes him as saying.

There is little doubt that China wants to show it meets international exporting product standards. Its former top food and drug regulator was executed Tuesday after being found guilty of taking bribes to approve untested medicine.


$35 Billion Cigarette Tax Increase Approved By Senate Committee

A hike in the U.S. cigarette tax has moved closer to becoming a reality, although how large the increase will be remains a question.

The New York Times reports that leaders of the Senate Finance Committee have agreed that the increase, which will be used to broaden a federal program to provide health insurance for millions of low income children, will be $35 billion over a five year period.

This amount is far greater than the $5 billion proposed by President Bush, the newspaper reports, and the difference may prompt a confrontation if the bill is passed.

The children's health insurance program expires Sept. 30. The $35 billion tax hike would take place immediately and increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents a pack to $1 a pack, the Times reports.

Other tobacco products would also have proportionate tax increases, the Times reports.


Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects

In the month after the New England Journal of Medicine published an analysis that showed a possible connection between the popular diabetes drug Avandia and heart problems, there was a large increase in the number of suspected Avandia-related side effects reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reported.

The analysis appeared online May 21. In the 35 days before the release of the analysis, five heart attacks believed to be linked to Avandia were reported to the FDA, compared with 90 such reports in the following 35 days. Reports of heart-related hospitalization among Avandia patients increased from 11 to 126, said the AP, which obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA.

A number of experts said the analysis likely increased doctors' awareness about the drug's possible role in patients' heart problems, which resulted in the large increase in reported cases of side effects.

Avandia is made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which insists the drug is safe and effective. The FDA has scheduled hearings on July 30 to look into safety concerns about the drug, the AP reported.

Diabetes experts said patients taking Avandia should talk to their doctors and shouldn't immediately stop taking the drug.


Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Men who consume milk and other dairy products may have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, concludes a 20-year British study that included 2,375 men, ages 45 to 59.

The University of Cardiff team found that men who drank a pint or more of milk a day were 62 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, BBC News reported.

People with metabolic syndrome have two or more health conditions -- such as high blood glucose, high blood fats, high blood pressure, and high body fat -- that increase the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

But people shouldn't consume large amounts of full-fat dairy products in an attempt to prevent diabetes, Jemma Edwards, care advisor at Diabetes UK, told BBC News. Edwards recommended two to three daily servings of low-fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet.


India May Establish Abortion Registry

India's government plans a mandatory registry of pregnancies and abortions in an attempt to stop selective abortions of girl fetuses, according to an official quoted by the Hindustan Times on Friday.

"This well check both feticide and infant mortality," Renuka Chowdhury told the newspaper, Agence France-Presse reported.

In India, there are 927 females born for every 1,000 males, which is far below the worldwide average of 1,050 females for every 1,000 males. Many people in India prefer to have male children and use selective abortion to avoid having girls, AFP said.

According to the newspaper story, data in the registry will enable the government to concentrate its efforts at preventing female feticide in areas where there are large differences in the number of recorded pregnancies and births, AFP reported.

Abortions would only be permitted in cases with a "valid and acceptable reason," Chowdhury said.

There was no immediate official government response to the newspaper article, the AFP reported.

Last year, a study published in The Lancet medical journal estimated that India may have lost as many as 10 million unborn girls in the past 20 years. Indian experts disputed that figure, saying it was closer to five million.


Fellow Airline Passengers Suing Atlanta Lawyer With TB

Nine people are suing the Atlanta attorney with tuberculosis who took a commercial flight from the Czech Republic to Canada in late May. The plaintiffs' lawyer filed the motion Thursday in Quebec Superior Court. To date, TB has not been confirmed in any of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit includes eight passengers who were on the flight from Prague to Montreal, as well as a brother and roommate of one of the passengers, the Associated Press reported.

Despite warnings from health officials that he had drug-resistant TB, 31-year-old Andrew Speaker took the flight to Canada and then drove across the border into the United States.

"They do not have tuberculosis, but nobody can say that they won't have tuberculosis," Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen said of his clients. "And that will not be known, not now, not next year, but for many years in the future, so the pain and suffering that the people have gone through are real. They continue to suffer now because of the uncertainty."

Nguyen told the AP that he believes many more passengers on the flight may take legal action against Speaker.


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