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Health Highlights: July 26, 2012

CPSC Tries to Stop Sales of Buckyballs New Public-Private Partnership Targets Health Care Fraud Petition Calls for New FDA Rules on Painkillers Mexico Launches Large Poultry Vaccination Effort Ecstasy Linked to Memory Loss: Study

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

CPSC Tries to Stop Sales of Buckyballs

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has filed an administrative complaint against New York-based Maxfield and Oberton in an effort to force the company to stop selling high-powered desktop magnetic toys called Buckyballs.

The product is meant for adults, but the CPSC says at least a dozen children have swallowed the magnets since 2009 and some of them have required surgery, the Associated Press reported.

Thursday's move was taken because the company refused to recall the product, according to the CPSC. The agency has persuaded about 10 retailers, including, to stop selling Buckyballs.

Craig Zucker, the founder of Maxfield and Oberton, said Buckyballs are marketed to people 14 and older and carry clear warning labels to keep them away from children. In a statement, the company called the CPSC's actions "unfair, unjust and un-American," the AP reported.


New Public-Private Partnership Targets Health Care Fraud

In an effort to reduce tens of billion of dollars in losses to health care fraud, the Obama administration has announced a new large scale public-private partnership with state investigators and private insurers.

This cooperative effort "puts criminals on notice that we will find them and stop them," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Details of the partnership remain to be finalized, but could include sharing information on new fraud schemes as they appear, using computer analysis to detect emerging patterns of fraud, and analyzing claims data to identify scams.

It's estimated that fraud costs Medicare about $60 billion a year. This is the latest in a number of Obama administration efforts to stop it, the AP reported.


Petition Calls for New FDA Rules on Painkillers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to introduce new measures to reduce the overuse and abuse of prescription painkillers, a group of about 35 doctors said in a citizens petition sent Wednesday.

Specifically, the doctors wants the FDA to limit the use of narcotic painkillers (opioids) to treatment of severe pain in patients other than those with cancer. They also want labeling changes that instruct doctors to limit doses of the drugs when they're used to treat noncancer pain and to limit the length of time they are used, The New York Times reported.

Currently, narcotic painkillers are FDA-approved for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

"Overprescribing of opioids is harming many chronic pain patients," Edward Covington, director of the Neurological Center for Pain at the Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement, The Times reported.

The doctors who signed the petition include Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the commissioner of the Department of Health in New York City, and Dr. Nirav R. Shah, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.


Mexico Launches Large Poultry Vaccination Effort

About 10 million poultry will be vaccinated in Mexico to protect them against an outbreak of the highly contagious H7N3 bird flu strain.

The outbreak has already resulted in the deaths of five million birds, which either became ill or were slaughtered, Agence France-Presse reported.

The crisis was first detected June 20 in the western state of Jalisco and a national animal health emergency was declared in early July.

The United Nations says the H7N3 virus has occasionally affected people in various parts of the world, but is not easily transmittable between humans, AFP reported.


Ecstasy Linked to Memory Loss: Study

The street drug Ecstasy may cause memory loss, according to a new study.

German researchers tracked more than 100 recreational Ecstasy users for a year and found that their performance on a series of memory tests declined during that time, ABC News reported.

The greatest effect was seen in associative memory. For example, people who used Ecstasy might have trouble remembering where they left their keys.

The Ecstasy users in the study took an average of 32 pills over the year, which is slightly more than one pill every other weekend, ABC News reported.


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