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

Feds Say Additional Health Care Help for States Unlikely

Governors from 30 states who had hopes of getting a hand from the federal government to help cut skyrocketing health care expenses received some bad news today from one government official: Don't count on it.

The governors have been working on a strategy for states to reduce their Medicaid expenses that included a proposal that the federal government contribute more in its share for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

But, in addressing the governors at the meeting of the National Governors Association in Boise, Idaho, Medicare Administrator Tom Scully said, "We can't always give you more money. I know that's frustrating. But we are trying to help you... make the money you have go as far as you can,'' the Associated Press reports.

Scully said a measure approved last month by the U.S. House of Representatives to spend $320 billion over 10 years to add a prescription drug plan to Medicare, the health insurance program for senior citizens, would greatly help to ease states' financial burdens.

"It's probably the single biggest thing we could do in the federal budget that would take pressure off the states,'' Scully said.


Bacteria Detection System Allows Faster Beach Closure Decisions

A new method for determining if E. coli and other bacteria levels are too high for safe swimming is gaining the interest of public health and beach administrators around the world.

The method, designed by scientists in Indiana to predict bacteria levels in Lake Michigan, uses a computerized forecasting model that takes into account factors such as recent rainfall, wind, lake levels, air and water temperatures and sunshine, and then is able to accurately forecast E. coli bacteria levels within just three hours, according to the Associated Press.

Methods currently used by health officials involve taking water samples and testing them in a process that can last up to 48 hours, leaving officials uncertain whether to allow swimming at a beach.

Researchers at Indiana University who developed the new approach say they've already received requests for more information from officials in Boston, Santa Monica, Calif., and New Zealand.


Aspirin-Anticoagulant Combo Improves Heart Attack Survival

Adding a drug that prevents blood clots to the standard treatment for heart attacks can improve the outcome for many patients, according to Dutch cardiologists.

Patients are routinely given aspirin in the hours after a heart attack because it prevents the blood cells called platelets from clumping together to form clots that reduce blood flow. However, a study done at seven clinics in the Netherlands finds improved blood flow and better survival in selected patients who also got warfarin, which acts in a different way to prevent clotting, reports HealthDay.

The report appears in tomorrow's issue of Circulation.

The patients had a distinctive pattern called ST-elevation on their electrocardiograms, an indicator often associated with blood clot formation. After three months, a new examination showed that arteries remained open in 85 percent of the patients who got the aspirin-warfarin combination, compared to 72 percent of those who got aspirin alone.

The results look promising, says an American expert, but more information is needed before basic changes are made in heart attack treatment.


Almost 3 Million Teens Considered Suicide: Gov't.

Almost 3 million American teens considered suicide in 2000, and more than a third of them actually attempted it, reports a new government survey cited by the Associated Press.

Girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were almost twice as likely as teen boys to contemplate or attempt to kill themselves, according to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Only about a third of these teens at risk received counseling, the report warns.

Teens in Western states were most at risk at 14 percent; in the South, 13 percent; the Midwest, 12 percent; and Northeast, 11 percent.

Those who had recently used alcohol or illegal drugs were much more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, the survey finds.


Meat Inspection Program Called a Failure

The six-year-old federal meat inspection program is failing to protect Americans on almost every level, warns a draft report from the General Accounting Office obtained by ABC News.

The new system uses scientific tests to screen for bacteria, having replaced a system by which inspectors merely "poked and sniffed" the meat. But even under the newer advanced testing, inspectors frequently fail to penalize processing plants that fail inspection, the GAO report says.

Other flaws cited include untrained inspectors, inadequate testing, bad record-keeping and significant understaffing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's already taken steps to correct some of the problems cited by the GAO, the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress.


Pfizer Buying Rival Drugmaker for $60B

The world's biggest drug company wants to become even bigger, so Pfizer Inc., says it will buy rival Pharmacia Corp. for $60 billlion in stock.

Pfizer's existing products include Viagra (impotence), Zoloft (depression), and Liptor (cholesterol). Pharmacia's premiere drug is celebrex (arthritis).

The new company would have a combined annual revenue of $48 billion and a research/development budget of more than $7 billion, reports the Associated Press.

Today's announcement of a planned merger, which must still be approved by regulators and shareholders, took many analysts by surprise, given the intense competition among drugmakers to keep prices low and the souring health of the economy, the AP reports.

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