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Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:
States Call for Regulation of Tobacco Lozenges
Officials from 42 states are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate sales of a lozenge that delivers the same amount of nicotine as one cigarette.
The product, called Ariva and manufactured by the Chester, Va.-based cigarette company Star Scientific, is made of compressed tobacco flavored with eucalyptus and is sold in about 30,000 stores in 40 states, reports the Associated Press.
It is marketed as an alternative for smokers to use when they are in places where they are unable to smoke.
But the attorneys general from the states argue that the product's bright packaging and sweet taste could make it appear as candy to children, and the lozenges have never been tested for safety.
The company counters that since Ariva is neither a food nor a drug, it should not be subject to the FDA's approval. The FDA says it is looking into the matter.
Whooping Cough Still a Threat
Whooping cough may no longer be the menace it once was, but here's a warning against complacency.
The once-feared pertussis bacteria that causes whooping cough claimed 17 lives in the United States in 2000, a year that saw the highest number of cases of the disease since 1967, according to a report released today by federal health officials. All the victims were infants who hadn't been fully immunized against the germ.
Starting at two months of age, children should receive three doses of the pertussis vaccine -- which are combined into shots, DtaP, that also prevent diphtheria and tetanus -- by the time they're six months old. But the inoculations haven't been proven safe in babies younger than two months, leaving a sizable window of jeopardy to infection, reports HealthDay.
The 17 deaths occurred in 12 states, and symptoms of the illness began before all the children were four months old.
Before a vaccine was available, whooping cough struck 200,000 people a year in this country.
Children's Spray Foam Recalled
A children's spray foam called "Smatter" that is commonly used at parties is being recalled because the cans may explode if they become too hot.
The product's maker, Jakks Pacific Inc., of Malibu, Calif., along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced the recall of 296,000 cans of the spray foam after eight reports were received of exploding cans.
The incidents caused two car windshields to crack, and injured one child, reports the Associated Press.
"Smatter" was sold at toy and discount department stores across the nation between February and June 5.
Cans being recalled include "Original Smatter," "Spit Smatter," and "Fatter Smatter." The cans bear the codes "0492PT'' to "0952PT'' on the bottom.
Heart Risk Factors May Feed Alzheimer's, Too
Common risk factors for heart disease -- including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and inactivity -- may also help spur the onset of Alzheimer's disease, the Associated Press reports.
"While more research is necessary, especially in the form of prevention trials, we're seeing the strongest evidence yet that there is a relationship between healthy aging and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's," the AP quotes William Thies, vice president of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association, as saying.
Several studies to be presented next week at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders suggest that, in particular, reducing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol are most likely to reduce a person's risk of developing the degenerative brain disease. Alzheimer's affects about 12 million people worldwide, including 4 million Americans, the AP reports.
Some 4,000 Alzheimer's researchers are expected to gather in Stockholm for the July 20-25 conference.
Cancer Pain Undertreated: Study
The nation's medical system does a poor job of treating pain and suffering among cancer patients, focusing more on fighting the disease itself, according to a new study produced for the National Institutes of Health.
Emphasizing that many cancer patients fear relentless pain more than death itself, the report by a 13-member panel finds that many established doctors aren't aware of the best ways to treat chronic pain, and that medical schools often fail to properly educate students in pain management.
The report also says that the best painkilling drugs require so much government-ordered paperwork that doctors sometimes prescribe less effective drugs to avoid the hassle.
Frequently cited estimates say that pain is poorly controlled in 26 percent to 41 percent of all cancer patients, the AP reports.
Senate OKs Bill to Import Cheaper Drugs
The Bush Administration says it will refuse to carry out provisions of a bill approved by the Senate that would make it easier for Americans to obtain cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, reports The New York Times.
The Democratic-led Senate passed the bill yesterday by a vote of 69-30. It would allow licensed pharmacists and drug wholesalers to import the drugs from Canada, assuming the medications had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"Lifesaving prescription drugs save no lives if you cannot afford to purchase them," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), the bill's sponsor. U.S. drug companies and some Republicans oppose the measure, saying Canada could become a conduit for counterfeit and contaminated drugs. "If this proposal becomes law, we are just placing our country in the hands of foreign terrorists," warned Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
The bill's supporters counter that Canada's system of drug safety regulation is similar to that of the United States.
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