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

Brits Balk At Herbal Remedy Regulation

A battle is brewing in England over proposed legislation that would regulate the sale of herbal remedies, with British music icons Paul McCartney and Elton John among the vocal opponents of the plan.

The proposal, currently being considered by the country's Department of Health, is intended to bring England in line with standards across Europe, reports the BBC.

But critics say the plan would effectively ban any medicinal product that had not been on the market for 30 years, and would prevent the sale of such popular remedies as ginkgo biloba until they had been subjected to a lengthy, expensive testing process.

If the health department decides to approve the law, it would then go to the European Council of Ministers for final approval.


Fla. Teen Latest Recipient of Prozac in Mail

Parents often worry that their children will be offered drugs on the street, but for one Florida teen, the offer for the drug Prozac came in the mail -- sent by the local Walgreens drugstore.

The promotional mailing of one month's worth of the popular antidepressant to 16-year-old Michael Grinsted of West Palm Beach was just the latest in a string of unsolicited samples of the drug being mailed to people in Florida with histories of depression.

The mailings have angered some recipients, who have filed a class-action lawsuit against Walgreens and several doctors, claiming patients' medical records were misused and their privacy invaded.

Grinsted's family members say they may join the suit. The teen reportedly has no history of depression and has never taken a drug like Prozac, reports the Associated Press.

Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, and Walgreens have reportedly apologized for the earlier incidents but Lilly said it was unaware of the most recent mailing.


Chemicals Could Help Climbers, Lung-Problem Sufferers to Breathe

A new chemical solution developed by researchers shows promise in helping mountain climbers and people with lung problems alike to breathe a little easier.

Studies on rats show that when injected into the bloodstream, the solution of blood-soluble drag-reducing polymers (DRPs) can significantly increase the capacity of the lungs by boosting delivery of oxygen around the body, even when oxygen levels are low, the BBC reports.

The researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, subjected two sets of rats to atmospheric pressure corresponding to an altitude of 25,000 feet, just 4,000 feet lower than the peak of Mount Everest. Overall, 40 percent of the rats died. But, those who had been injected with DRPs survived.

While much more research is necessary, experts call the findings encouraging. They were presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs in New York City.


Hospital Infection Deaths Higher Than Reported, Says Newspaper

An extensive review of hospital records by the Chicago Tribune indicates that about 103,000 people died in 2000 due to hospital infections, a figure that is about 14 percent higher than government estimates.

Even worse, says the article, nearly 75 percent of the deaths were preventable.

According to the report, many of the deaths were caused by problems such as unsanitary facilities, unwashed hands and germs on instruments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that the number of deaths from such infections in 2000 was about 90,000, which still makes deaths from hospital infections the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

The Tribune says the problem has been exacerbated by hospital cutbacks and serious violations of infection control standards that have been documented at the majority of hospitals.

The newspaper got its information by analyzing records from 75 federal and state agencies, as well as internal hospital files, patient databases and court cases around the country, reports the Associated Press.


FDA Approves Use of Implanted Defibrillator

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruling last week that a top brand of implanted defibrillators is safe could affect millions of Americans at risk of cardiac arrest.

The ruling to authorize the widespread use of implants made by the Guidant Corp. came after the company proved that the devices reduced the chances of dying by one-third when implanted in heart attack survivors whose hearts had been damaged, reports the Associated Press.

About 220,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, which occurs when the electrical signals that pump the heart malfunction and the heartbeat stops.

While external defibrillators -- now found in many public places -- can deliver an electric jolt to restart the heart, implanted defibrillators, like the one used by Vice President Dick Cheney, offer a constant monitoring from within and automatically jolt the heart to restore its rhythm in case of cardiac arrest.

Many doctors had already begun recommending the implants on a wider basis following Guidant's study, but this week's ruling allows the company to advertise the defibrillator's benefits.


Anthrax Tests Send Out False Alarms, White House Says

Anthrax tests like those used in federal mailrooms and many other locations around the nation are prone to give either false-positive results or fail to reliably detect when anthrax is present. As a result, they should no longer be used, says the While House.

A White House memo to be sent Monday to more than 250 federal agencies and to firefighters, police and local officials across the country advises that agencies stop buying and using the field tests and to cancel any contracts that are pending, reports the Associated Press.

The memo is in response to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showing that all tests on the market are prone to miss small amounts of anthrax. Or they detect the potentially fatal germ when it's not present.

Instead of the tests, authorities are being advised to send samples to CDC-approved labs, which offer results of anthrax tests within about six hours.

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