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Health Highlights: June 19, 2006

Cough Suppressant Patches Recalled After Child's Seizure U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Block Medicare Drug Provision Use of Amphetamines in the Workplace Declines, Tester Says 2.4 Million Americans Started Painkillers Without Prescription in 2004 Canada Widens Bird-Flu Quarantine on Prince Edward Island

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

Cough Suppressant Patches Recalled After Child's Seizure

The maker of a cough-suppressing vapor patch is recalling the product after an unidentified child suffered a seizure after chewing on one, the Associated Press reported Monday.

All versions of Triaminic Vapor Patches are being recalled by the Swiss drug firm Novartis AG, the company said. The patches contain camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol, and are meant to be applied to the chest or throat. But the company acknowledged that children could remove the patches -- recommended for children ages two years and older -- and place them in their mouths, the wire service reported.

Ingesting the patch's contents can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, headache, nausea, vomiting or seizure, the AP said. In the lone reported instance of a child chewing on the patch, the victim recovered the same day, Novartis said.

More than 50 million of the patches have been sold, the company said. Parents should discard the product or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. For more information, call Novartis at 1-800-452-0051, or visit


U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Block Medicare Drug Provision

Rebutting state claims that the new Medicare drug benefit was a prescription for financial hardship, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to block part of the law that requires states to reimburse the federal government for certain expenses, the Associated Press reported.

The court, without comment, refused a bid by 15 states to overturn a requirement that the states pay Washington, D.C., money they are expected to save from no longer having to subsidize drugs for people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, the AP reported.

The national prescription benefit for the elderly and disabled took effect on Jan. 1. Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Texas and New Jersey wanted the justices to issue an injunction against the disputed provision, and 10 other states filed briefs with the court claiming the provision threatened state independence, the wire service said. The court rejected both claims without comment.

Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz had argued that the provision was expected to cost the states billions of dollars over the next two years, the AP said.


Use of Amphetamines in the Workplace Declines, Tester Says

Use of amphetamines in the American workplace fell 8 percent last year, and corporate drug use overall fell to a 17-year-low, the nation's biggest corporate drug testing firm said Monday.

Quest Diagnostics said its semi-annual drug testing index revealed that 0.48 percent of all corporate amphetamine tests came back positive in 2005, down from 0.52 percent in 2004. Amphetamine tests included detection of methamphetamine, a frequently abused street drug that's often created in home-made laboratories from ingredients found in many cold medicines.

Overall, workplace drug use fell to its lowest level since Quest began publishing its index in 1988, the company said in a statement. Of tests for all drugs conducted in the United States last year, 4.1 percent came back positive, versus 4.5 percent a year earlier.

Corporate marijuana use alone sank 12 percent in 2005 from the prior year, Quest said.


2.4 Million Started Painkillers Without Prescription in 2004

New federal statistics show that almost 2.4 million Americans began taking narcotic pain relievers for nonmedical use in the past year -- more than those who started using marijuana or cocaine.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration took data from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that 2.4 million persons 12 or older initiated non-medical use of prescription pain relievers in the 12 months prior to the survey. Meanwhile, an estimated 2.1 million Americans started using marijuana, and 1 million began using cocaine.

Among the drugs taken: 48 percent of new initiates used Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet; 34.3 percent used Darvocet, Darvon, or Tylenol with codeine; 20 percent used Percocet, Percodan or Tylox; 18.4 percent used generic hydrocodone; 14.3 percent used generic codeine; 8.4 percent used Oxycontin; and 4.3 percent used morphine. Over half of people who began non-medical use of pain medications (54.9 percent) in 2004 were female, according to the report.

"While overall illicit drug use continues to decline among our young people, we are always paying close attention to the data to identify any potential areas of concern," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie. "Abuse of prescription pain medication is dangerous and can lead to the destructive path of addiction. The initiation rates show we must continue our efforts to help the public confront and reduce all drug abuse."


Canada Widens Bird-Flu Quarantine on Prince Edward Island

Canada this weekend broadened quarantine measures to contain bird flu on Prince Edward Island, where an infected gosling was found on a farm last week and a second farm was under watch after officials discovered there had been movement of people and perhaps poultry between the two farms.

Both farms had a small, mixed flock of free-range birds, Jim Clark, national manager of the avian influenza working group of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, told CBC News Monday.

The alarm was raised last week when a goose tested positive for an H5 virus on a farm in western P.E.I. Four of 11 geese died on that farm, leading to a post-mortem that proved inconclusive, Clark said. So far, no sign of bird flu has been found on the second farm, Clark said, but he couldn't be certain under the final results were available Tuesday or Wednesday.

The tests will check if the virus is the H5N1 strain that has killed more than 140 million poultry and at least 129 people, mainly in Asia, according to Bloomberg News.

Over the weekend, Hungarian officials culled 3,000 more domestic poultry on fears they were exposed to the virus, the Magyar Nemzet newspaper reported Monday. Indonesia also reported its 50th human case of the disease last week, as authorities made plans to slaughter more poultry. The disease has spread across two-thirds of the country's provinces and killed more than one person a week this year.

Animal health officials worldwide are monitoring for H5N1, described by some scientists as the most lethal avian flu strain yet recorded. It has spread to almost 40 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa this year, and the diseased fowl increase the risk to humans that the virus may mutate into a pandemic that could kill millions of people.

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