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Health Highlights: June 17, 2002

High Court Deals Another Blow to Disabled Starch-blocking Diabetes Drug Shows Promise Fewer Women Admitted to ICUs Than Men When Suffering Heart Attacks Diabetic Children Face Big Risks as Adults Recalled Calif. Milk Contains Penicillin

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

High Court Deals Another Blow to Disabled

In dealing yet another blow to the disabled, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states and cities can't be subjected to punitive damages in lawsuits stemming from failure to build wheelchair ramps or make other accommodations.

The court ruled in favor of state agencies' arguments that unpredictable jury awards could force them into bankruptcy. Such agencies can, however, still be ordered to pay actual damages, but not punitive damages. The ruling doesn't apply to just the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also bans cash awards under other laws involving federal grants as well, reports the Associated Press.

The ruling was about the case of a paraplegic man injured while being taken to jail in Kansas City, Mo., and found that he was not entitled to $1.2 million in punitive damages.

In separate cases earlier this year, the court also made it hard for workers to demand special treatment because of partial physical disabilities; they ruled that companies' seniority policies almost always override the demands of disabled employees; and that disabled people cannot demand jobs that would threaten their lives or health.

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Starch-blocking Diabetes Drug Shows Promise

While a healthy diet and exercise are seen as the most effective means of preventing Type II diabetes, research indicates that taking a new starch-blocking pill may also be somewhat effective in staving off the disease.

Research published in Saturday's issue of the medical journal Lancet found that patients who took a drug that prevents sugar and carbohydrates from being absorbed had about a 10 percent lower rate of developing diabetes than those in a placebo group.

The study of the drug, called acarbose, involved 1,429 people from nine countries who were followed for three years. Thirty-two percent of those on the pill developed diabetes, whereas 42 percent on the placebo group developed the disease, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The subjects were encouraged to exercise, but the researchers did not monitor their activity.

Type II diabetes typically strikes in adulthood and accounts for about 90 percent of all diabetes cases, about 16 million people in the United states alone.

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Fewer Women Admitted to ICUs Than Men When Suffering Heart Attacks

Admission to intensive care units in hospitals should be based solely on medical need, but a new study finds that's not always the case.

In the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, English researchers report that men were more likely to be admitted to intensive care units when suffering heart attacks or bleeding in the brain than women, and they were less likely to die while in the hospital receiving treatment for those conditions, reports HealthDay.

"We found gender differences in admission to ICU [that] cannot be explained by disease severity," says study author Dr. Rosalind Raine, a Medical Research Council clinician scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. However, she cautions, "The reasons for these differences should not be hastily assumed."

Sherry Marts, scientific director for the Society for Women's Health Research, believes the study's findings probably reflect an unconscious bias on the part of doctors. That bias "is compounded by the fact that many women -- and even some men -- don't get 'Hollywood' heart attacks." By that, she means they don't collapse on the sidewalk, clutching their chests.

Also, she points out that many people and some physicians don't believe that young women can have heart attacks, and she says the perception that only men have heart attacks still persists.

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Diabetic Children Face Big Risks as Adults

A child who gets adult-onset diabetes can face a very difficult future as an adult, reports the Washington Post.

With more and more cases of adult-onset (Type II) diabetes being recorded among children, victims can suffer kidney failure, blindness, and miscarriage as early as their 20s, Canadian researchers reported over the weekend at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco.

In adult-onset diabetes, a person's body produces insulin, but the chemical isn't processed correctly by the body. The disease's emergence among children worldwide is linked to the spread of the high-sugar, high-fat Western diet, the newspaper says.

An estimated four of every 1,000 Americans is diabetic, and the adult-onset form accounts for about one-third of cases, the Post reports.

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California Milk Contains Penicillin

California health officials are warning consumers not to drink several brands of milk that have been recalled because they contain penicillin. The antibiotic can cause life-threatening reactions in highly allergic people.

Recalled brands include Alta Dena, Berkeley Farms, Dairy Dawn, Ralph's, Mountain Dairy, Sysco (Wholesome Farms), Smart & Final, Albertson's, Good Day and Best Yet. The products were sold primarily in retail stores and schools from June 10-13 in California, and possibly in surrounding states. Sell-by dates are included in the table below:

Product Type Container Sizes "Sell by" Date
Extra Rich Milk
Vitamin D Milk
2% Reduced Fat Milk
1% Low Fat Milk
Fat Free Milk
Manufacturing Cream
Heavy Whipping Cream
Half and Half
1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Gallon
½ Gallon
Quart
Pint
½ Pint
5 Gallon
1/3 Quart
4 oz.
"
June 24
June 25
June 26
June 27
" "
" "
" "
" "
" "
Vitamin D Milk
2% Reduced Fat Milk
1% Low Fat Milk
Fat Free Milk
Chocolate Milk
Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Low Fat Strawberry Milk
Quart, pint, ½ pint
"
"
"
"
"
"
June 28
June 29
" "
" "
" "
" "
" "
1% Low Fat Buttermilk ½ Gallon
Quart
½ Pint
July 2
" "
" "

Affected products with plant codes of 06-407 or 6-21 have been found to be contaminated. No illnesses or adverse reactions have been reported by the manufacturer, Berkeley Farms.

Consumers should discard the milk or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. For more information, contact Berkeley Farms at 1-888-647-3326.

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