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Health Highlights: June 28, 2002

Bush Will Undergo Colonoscopy Civilians to Get Some Anthrax Vaccinations Food Industry Sets Guidelines on Humane Animal Treatment House Passes Prescription Drug Bill for Seniors FDA Issues Public Warning on Tamoxifen Instant Hot Water Dispensers Recalled

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

Bush Will Undergo Colonoscopy

President Bush is scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy at Camp David tomorrow as a precautionary measure following the removal of several polyps in 1998, reports the Associated Press.

Since the procedure will require that Bush be sedated, he will briefly transfer his presidential powers to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The two polyps that were surgically removed from Bush's colon in 1998 were found to be benign, but since they can be an early sign of colon cancer, colonoscopies are often recommended as part of routine follow-up examinations.

The procedure is not expected to take long, and the president says he plans to exercise tomorrow afternoon, following the procedure.

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Civilians to Get Some Anthrax Vaccinations

About half of the anthrax vaccines being acquired for U.S. military troops will be set aside for civilians who might be exposed in a bioterror attack, reports the Associated Press.

William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, made the announcement today, adding that only troops who are assigned to "higher threat" areas of the world for more than 15 days would be offered the vaccine.

The injection has been reserved for researchers and troops on special missions over the past two years. Starting immediately, however, a larger number of troops are to receive the vaccine, said Winkenwerder.

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Food Industry Sets Guidelines on Humane Animal Treatment

Responding to concerns by animal rights groups, the supermarket and fast-food industries have come up with a set of guidelines on the humane treatment of animals, reports the Washington Post.

The guidelines, released yesterday, recommend that farmers stop such practices as depriving hens of food to make them lay more eggs, housing pregnant pigs in crates that prevent them from fully lying down, and slaughtering some animals before they are fully unconscious.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which represents most of the nation's supermarket owners, put together the recommendations. They are voluntary, and some farm groups have opposed them.

"This is the first time that the retail industry has clearly said the issue of farm animal welfare is important to it, and to that it wants to make sure these issues get serious attention," Karen Brown, senior vice president of FMI, told the Post.

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House Passes Prescription Drug Bill for Seniors

The U.S. House of Representatives early today passed the Republican version of a prescription drug bill for seniors, which would spend $320 billion over 10 years. The plan, passed along party lines 221-208, would rely mostly on private insurers to administer.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press:

  • Seniors would pay monthly premiums of about $33 and an annual deductible of about $250.
  • The government would pay 80 percent of the next $1,000 spent on drugs, and 50 percent of the subsequent $1,000.
  • All participants regardless of income would pick up the tab beyond that, until they reached $3,700 out of pocket. All additional costs would then be covered.

President Bush endorses the Republican plan; Democrats say it would burden seniors with too many out-of-pocket expenses. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has yet to consider its version of the plan.

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FDA Issues Public Warning on Tamoxifen

The Food and Drug Administration will require that a "black box" warning be added to labeling for the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, saying the drug could lead to a rare but aggressive form of uterine cancer.

The agency sent letters about the warning to doctors last month, but only posted the information on its public Web site yesterday, reports The New York Times. The warning is meant for women who have not had breast cancer but are at high risk for the disease. The advisory, while it does not tell women to avoid the drug, urges them to talk with their doctors about the possible risks.

For women who have already had breast cancer and are taking the drug to prevent a recurrence, the agency says, the drug's benefits far outweigh the risks of contracting uterine sarcoma.

The drug works by blocking the effects of estrogen, which has been linked to certain types of breast tumors. More than 4.5 million prescriptions were written for tamoxifen last year, the Times reports.

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Instant Hot Water Dispensers Recalled

In-Sink-Erator, of Racine, Wis., is recalling 252,000 half-gallon instant hot water dispensers. Water can leak from the metal holding tank, wet insulating material and cause electrical arcing and heat buildup. This poses a fire hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

In-Sink-Erator has received three reports of holes in the electrical insulation or outer cover. One report involved a kitchen fire that caused $7,000 in property damage. No injuries have been reported.

The HALF-GALLON dispensers are sold under various brand names, including In-Sink- Erator®, ISE®, Steamin' Hot®, Emerson®, Dayton™, ACE™, Kenmore® and Kohler™. This recall involves serial numbers between 10 and 3084000. The serial number is printed on a specification plate attached to the metal holding tank.

Plumbers, building contractors, home centers and hardware stores sold the dispensers from January 1972 through December 1996 for between $100 and $250. Consumers should unplug their dispensers immediately, check the serial number and contact In-Sink-Erator if their unit is part of the recall.

Call In-Sink-Erator at 1-800-295-8727 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Or visit the firm's Web site at www.insinkerator.com.

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