Health Highlights: May 13, 2011

Setback for Skin-Derived Stem Cells Health Reform to Save Medicare $120B Over 5 Years: Official FDA Considers Acetaminophen Dosing Info for Young Children Chives Recalled Due to Listeria Concerns Drug Helps Children With Sickle Cell Anemia: Study

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

Setback for Skin-Derived Stem Cells

A new study says stem cells made from a patient's skin cells might be rejected by the patient's immune system, an unexpected setback for what had been seen as a promising way to treat a wide variety of diseases.

These types of stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), were first created in 2007 and caused a sensation because it was believed they had two major advantages over embryonic stem cells -- they didn't require the destruction of human embryos and they presumably would not be rejected by a patient's immune system, The New York Times reported.

But this University of California, San Diego study published online in the journal Nature was the first to test the belief that iPS cells would be accepted by the patient's immune system. The results surprised stem cell scientists.

The finding "happened to be a particularly startling result that I wasn't anticipating," Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Childrens Hospital Boston, told the Times.

"As with any new technology, there is always this initial phase of infatuation, and then the reality sets in," Daley said. "I think it goes to the heart of the issue of how ignorant we really are in understanding these cells."

While the study was conducted in mice, some scientists believe the results would hold true for humans, the Times reported.


Health Reform to Save Medicare $120B Over 5 Years: Official

The new U.S. health care law will save Medicare $120 billion over the next five years due to lower payments to hospitals and insurances, according to a Medicare official.

The reduced costs show that President Obama's health care reform is working, according to Medicare Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum.

"Savings are happening," he told Bloomberg News. "The program is becoming more efficient. We are promoting payment reforms that are elevating quality, elevating performance and lowering costs."

Blum said the savings match projections. "We're very much consistent with where we thought we would be."

Reducing Medicare costs was one of the main priorities of the health care overhaul, Bloomberg reported.


FDA Considers Acetaminophen Dosing Info for Young Children

Dosing instructions for children younger than two years old may be added to Children's Tylenol and other over-the-counter products that contain acetaminophen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The proposal, which is favored by drugmakers and many companies, will be discussed at a meeting next week, the Associated Press reported.

Acetaminophen is safe when used as directed but can cause liver damage when overused.

Dosing information for children has never been included on Children's Tylenol or other acetaminophen products due to the liver risk and to encourage parents to get medical help for sick infants, the AP reported.

The FDA wants an independent panel of experts to make a recommendation on whether that policy should be changed.


Chives Recalled Due to Listeria Concerns

Possible listeria contamination has prompted the recall of chives distributed in nine states, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The chives were distributed by Goodness Gardens Inc. of New Hampton, N.Y. and sold primarily through stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Alabama, Illinois and Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

The recalled chives -- lot number 0201111, dated May 6 -- were packaged in plastic clamshell containers, 1-pound bags and twist tie bunches. Consumers can return the chives to retailers for a refund.

The FDA said there have been no reports of illness associated with the recalled chives, the AP reported.


Drug Helps Children With Sickle Cell Anemia: Study

The drug hydroxycarbamide reduces pain and other complications in young children with sickle cell anemia, according to a new study.

The study involving about 200 babies in the United States appears in The Lancet. The drug is already used to treat adults with sickle cell anemia. The researchers said these results suggest that it should be approved to treat children with the disease, BBC News reported.

One U.K. expert called the findings "extremely encouraging."

"Hydroxycarbamide is inexpensive and could certainly be made available in low-income countries in which sickle-cell anaemia is so common," Professor David Weatherall, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News.

"In view of the early deaths that result from this disease in sub-Saharan Africa, the success of this trial in early infancy is particularly encouraging," he said.


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