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Health Highlights: May 18, 2012

Psychiatrist Apologizes for Study Supporting Therapy to 'Cure' Gays U.S. Panel Mulls Bioterrorism Protection for Children Stem Cell-Based Drug Approved in Canada Consumers Should Avoid South Korean Shellfish: FDA

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

Psychiatrist Apologizes for Study Supporting Therapy to 'Cure' Gays

A man considered by some to be the father of modern psychiatry has apologized for his 2001 study that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to "cure" gay people who were strongly motivated to change their sexual orientation.

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer's apology appears in a short letter to be published this month in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal that published the original study, The New York Times reported.

"I believe I owe the gay community an apology," his letter concludes.

Reparative therapy, also called sexual reorientation or conversion therapy is a theory promoted by social conservatives, who used Spitzer's study to push the idea that homosexuality is a choice and can be cured.

That idea is rejected by psychiatric experts, and a World Health Organization report calls the therapy "a serious threat to the health and well-being -- even the lives -- of affected people," The Times reported.


U.S. Panel Mulls Bioterrorism Protection for Children

The question of whether the anthrax vaccine and other treatments being stockpiled in case of a bioterror attack should be tested on children is being considered by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

"We can't just assume that what we have for adults works for children," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the commission Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The panel began discussing the issue Thursday and its recommendations are expected by the end of the year.

"There are serious ethical issues around the development of medical countermeasures for children in general," Sebelius said, the AP reported.

While it is important to develop ways to protect children from bioterror attacks, it must be done in a way that puts "our children's safety as our highest priority," she noted.


Stem Cell-Based Drug Approved in Canada

The first manufactured drug based on stem cells has been approved by Canadian regulators.

The drug Prochymal was approved to treat children suffering from graft-versusu-host disease, a potentially deadly complication of bone marrow transplantation. The drug is made by Osiris Therapeutics of Columbia, Md., The New York Times reported.

The approval is seen as a boost for the field of regenerative medicine.

"It's really a good day for the concept and the hope behind stem cell therapies becoming a reality," C. Randal Mills, the chief executive of Osiris, told The Times.

The company plans to apply later this year for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug.


Consumers Should Avoid South Korean Shellfish: FDA

U.S. federal and state officials are warning consumers against eating shellfish from South Korea and say that retailers should stop selling it.

A Food and Drug Administration analysis of the South Korean shellfish program found unacceptable water pollution levels in shellfish-growing areas and periodic presence of norovirus, which can cause gastroenteritis (stomach flu), the Washington Post reported.

On May 1, the FDA removed firms that transports South Korean shellfish off its list of approves shippers and said it may launch a recall of South Korean shellfish, specifically fresh, frozen or processed oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.

The FDA advisory does not affect South Korean crab or shrimp, or any shellfish grown and produced in the U.S., the Post reported.


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