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Health Highlights: May 19, 2010

FDA Urged to Reveal Drug Safety Information Therapy as Effective as Drugs for Tourette Syndrome: Study Pink Baby Blankets Recalled Due to Choking Threat Hundreds of Texas Doctors Leave Medicare

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

FDA Urged to Reveal Drug Safety Information

Criticized for being too secretive, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have to share information with the public about its drug evaluations and food inspections under a sweeping new proposal aimed at making the agency more accessible.

A 21-point agency proposal includes the suggestion that the FDA inform the public of safety problems with the drugs it rejects, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA, which regulates drugs, foods and medical devices, has long kept its evaluations under wraps because its scientists handle proprietary information from manufacturers, the AP said.


Therapy as Effective as Drugs for Tourette Syndrome: Study

Behavioral therapy appears to lessen tics in children and teens with Tourette syndrome as effectively as medication, a new study finds.

Children with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder involving involuntary head-jerking, blinking and noises, are often prescribed drugs that cause unpleasant side effects.

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association assigned children ages 9 to 17 who had Tourette or a chronic tic disorder to 10 weeks of behavioral therapy aimed at reducing the tics, or to a control group that received support therapy and education, the Los Angeles Times reported.

About a third of the 126 children also received anti-tic medication, and some received "booster" treatments at three and six months after the therapy sessions ended.

Overall, more than half (53 percent) of the children in the therapy group made significant improvement, compared with 19 percent in the control group. Six months later, 87 percent of those who had not dropped out of the study still showed benefits, the Times said.

A key component of the tic-lessening therapy is called habit reversal training. The idea is to make patients more aware of the urge to tic and to channel the urge into a less noticeable behavior like rhythmic breathing. Habit reversal training is used for other behaviors such as compulsive hair pulling or skin picking.


Pink Baby Blankets Recalled Due to Choking Threat

Pink baby blankets sold at Target stores last year are being recalled because a decorative giraffe on the blanket may pose a choking hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.

Although no injuries have been reported, the importer -- Rashti & Rashti -- is recalling 44,000 of the China-made blankets, the agency said, because pieces of the giraffe's horns can break off. The $9 blankets were sold between January and August of 2009.

Consumers should call Rashti & Rashti for a refund, the CPSC said.


Hundreds of Texas Doctors Leave Medicare

Problems with Medicare reimbursement may have led hundreds of Texas doctors to opt out of the federal health care program for the elderly.

In the first three months of 2010, 50 Texas doctors left the program, bringing to more than 300 the number who have dropped out in the past two years, according to a survey by the Texas Medical Association, CBS/AP reported.

Primary care doctors, already in short supply around the country, have left in greatest numbers, an article in the Houston Chronicle Tuesday noted.

"This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode," Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association, told the Chronicle. Doctors will continue to drop out if Medicare isn't fixed soon, and the congressional promise to provide medical care to seniors "will be broken," she said.

Years of declining Medicare reimbursement preceded a 21 percent cut this year, the paper said.

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