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Health Highlights: May 17, 2002

Group Dishes Slice of Reality on Pizza Pentagon Limits Mandatory Anthrax Shots Schering-Plough to Pay $500 Million For Quality Problems Santa Cruz OKs Needle Boxes in City Restrooms Judge Allows Pro-Cloning Ads to Continue More British Soldiers Sickened in Afghanistan

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

Group Dishes Slice of Reality on Pizza

Next time you reach for that second slice of Stuffed Crust Meat Lover's pizza from Pizza Hut, you might want to think of it as having a second straight McDonald's Quarter Pounder.

That's the latest warning from the group famous for warning Americans about the nutritional drawbacks of such favorites as movie popcorn and Chinese food -- the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In its latest newsletter, the Nutrition Action Healthletter, the group targets pizza as being woefully packed with artery-clogging fat in every slimy bite.

In addition to the Pizza Hut Meat Lover's comparison, the group says one slice of the pizza chain's Big New Yorker Sausage pizza does more damage than a McDonald's Big Mac. Even Domino's less bountiful Hand-Tossed Pepperoni pizza is the equivalent of a McDonald's Egg McMuffin.

And it's not that one Egg McMuffin is all that excessive of a meal, but the group says few pizza lovers stop at just one slice, and many a five- or six-slice pizza is delivered to a table of just two.

The group advises ordering pizzas with half the cheese and avoiding meat combos and "stuffed crust" pizzas as the best ways to keep calories and fat to a minimum.

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Pentagon Limits Mandatory Anthrax Shots

The Pentagon announced today that it does not want its policy of vaccinating all troops against anthrax to be continued and that instead only troops considered to be at the highest risk for exposure to anthrax will receive the controversial vaccination.

The policy that started in 1998 was stalled in the past two years when factory violations by the vaccine's only maker, the Michigan-based BioPort, caused a shortage of supplies.

In addition, the vaccine has become controversial, with some military personnel concerned that it causes health problems. The government continues to say, however, that the vaccine is safe.

The Pentagon reportedly had planned to announce the plans two weeks ago, but delayed the decision in order to further research how much of the vaccine American civilians might need in case of a bioterrorist attack, reports the Associated Press.

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Schering-Plough to Pay $500 Million For Quality Problems

In what is believed to be the largest-ever agreement in Food and Drug Administration history, pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough Corp. says it will pay the FDA $500 million and will suspend production of some drugs due to quality control problems, reports the Washington Post.

The payment is part of a consent decree stemming from problems at Schering-Plough's facilities in Manati, Puerto Rico, and in New Jersey. Production of some drugs made at the Puerto Rico plant will be suspended and the company said the decree requires that the New Jersey and Puerto Rico facilities "will operate under tightly controlled conditions requiring additional levels of review and reporting."

The Post reports that the company's difficulties at several plants were behind the FDA's delaying the approval of Schering-Plough's new drug Clarinex last year. The company is also the maker of the popular allergy drug Claritin.

The agreement will not be final until reviewed by a judge.

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Santa Cruz Installing Needle Boxes in City Restrooms

Concerned that several city employees recently have been stabbed with dirty needles disposed of in regular trash containers, the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., says it will provide disposable needle boxes in its public rest rooms.

The padlocked steel boxes will be installed at a dozen locations including popular beach and wharf areas, reports the Associated Press. The syringes will be periodically picked up by the Santa Cruz Needle Exchange and destroyed at a licensed facility.

City council officials who approved the measure this week say the decision was made solely to protect city workers and should not be viewed as an edict on the morality of illegal drug use.

Similiar programs have been approved in a handful of states and cities, including Rhode Island, Las Vegas and San Francisco, the AP says.

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Judge OKs Pro-Cloning Ads

Pro-cloning TV ads using the "Harry and Louise" characters first introduced by the insurance industry can continue, a federal judge has ruled.

The Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) sued the pro-cloning group running the new ads, saying it first created the characters during the 1994 health care debate. The earlier ads have been credited with helping to defeat the Clinton Administration's ground-breaking health care proposal eight years ago.

The more recent ads, sponsored by the pro-cloning group CuresNow, urge the Senate to allow cloning for medical research. Proponents argue that it could lead to treatments for a host of diseases.

CuresNow had argued before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that the insurance industry didn't trademark the characters and that the actors who play them were only under contract to the HIAA for two years.

CuresNow was founded by Hollywood producers Janet Zucker and Lucy Fisher, both of whom have diabetic children, reports the Associated Press.

The House has passed a total ban on human cloning, while the Senate has delayed debate on the matter until next month.

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More British Soldiers Sickened in Afghanistan

Another 20 British soliders in Afghanistan have been sickened by a mysterious disease, which military officials deny is the result of a biological terrorist attack, reports the Associated Press.

Seven soldiers have been evacuated to European hospitals since symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting first emerged May 12 among British fighters stationed in the town of Bagram. So far, 334 British troops have been quarantined.

About 5,000 soliders from 10 countries are stationed in Bagram, including 2,700 Americans. No one other than the British soliders appears to have contracted the mysterious illness, the AP says.

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