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Health Highlights: Nov. 1, 2006

Drug Company Agrees to Settlement in Paxil Lawsuit Music Therapy May Ease Schizophrenia Symptoms Espresso Makers Recalled for Burn Hazard Heart Drug Raises Blood Pressure Married People Have Most Sex: Study New York City Program Tracks Diabetics

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

Drug Company Agrees to Settlement in Paxil Lawsuit

Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay $63.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its antidepressant drug Paxil, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit alleged that the company promoted Paxil for use in children and adolescents but withheld negative information about the drug's safety and effectiveness. The lawsuit also claimed that consumers paid too much for Paxil.

As part of the settlement, GlaxoSmithKline denies all of the lawsuit's claims.

People who bought Paxil or Paxil CR (a controlled-release version of the drug) for their children could get full refunds if they have records of their purchases. People without any purchase records could get $15, the AP reported.

The settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, was approved Oct. 6 by Madison County, Ill., Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn and unsealed by him on Oct. 27. He'll hold a hearing March 9 on whether the settlement is fair.

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Music Therapy May Ease Schizophrenia Symptoms

Music therapy may help improve some symptoms of schizophrenia, according to preliminary findings of a British study that's the first to evaluate how this treatment affects people with acute schizophrenia.

The Imperial College London study included 81 psychiatric in-patients who received either music therapy or standard care. The patients in the music-therapy group had between eight and 12 sessions, once a week, for up to 45 minutes.

During these sessions, the patients were given access to different kinds of musical instruments and encouraged to use the instruments to express themselves. Therapists worked with and observed the patients while they made music.

Compared to patients who received standard care, those in the music-therapy group showed greater reductions in schizophrenia symptoms such as depression, anxiety and emotional withdrawal, the study found.

The researchers noted that this was a small study and it's possible that other factors, such as the severity of illness, may have influenced the findings. However, they said their findings provide sufficient evidence to justify larger studies of music therapy for schizophrenia patients.

The study appears in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

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Espresso Makers Recalled for Burn Hazard

About 54,000 Espresso Express espresso makers sold in the United States are being recalled because they have heating elements that can "forcefully separate" from the base during the brewing cycle, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.

If this occurs, people who are nearby could suffer burn and/or impact injuries. So far, there have been 42 reports of heating elements "forcefully separating" from the base, resulting in nine reports of minor scald burns and seven reports of people being hit by flying parts of the espresso maker.

The espresso makers were made in China and distributed by Atico International USA Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The recalled units have the item number W14A7166 located underneath the base.

They were sold for between $15 and $30 at CVS Pharmacy, Farmacias El Amal, Happy Harry's, Navarro Discount Pharmacies, Kerr Drug, Bartell Drug, and Lewis Drug, the CPSC said.

Consumers with these espresso makers should stop using them and contact Atico for information on how to return them for a refund. Contact Atico at 877-546-4835 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or go to the company's Web site at www.aticousa.com/recalls.html.

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Heart Drug Raises Blood Pressure

Clinical trials of the heart drug torcetrapib, which is designed to increase levels of so-called "good" cholesterol, have shown that the medication raises blood pressure, according to the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer.

Experts say this potentially serious side effect could discourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from approving the drug, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Despite the findings that torcetrapib raises blood pressure, Pfizer said it still plans to submit the drug for FDA approval sometime in the second half of 2007. The company said it hopes to get the drug approved by showing that a combination of torcetrapib and Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor help reduce plaque buildup in arteries.

However, experts say that the link between torcetrapib and increased blood pressure means that Pfizer will have to do more than just prove that the drug reduces plaque. In order to get FDA approval, the company will have to show that torcetrapib actually lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, the Times reported.

Currently, Pfizer is conducting a 25,000-patient trial to determine whether the drug does reduce the risk of heart attack and death. However, full data from the trial isn't expected until 2009.

The findings that torcetrapib raises blood pressure were preliminary results from more than 4,000 patients already enrolled in that ongoing study, the Times reported.

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Married People Have Most Sex: Study

Married people have the most sex and teens are not losing their virginity at ever-younger ages, say British researchers who conducted the first comprehensive global study of sexual behavior.

Among the other findings from the study of data from 59 countries: people in western countries tend to have more sex partners than people in the developing world; there is no firm link between promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases; developing countries have higher rates of HIV and sexually diseases than richer nations.

The study was published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.

"We did have some of our preconceptions dashed," Professor Kaye Wellings of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines told the Associated Press.

The findings suggests that promiscuity may have less impact on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases than other factors such as poverty and education, especially knowledge about condom use, Wellings said.

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New York City Program Tracks Diabetics

Diabetes patients in New York City will be tracked through their blood sugar tests in an unprecedented program designed to ensure they get proper care in order to prevent diabetes-related health problems.

This type of tracking program is usually limited to people with infectious diseases that pose a threat to other people.

Under this program, labs must send blood sugar test results to a central database that's monitored by city health officials. If a patient's blood sugar levels get too high, officials may contact the patient and encourage them to better control their diabetes, CBC News reported.

The percentage of people with diabetes in New York City is a third higher than in the rest of the United States.

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