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Health Highlights: Nov. 5, 2009

Democrat Predicts Passage of House Health Reform Bill Immunity Claims Coming Off Cereal Boxes: Kellogg FDA Warns About Sexual Enhancement ProductDoctors' Deal With Coke Sparks Outrage Obesity Linked to Cancer U.S. Hospital Deaths Cost $20 Billion in 2007: Report

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

Democrat Predicts Passage of House Health Reform Bill

A historic health-care bill that has the support of highly influential groups, such as the AARP and the American Medical Association, is expected to have the 218 votes needed to pass a House vote on Saturday, according to second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer.

He acknowledged that the vote could be close, and success depends on working out a few remaining sticking points, including language on abortion and illegal immigrants, the Associated Press reported.

"I wouldn't refer to it as a squeaker, but I think it's going to be close," Hoyer said. "This is a huge undertaking."

The bill would extend health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and forbid insurers from refusing to provide coverage to people, the AP reported.

On Thursday, the bill received a major boost when the AARP, the powerful seniors' group, the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network all announced their support.

"The bill does improve quality, and it improves access," AARP Senior Policy Adviser John Rother told the AP. "When people hear this message from us, it will have impact."

The time to make health system reform a reality is now, AMA President J. James Rohack said in a news release.

While the House may pass the bill this weekend, the Senate isn't expected to vote on a health reform bill until early next year.

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Immunity Claims Coming Off Cereal Boxes: Kellogg

Immunity claims will be removed from boxes of Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies, says Kellogg Co., which faced a barrage of criticism for the new label claim as concerns grow about the threat of swine flu.

The company said it will take several months to phase out the cereal boxes that contain a large label that reads "Now helps support your child's immunity," the Associated Press reported.

The company said it will continue to add extra antioxidants to the cereals, a practice it began last year in a move intended to respond to consumer desire for improved nutrition, said Kellogg spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz.

The FDA monitors claims made by food makers and said manufacturers are responsible for the truth of those claims, the AP reported.

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FDA Warns About Sexual Enhancement Product

The sexual enhancement dietary supplement Stiff Nights contains an illegal ingredient that can cause dangerously low blood pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

Stiff Nights contains sulfoaildenafil, a chemical similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. The FDA said sulfoaildenafil may interact with prescription drugs known as nitrates, including nitroglycerin, and cause dangerously low blood pressure.

The product, sold in bottles containing 6, 12, or 30 red capsules or in blister packs containing 1 or 2 capsules, is distributed online and at retail stores by Impulsaria LLC of Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Because this product is labeled as an all natural dietary supplement, consumers may assume it is harmless and poses no health risk. In fact, this product is illegally marketed and can cause serious complications," Deborah M. Autor, director of the FDAs Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance, said in an agency news release.

Anyone who has experienced adverse events after using this or any other sexual enhancement product should consult a health professional, the FDA said.

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Doctors' Deal with Coke Sparks Outrage

Almost two dozen doctors have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians after the group announced a deal with Coca-Cola Co. to fund educational materials about soft drinks on the academy's consumer health and wellness Web site.

"Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at Harvard University, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

The academy "should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing a deal with Coke their voice has almost surely been muzzled," Willett said.

The six-figure alliance between the academy and Coke is similar to ads decades ago in which doctors said mild cigarettes are safe, Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, told the AP.

He and 20 other doctors who work with his local medical practice have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians in protest.

Coke won't have any control over editorial content on the Web site, said academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley. The new online information, to be posted in January, will note the link between soft drinks and obesity and focus on sugar-free alternatives.

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Obesity Linked to Cancer

Obesity causes about 100,500 new cases of cancer each year in the United States, according to an American Institute for Cancer Research study.

Cancers most commonly associated with obesity include: breast, 33,000 cases a year; endometrial, 20,700 cases; kidney 13,900 cases; colorectal, 13,200 cases; pancreas, 11,900 cases; esophagus, 5,800 cases, and gallbladder, 2,000 cases, USA Today reported.

The findings are based on an analysis of cancer data and a report released earlier this year by a panel of experts.

"The list of cancers affected by obesity will almost certainly increase as more research is completed," said Michael Thun, emeritus vice president of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, USA Today reported.

"Several other types of cancer -- liver, multiple myeloma and certain leukemias -- have been linked to obesity in some studies, but this needs confirmation," Thun said.

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U.S. Hospital Deaths Cost $20 Billion in 2007: Report

Hospitalized patients accounted for one of every three deaths in the United States in 2007, and the cost of their hospital stays was about $20 billion, according to a federal government study released Wednesday.

The average cost of hospital stays for patients who died was $26,035, compared with $9,447 for patients who lived. The average hospital stay was 8.8 days for patients who died and 4.5 days for those who lived, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings from the analysis of 765,651 hospital patient deaths in 2007:

Medicare patients accounted for 67 percent of in-hospital deaths and $12 billion in hospital costs; privately insured patients, 20 percent and $4 billion; Medicaid patients, 2 percent and $2.4 billion; and uninsured patients, 3 percent and $630 million.

The average cost for each Medicaid patient who died was $38,939 -- about $15,000 more than for a Medicare or uninsured patient and about $10,000 more than for a patient with private insurance.

Emergency admission patients accounted for 72 percent of patients who died, while 12 percent were admitted for an elective procedure. About 7 percent of patients were admitted for accidents or intentional injury and about 2 percent of patients were newborn infants.

Septicemia -- a life-threatening blood infection -- was the leading cause of death (15 percent), followed by respiratory failure (8 percent), stroke (6 percent), pneumonia (5 percent), heart attack (5 percent); and congestive heart failure (4 percent). Cancer, aspiration pneumonia and kidney failure were other leading causes of death.

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