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Health Highlights: Nov. 9, 2008

Lung Cancer Drug Shows Promise in New Trial Bush Administration Tightening Medicaid Regulations Vice President Cheney Undergoes More Tests - But Not for His Heart Men Unaffected by Images of Male Models: Study Contaminated Heparin Seized From Cincinnati Company N. Dakota Warns About Lead in Wild Game Meat

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

Lung Cancer Drug Shows Promise in New Trial

Results from a new lung cancer treatment study may have given new life to the drug Tarceva.

According to Newsday, Tarceva's manufacturer, OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Melville, N.Y. and its partner Genentech have announced the preliminary results of a study in which giving Tarceva to lung cancer patients immediately after chemotherapy helped slow the progress of the malignancy.

An earlier clinical trial with Taceva had not been successful, the newspaper reports, when it was combined with Genentech-made Avastin. The results indicated that the drug combination did not prolong lung cancer patients' lives.

But the findings from the new study, called Saturn, were strong enough to be presented at an upcoming medical conference, according to Newsday. "With all of the progress we've made, we still have a long way to go, but this is a good step," OSI chief executive Colin Goddard told the newspaper.


Bush Administration Tightening Medicaid Regulations

The Bush administration is tightening up on some outpatient Medicaid payments to hospitals, seemingly in conflict with post-election goals of President-elect Barack Obama, the New York Times reports.

Included in the services scheduled for reduction in Medicaid payments are some types of outpatient care, such as dental and vision treatment, the newspaper reports. State governments, which administer Medicaid payments to hospitals, rely heavily on federal funding. Medicaid provides financing for medical services to poor people.

The notice of new Medicaid rules was published Friday in The Federal Register and was justified by the Bush administration as being necessary because the old regulations on outpatient service were ambiguous and could cause the states to claim excessive payments, the Times reports.

Reaction to the new regulations was swift. "This is a disaster for safety-net institutions like ours," John W. Bluford III, the president of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo., told the newspaper.

"The new rule forces us to consider reducing some outpatient services like dental and vision care," Alan D. Aviles president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, told the Times. "State and local government cannot pick up these costs. If anything, we expect to see additional cuts at the state level," he warned.

At his first post-election news conference, Obama said he was in favor of federal assistance to state and local governments in order to avoid worker layoffs and local tax increases.


Vice President Cheney Undergoes More Tests - But Not for His Heart

Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to be heading back to the hospital for more tests, but this time, the problem is located somewhat lower than his heart.

Cheney was scheduled to undergo an examination over the weekend for his arthritic knees, the Associated Press reports.

This will include X-rays, which are part of a diagnostic procedure to determine what treatment the Vice president should have, the wire service reports. "He has had long-standing arthritis in his knees and the doctors have been trying to schedule a time to have his knees X-rayed," the A.P. quotes Megan Mitchell, the vice president's spokeswoman, as saying.

Cheney was to have the tests at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base after he returned from a speaking engagement, and he was then scheduled to go home to St. Michael's Md. after the tests were completed, the wire service reports.

The Vice President, 67, has a long history of heart problems, including 4 heart attacks since he was 37-years-old. He has a special pacemaker implanted in his chest and was treated for an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, last month. The last time his knees were X-rayed was more than three years ago, the A.P. reports.


Men Unaffected by Images of Male Models: Study

While ads featuring female models can have a negative effect on how women view themselves, the same isn't true for men who see images of male models, according to new research.

Researchers had male volunteers view male magazine layouts that featured either objectified women, male fashion, or technology and film trivia, United Press International reported.

"Men who viewed the layouts of objectified females reported more body self-consciousness than the other two groups," said Jennifer Aubrey of the University of Missouri. "More surprising was that the male fashion group reported the least amount of body self-consciousness among the three groups."

Among men, the cultural expectation is not that they have to be as attractive as their peers, but need to be attractive enough to be sexually appealing to women, Aubrey concluded, UPI reported.

The research is scheduled to be published in the journal Human Communication Research.


Contaminated Heparin Seized From Cincinnati Company

Eleven contaminated lots of the blood-thinning drug heparin were seized from Celsus Laboratories Inc. in Cincinnati, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The five lots of Heparin Sodium Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and six lots of Heparin Lithium, which were manufactured from material imported from China, were contaminated with over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS), a substance that mimics heparin's anticoagulant activity.

Heparin Sodium USP may be incorporated into finished drug products while Heparin Lithium is used in certain medical devices, including vacutainer blood collection tubes, some in-vitro diagnostic assays, and as a coating for capillary tubes. Celsus has distributed Heparin Sodium USP and Heparin Lithium to manufacturers in the United States and other countries, the FDA said.

The agency has notified Australian, Canadian, European Union, Japanese and other international authorities about shipments of contaminated heparin from Celsus.

Earlier this year, the FDA received reports of multiple illnesses and deaths linked to OSCS contamination in injectable drug products containing heparin. In response, the agency said, it improved inspection and import controls programs and has initiated 13 recalls of contaminated medical products containing heparin from several companies.


N. Dakota Warns About Lead in Wild Game Meat

Pregnant women and children younger than 6 years old shouldn't eat meat from wild game killed with lead bullets, North Dakota health officials warned after the release Wednesday of a study that looked at lead levels in the blood of more than 700 state residents.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department, found that people who ate wild game killed with lead bullets appeared to have higher lead levels than those who ate little or no such meat, the Associated Press reported.

The study is the first to link traces of lead in wild game meat with higher levels of lead in the blood of people who eat the meat. Dr. Stephen Pickard, a CDC epidemiologist, said the study found "the more recent the consumption of wild game harvested with lead bullets, the higher the level of lead in the blood."

While the elevated lead levels associated with wild game meat weren't considered dangerous, North Dakota officials decided to issue the caution because unborn babies and young children are considered most at risk from lead poisoning, which can cause learning problems, convulsions and, in severe cases, brain damage and death.


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