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Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2010

STD Experiments in Guatemala 'Clearly Unethical,' U.S. Says J&J;, FDA Take Blame for Secret Motrin Recall U.S. Sex Ed Funding Moves Beyond Abstinence-Only More Than 10 Million Fisher-Price Toys Recalled

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

STD Experiments in Guatemala 'Clearly Unethical,' U.S. Says

The United States issued an apology Friday for government-sponsored experiments that deliberately infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with gonorrhea or syphilis in the 1940s.

U.S. Public Health Service researchers and others experimented on institutionalized mental patients, giving them gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. About one-third of the patients who became infected never received adequate treatment, MSNBC reported.

"The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical," according to a joint statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."

Records of the experiments, which were hidden, were discovered by a professor at Wellesley College. The research involved the antibiotic penicillin but never provided useful information, MSNBC said.

The government researcher who led the work in Guatemala also was involved in the infamous Tuskegee experiment. From 1932 to 1972 scientists tracked 600 black men in Alabama who had syphilis but didn't know it, without ever offering them treatment, the Associated Press reported.


J&J, FDA Take Blame for Secret Motrin Recall

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both took the blame Thursday for a secret recall last year of the painkiller Motrin, according to news reports.

Leaders from both testified before a congressional committee hearing that had been triggered by an unprecedented string of recalls from J&J, the Associated Press reported.

Noting that hired contractors last year quietly bought up about 88,000 packets of Motrin that wouldn't dissolve correctly, J&J Chief Executive William Weldon called the secret recall "a mistake" and "not one of our finer moments," according to AP.

FDA deputy commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein also told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that his agency should have acted sooner to halt J&J's plan.

The FDA learned of J&J's plan to rebuy the pills in April 2009, Sharfstein said, but the agency did not recommend a recall until July, the AP reported.

But Sharfstein added, "Based on the documents I reviewed, I don't see any indication that the FDA was aware of the surreptitious, lying nature of the recall."

And he reminded the lawmakers that the agency can't tell companies when and how to handle recalls.

J&J has announced nine recalls of drugs for children and adults since last September, including one that involved millions of bottles of infants' and children's Tylenol, the AP reported.


U.S. Sex Ed Funding Moves Beyond Abstinence-Only

Government-funded sex education programs in U.S. schools are shifting away from abstinence-only for the first time in more than a decade.

A five-year, $375 million grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services is being shared among 28 programs that have shown they lower pregnancy rates regardless of their strategies, the Associated Press reported. Many also distribute condoms.

"There's a growing realization that we have to talk to young people about relationships. It's not just body parts," said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the AP said

Critics of the abstinence-only approach say there is little proof those programs reduced the teen pregnancy rate or resulted in less teenage sex.

Although most U.S. teens have had formal sex education, many fewer have been taught birth control methods, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report noted.

Abstinence programs will still receive a $50 million annual federal grant that requires states to match $3 for every $4, and about 30 states have applied for that money. The new HHS grant does not require matching funds.


More Than 10 Million Fisher-Price Toys Recalled

Safety concerns are behind the unprecedented recall of more than 10 million Fisher-Price tricycles, toys and high chairs.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday that 7 million of the recalled products involve Fisher-Price Trikes and Tough Trikes toddler tricycles. Near the seat on the trikes is a plastic key that juts out and can cause injuries, including genital bleeding, according to the Associated Press.

The toy maker is also recalling more than 1 million Healthy Care, Easy Clean and Close to Me High Chairs, the commission said. Kids can be injured by pegs on the rear of the high chairs that are meant for tray storage.

Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum applauded Fisher-Price for "taking the right steps by agreeing to these recalls and offering consumers free repairs or replacement," the AP said. However, she said toy makers must be more safety conscious before their products reach stores.

In addition, choking hazards prompted the recalls of more than 2.8 million other toys that have valves that can detach from inflatable balls. They include: Baby Playzone Crawl & Cruise Playground toys; Baby Playzone Crawl & Slide Arcade toys, Baby Gymtastics Play Wall toys; Ocean Wonders Kick & Crawl Aquarium toys; 1-2-3 Tetherball toys and Bat & Score Goal toys. About 100,000 Fisher-Price Little People Wheelies Stand 'n Play Rampway toys are also being recalled because of wheels that can come off.

The company's Web site at has more information on the recalled products' dates of sale and model numbers.

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