Health Highlights: Oct. 20, 2011

Baby Spit-Up Isn't GERD: Expert Millions of U.S. Women Plagued by Chronic Pain Sports Equipment Anti-Concussion Claims Challenged at Senate Hearing Banned Drug Found in Weight Loss Supplements: FDA Bagged Salad Products Recalled Studies Reveal Huge Impact of Melanoma

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

Baby Spit-Up Isn't GERD: Expert

An expert says drug company marketing is one of the reasons why an increasing number of babies are being treated for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) when they spit up and cry, which are common, normal behaviors.

Blame is also shared by parents and doctors who increasingly want to use prescription drugs to solve children's problems, according to Dr. Eric Hassall, a pediatrician at the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco who specializes in digestive tract problems, reported.

The huge number of TV commercials about drugs to treat GERD has made virtually everyone aware of the condition, Hassall noted in a commentary published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Between 40 and 70 percent of babies spit up daily but what they spit up usually isn't acid. It's fine for parents concerned about a baby's vomiting and crying to take the baby to the pediatrician, but they shouldn't assume GERD is the problem, Hassall said, reported.


Millions of U.S. Women Plagued by Chronic Pain

About 12.1 million women age 18 and older in the United States reported experiencing chronic pain in 2008 due to underlying medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia and vulvodynia, but only 8.7 million of them said they received treatment, a federal government report says.

One or more of these chronic pain conditions was reported by 11.2 percent of white women, 8.3 percent of black women and 8.2 percent of Hispanic women. Treatment was received by 8.4 percent of white women, 5.4 percent of black women and 5.5 percent of Hispanic women.

The total cost of treating women with these chronic pain conditions in 2008 was $12.9 billion, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Of that $12.9 billion, nearly half ($5.7 billion) was for treatment in doctors offices and other ambulatory settings and $2.4 billion was spent on prescription medicines.

Nearly 15 percent of the medical expenses for women ages 18 to 64 were paid out of pocket, 68 percent was paid by private insurance, 10 percent by Medicaid, 3 percent by Medicare, and 4 percent by other sources.


Sports Equipment Anti-Concussion Claims Challenged at Senate Hearing

Some sports equipment makers are misleading consumers by claiming their products can reduce the risk of concussion, lawmakers and medical experts said at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

"Now that athletes, coaches and parents have a better understanding of concussions, some sports equipment makers appear to be a taking advantage," Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said at the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, the Associated Press reported. "There are a number of so-called, quote, anti-concussion and concussion-reducing devices on the market. ... We need to make sure advertisers play by the rules."

No piece of equipment can significantly prevent concussions, said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and director of Michigan Neurosport, a clinic that diagnoses and treats sports concussions.

"The potential harm that I see being caused by products that claim to prevent concussion when they do not is far more than simply the financial harm of paying more for something that isn't likely to work as claimed, he testified, the AP reported. "It is the harm that comes from having a false sense of security, from not understanding how the injury occurs and what can actually be done to prevent it."


Banned Drug Found in Weight Loss Supplements: FDA

A prescription weight-loss drug pulled from the market for safety reasons has been found in 20 brands of dietary supplements marketed as natural weight loss aids, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The supplements were found to contain sibutramine (brand name Meridia), which was removed from the U.S. market last year after being linked to heart attacks and stroke, reported.

The products found to contain the drug include: A-Slim 100% Natural Slimming Capsules, P57 Hoodia, PhentaBurn Slimming Capsules, and Dream Body Slimming Capsules. A full list of the supplements with sibutramine can be found on the FDA website.

Consumers with the supplements should stop using them and discard any unused pills, the FDA said.


Bagged Salad Products Recalled

Concerns about possible salmonella contamination have triggered the recall of 3,265 cases of various bagged salad blends produced by Taylor Farms Inc. of California.

The recall was announced after a random test by agriculture officials in Washington state detected salmonella in a package of spinach. No illnesses have been reported, the Associated Press said.

The bagged salad products were marketed under the brand names Fresh Selections, HEB, Marketside and Taylor Farms, and have "best by" dates ranging from Oct. 18 to 21.

For more information, consumers can call 1-877-323-7374.


Studies Reveal Huge Impact of Melanoma

There were more than 45,000 cases of melanoma reported each year in 45 states and the District of Columbia during 2004-06, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says.

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and causes 8,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

The CDC report appears in a special supplement published online and in the November print issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Many of the 15 articles in the supplement used data from CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries and the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program.

One study found that deaths caused by melanoma cause $3.5 billion in lost productivity each year, an average of $441,903 per male patient and $401,046 per female patient.

Another study found that melanoma rates were higher among white, Hispanic and Asian Pacific females aged 50 and younger, compared to their male counterparts. It also found that Hispanics, Asians and American Indian/Alaska Natives were diagnosed with melanoma at younger ages than whites or blacks.

A study that focused on sunburn, sun protection and indoor tanning found that 34 percent of adults surveyed in 2005 said they had suffered a sunburn in the past year, and 69 percent of adolescents surveyed in 2006 said they had a sunburn the previous summer.

"Melanoma is a devastating disease that takes an economic toll on individuals, their families, and society in terms of premature death and lost productivity," Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of CDCs Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a CDC news release.

"New policies and prevention strategies are needed to address the leading preventable causes of melanoma, enabling people to be healthier, live longer, and continue to be productive," he added.


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