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Health Highlights: Oct. 4, 2010

In Vitro Fertilization Developer Wins Nobel Prize for Medicine STD Experiments in Guatemala 'Clearly Unethical,' U.S. Says J&J;, FDA Take Blame for Secret Motrin Recall

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

In Vitro Fertilization Developer Wins Nobel Prize for Medicine

The 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine has been awarded to a British scientist for his role in developing in-vitro fertilization.

Robert Edwards, 85, developed the technique with gynecologist surgeon Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988. The first birth of a so-called test-tube baby was in 1978, the Associated Press reported.

Edwards, a professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, first started working on IVF in the early 1950s.

"(Edwards') achievements have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition afflicting a large proportion of humanity, including more than 10 percent of all couples worldwide," the Nobel medicine prize committee said in its citation, the AP reported.

"Approximately 4 million individuals have been born thanks to IVF," the citation noted. "Today, Robert Edwards' vision is a reality and brings joy to infertile people all over the world."


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."

Officials said the apology is directed to Guatemalan and Hispanic residents of the United States, MSNBC noted.

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.


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.

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