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Health Highlights: Oct. 8, 2002

Ballot Measure Would Give Oregonians Universal Health Care Coverage 'Morning After' Pill Helps Psychotic Depression Children with ADHD Have Smaller Brains Abortion Rate Falling, Except Among Poor, Study Finds FDA Stings 'Yellow Jacket' Promoter Campbell's Mushroom Soup Actually Contains Clam Chowder

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

Ballot Measure Would Give Oregonians Universal Health Care Coverage

Oregon may soon become the first state in the nation to offer health care covering all residents.

An estimated 423,000 of the state's 3.3 million residents currently have no health insurance - - about 70,000 of them children, reports the Associated Press.

The proposed plan, which appears on the Nov. 5 ballot, would give coverage to all residents and would be financed by a new payroll tax of up to 11.5 percent on businesses and an increase in personal income taxes, which could rise from the current 9 percent to as high as 17 percent.

The plan, called Measure 23, reportedly faces strong opposition from business, insurance and health care industry groups, who claim it will lead to excessive spending and will damage the state's economy.


'Morning After' Pill Helps Psychotic Depression: Study

It's stirred up much controversy, but the abortion pill known as RU486 appears to have another use that few are likely to oppose: a treatment for psychotic depression.

A small study on a group of 30 volunteers at Stanford University indicated that the abortion pill resulted in improvements in symptoms for psychotic depression, which can include not only feelings of hopelessness and sadness, but hallucinations and delusions, reports the BBC.

The research, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggests that even a week on the pill can reduces surges of the stress hormone cortisol, which is strongly linked to psychotic depression.

Since the risk of suicide is greater with this form of depression, the researchers say they expect that RU486, also called mifepristone, could save lives.


Children with ADHD Have Smaller Brains

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have brains that are measurably smaller than those of unaffected children, reports HealthDay.

Researchers say, however, the findings from a new study are not as downbeat as might be supposed.

That study, which tracked children for 10 years, takes the onus off the stimulant drugs used to treat the disorder, since it found the same size difference in ADHD children who were not given the medications. It also absolves parents of the blame fixed on them by some authorities, says Dr. Judith Rapoport, chief of the National Institute of Mental Health child psychiatry branch and lead author of a report appearing in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

ADHD affects an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of school-aged children, causing them to be overactive, impulsive and easily distracted. It is two to three times more common in boys than girls.


Abortion Rate Falling, Except Among Poor, Study Finds

The abortion rate in the United States fell 11 percent overall between 1994 and 2000, but the rate actually increased among poor women, a new survey finds.

Overall, the rate fell from 24 to 21 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44, the Alan Guttmacher Institute analysis finds. But the rate rose 25 percent for women with incomes at or below the poverty line, which is about $34,000 for a family of four, and it rose 23 percent among women with a family-of-four income under $68,000.

The non-profit group's survey also found that:

  • 56 percent of women who get abortions are in their 20s;
  • 67 percent of these women have never married;
  • 61 percent have one or more children;
  • 88 percent live in an urban area.


FDA Stings 'Yellow Jacket' Promoter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it's cracking down on a Dutch Web site operator who is marketing an ephedra-based product dubbed "yellow jackets" as an alternative to illegal street drugs.

The FDA says the product, marketed as "herbal XTC", also contains kola nut extract that is a prominent source of caffeine. By email, the agency warned the promoter, identified as Xoch Linnebank, that future shipments of the product would be "detained" at the U.S. border and denied entry. The so-called "cyber letter" stated, "There does not appear to be any legitimate use for this product."

Ephedra is a controversial herb that is legally sold as a weight-loss dietary supplement. But it's been linked to scores of heart attacks, strokes and seizures, the FDA has said.

"Consumers should not purchase or use these or similar products available through the Internet or elsewhere," urges FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford. "FDA will continue its efforts to protect American consumers from dangerous and fraudulent Internet companies who would sell illegal products that present risks to public health."


Campbell's Mushroom Soup Actually Contains Clam Chowder

Campbell Soup Company is voluntarily recalling 10.75-ounce cans of soup labeled Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom because they may actually contain Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder.

The cans have a red and white label and bear the following date code stamped on two lines on the lids:

AUG 2004 08292
CU B8EL (and four numbers - XX:XX representing military time)

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to shellfish run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product, the Food and Drug Administration says.

The recalled soup was distributed at retail stores in 13 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

No illnesses have been reported. Consumers are urged to return the product to the store where purchased for a full refund. Call Campbell's consumer hotline at 1-800-637-7698 for more information.


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