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Health Highlights: Sept. 13, 2006

Long-Term Lead Exposure Linked to Cognitive Decline Seniors More Prone to Drug Errors: Study Pier 1 Recalls Unstable TV Stands FDA Panel Votes Against Antibiotic for Sinus Use Marijuana May Help Hepatitis Treatment

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

Long-Term Lead Exposure Linked to Cognitive Decline

People exposed to long-term lead exposure before lead was banned in many commercial products two decades ago are showing signs of cognitive decline in areas such as eye-hand coordination, visual memory and language processing skills, a new study finds.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied 985 adults aged 50 to 70 in the university's home town of Baltimore. In addition to performing 20 tests of cognitive function, the researchers measured the amount of lead in participants' shinbones, since lead accumulates in bone.

"The analysis showed the effect of community lead exposure was equivalent to two-to-six years of aging," Dr. Brian Schwartz, the study's lead investigator, said in a statement. "If lead is associated with lower cognitive performance, this may suggest possible treatment and prevention options for older adults."

Lead levels were measured significantly higher in blacks than in whites, the researchers said. They attributed the difference to the likelihood that blacks may have been exposed to greater levels of lead, or that they inherently have different bone mineral densities than whites.

The research appears in the online edition of the journal Neurology.

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Seniors More Prone to Drug Errors: Study

People age 65 and older are nearly seven times more prone to prescription drug errors than their younger counterparts, new research finds.

Seniors were more likely to be prescribed a drug that was incompatible with others they were taking, to take a drug that could exacerbate a different medical condition, or be prescribed the wrong dose of a drug, the Associated Press reported of the study.

The research was carried out by Medco Health Solutions Inc., among the top prescription benefit managers in the United States.

Seniors are more likely to have chronic conditions and to see more than one doctor than their younger counterparts. Those who got prescriptions from two doctors received an average of 27 prescriptions per year and were at risk of an average of 10 errors, the study found. Seniors with five doctors got an average of 42 prescriptions per year and had an average of 16 errors, the AP reported.

Medco's analysis of 2.4 million adults in 2004 found that almost 25 percent of all seniors got prescriptions from at least five doctors, the wire service said.

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Pier 1 Recalls Unstable TV Stands

Pier 1 Imports is recalling 4,300 television stands that may tip and cause a TV to fall onto consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

While the company has no reports of injuries in the United States, a child in Canada was killed when a TV fell off the stand, the agency said. The stand can become unsteady if a consumer leans on its open drawer.

The Ming stand, SKU 2065368, measures 35 1/2 inches wide, 17 3/4 inches deep and 23 1/2 inches high. The product was sold at Pier 1 stores nationwide and online between August 2005 and February 2006 for about $250.

Consumers should remove televisions from these stands immediately and return the products to the nearest Pier 1 store for a refund or store credit. To learn more, contact Pier 1 at 800-245-4595, prompt 6.

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FDA Panel Votes Against Antibiotic for Sinus Use

An expert panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has voted to recommend against expanding use of the antibiotic Factive (gemifloxacin) for acute sinus infections.

Citing the possibility of serious skin reactions, the panel voted 11-2 late Tuesday to recommend against the agency's approval of Factive for acute bacterial sinusitis, the Associated Press reported.

The drug, produced by Oscient Pharmaceuticals Corp., was first approved in 2003 to treat pneumonia and bronchitis.

The full FDA isn't required to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels but usually does.

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Marijuana May Help Hepatitis Treatment

Marijuana can help ease side effects from two powerful therapies used to combat hepatitis C, researchers at the University of California say.

Treatment for the often-deadly viral liver disease involves two powerful drugs, interferon and ribavirin. Side effects of these therapies often include extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle pain, loss of appetite and depression, the Washington Post reported.

After six months of treatment, 86 percent of study participants who used marijuana successfully completed a majority of the therapy, versus a 59 percent success rate among people who didn't use marijuana, the newspaper said.

Marijuana probably helped users combat depression, improve appetite, and better their psychological outlook, the researchers wrote in the current issue of the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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