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Health Highlights: Sept. 16, 2011

Bachmann's Cervical Cancer Vaccine Claim Challenged Two Deaths Linked to Tainted Cantaloupes Birth Control Pills Recalled Due to Packaging Problem Journalists Oppose Removal of Malpractice Database

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

Bachmann's Cervical Cancer Vaccine Claim Challenged

If Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann can back up her statement that the human papillomavirus vaccine causes mental retardation, a respected Philadelphia bioethicist said he will give $10,000 to charity.

Bachmann brought up the HPV vaccine, which protect girls and women from a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer, during the Republican presidential debate on Monday. On television the next day, she said the vaccine was linked to retardation.

Medical experts disputed her remarks, and on Thursday Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania called on Bachmann to support her claim or to pay up, the Associated Press reported.

If the Minnesota Congresswoman can produce a legitimate vaccine victim within a week, Caplan said he will make the donation to any charity of her choice. If she cannot prove her claim, he suggested she make a $10,000 donation to a pro-vaccine organization, the AP said.

Caplan told the news agency he had not heard back from Bachmann, who received a similar, $1,000 challenge from a University of Minnesota bioethicist, Steven Miles.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends girls receive all three doses of the vaccine at age 11 or 12.


Two Deaths Linked to Tainted Cantaloupes

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least two deaths in western states have been caused by contaminated cantaloupe grown in Colorado, and that additional testing may reveal more deaths from the Listeria outbreak.

The deaths were reported in Colorado and New Mexico, and health experts believe the source of the outbreak is the Jensen Farms' melon farm in Colorado's Rocky Ford region. The outbreak has also sickened 22 people and spread to seven states, including Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, the CDC said.

A spokeswoman for Jensen Farms told the Associated Press that one of its Rocky Ford cantaloupes tested positive for the Listeria bacteria, and that additional tests will determine if it's the same strain identified in the outbreak.

Stores reportedly selling the Jensen cantaloupes include Wal-Mart and Safeway Inc. Safeway announced a recall of Jensen's jumbo cantaloupes sold between Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota, the AP reported.


Birth Control Pills Recalled Due to Packaging Problem

Because of a packaging error that could cause the incorrect use of birth control pills, Qualitest Pharmaceuticals is voluntarily recalling eight of its contraceptive products, Dow Jones reported.

Qualitest, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc., announced the recall of Emoquette, Orsythia, Previfem and Tri-Previfem contraceptives plus two Gildess products and two Cyclafem products.

The company is looking into the error, which reversed weekly pill orientation in the blister pack and could lead women to take the pill regimen incorrectly, putting them at risk of unintended pregnancy. Also, the expiration date and lot number on the defective packages were no longer visible, Dow Jones said.

Pharmacies were asked to notify consumers who have purchased the affected contraceptives, and consumers with the pill packs were advised to start using a nonhormonal contraceptive right away and consult their pharmacist or doctor.


Journalists Oppose Removal of Malpractice Database

The removal from the Internet of a public database on medical malpractice and disciplinary actions has drawn fire from three U.S. journalism organizations.

Because of a complaint from a Kansas neurosurgeon, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services recently removed the "public use file" from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which provides important information, with doctors' names deleted, on disciplinary procedures and malpractice awards, The New York Times reported.

Reporters across the country have used the public use file to write stories that have exposed serious lapses in the oversight of doctors that have put patients at risk, said Charles Ornstein, president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Times reported. "Their stories have led to new legislation, additional levels of transparency in various states, and kept medical boards focused on issues of patient safety."

The health reporters' group, along with the Society of Professional Journalists and another national association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, jointly sent the agency a letter objecting to the move.

Agency spokesman Martin A. Kramer told The Times that the doctor's complaint raised concerns that a Kansas City reporter might have gotten into the full data bank, rather than just the public use section, although the reporter said he had only accessed the public site.

He said he hopes the public use file will be available to the public within six months, possibly changed to further safeguard privacy.

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