Health Highlights: Sept. 17, 2007

Study Examines Heart Risks Linked to ADHD Drugs Doctors' White Coats, Neckties Banned in British Hospitals U.S. Women Ahead of Men in Handwashing U.S. Congress Reaches Compromise on Child Health Coverage Fewer High-Calorie Soft Drinks in U.S. Schools DNA Test Reveals Chemical-Related Health Damage

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

Study Examines Heart Risks Linked to ADHD Drugs

A large study of possible heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular risks associated with drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was announced Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Researchers will analyze clinical data of about 500,000 children and adults who've taken ADHD medications, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

"Case reports have described adverse cardiovascular events in adult and pediatric patients with certain underlying risk factors who receive drug treatment for ADHD, but it is unknown whether or not these events are causally related to treatment. The goal of this study is to develop better information on this question," Dr. Gerald Dal Pan, director of FDA's Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, said in a prepared statement.

The analysis of the data will take about two years to complete.

ADHD affects about three percent to five percent of school-age children and about four percent of adults, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. People taking or being considered for treatment with ADHD drugs should work with their doctor or other health care professional to develop a treatment plan that includes a careful health history and evaluation of current health status, the FDA and AHRQ recommend.


Doctors' White Coats, Neckties Banned in British Hospitals

Doctors' traditional white coats -- along with jewelry and watches, neckties, fake nails and long sleeves -- are being banned in British hospitals as part of the effort to control deadly hospital-borne infections, the Associated Press reported.

All the banned items could harbor germs, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the deadly "superbug" bacteria that's resistant to nearly every available antibiotic.

"Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily," the Department of Health noted in announced the new "bare below the elbows" dress code. "They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens."

The new rules take effect next year.

A 2004 study of neckties worn by doctors at a New York City hospital found that nearly half the ties were contaminated with at least one species of infectious microbe, the AP reported.


U.S. Women Ahead of Men in Handwashing

American women are much more likely than men to wash their hands after using a public bathroom, says a study released Monday by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and The Soap and Detergent Association, the Associated Press reported.

Researchers observed the behavior of 6,076 adults at six locations in four cities last month. They found that 88 percent of women and 66 percent of men washed their hands after using public restrooms. A similar study conducted two years ago found that 90 percent of women and 75 percent of men washed their hands.

The overall hand-washing rate in 2007 was 77 percent, compared with 83 percent in 2005, the AP reported.

Chicago had the most conscientious hand washers (81 percent), followed by New York City (79 percent), Atlanta (73 percent) and San Francisco (73 percent).


U.S. Congress Reaches Compromise on Child Health Coverage

Even though U.S. House and Senate negotiators said Sunday that they reached a compromise on health coverage for uninsured children, a bill based on the deal would still face a veto by President Bush, The New York Times reported.

The lawmakers agreed on a framework for a compromise bill that would provide coverage for four million uninsured children and relax some of the limits on eligibility imposed by the White House. Under the compromise, tobacco taxes would be increased to provide coverage for more children.

Certain details have yet to be worked out, but Congressional aides said it's likely that Congress would approve the compromise before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, The Times reported.

However, it does not have the support of the Bush administration.

"The House and the Senate still appear to be far away from legislation that we would find acceptable," Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said Sunday.


Fewer High-Calorie Soft Drinks in U.S. Schools

There are fewer high-calorie soft drinks in American schools' vending machines, according to a report released Monday by the American Beverage Association, which represents makers of non-alcoholic drinks such as sodas, fruit drinks and bottle water.

Nondiet soda accounted for 32 percent of drinks for sale at schools during the 2006-07 school year, compared to 47 percent in 2004, the Associated Press said. Beverages distributed to schools in 2006-07 contained about two-fifths fewer calories than they did in 2004.

During that same period, there was a 22.8 percent increase in the volume of bottle water in school vending machines, the beverage industry report said. Shipments of sugary fruit drinks declined by 56.2 percent and shipments of full-calorie soft drinks decreased by 45.1 percent.

The industry report noted that some states have banned the sale of sodas in schools and the beverage industry is introducing healthier drinks, the AP said.


DNA Test Reveals Chemical-Related Health Damage

An American scientist has developed a new DNA test that may help determine if a person's health has been harmed by exposure to chemicals, BBC News reported.

Experts say the test, developed by Dr. Bruce Gillis of the University of Illinois, could play an important role in civil cases where workers seek compensation for injury caused by exposure to chemicals.

The technique, called msds1, can read specific patterns of DNA changes triggered by exposure to chemicals. For the test, samples of DNA are taken from a healthy person and exposed to specific chemicals to see which genes are affected. Those findings are then compared to a claimant's DNA, BBC News reported.

Evidence from this test has already been used in more than 20 civil court cases in California, including one involving a man who was exposed to more than eight chemicals and developed gall bladder cancer.

"None of the chemicals was a carcinogen on its own, but we showed that in combination they increased the activity of cancer-causing genes," Gillis said.


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