Health Highlights: July 10, 2005
Some Smokers Can Resist the Urge, Study Says California Suspends Medical Marijuana I.D. Card Program Panel Named to Recommend Medicaid Controls U.S. Court Upholds Ruling Against 'Partial Birth' Abortion Ban Cheney Gets Good News From Pacemaker Exam Johns Hopkins Retains Top Hospital Ranking
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Some Smokers Can Resist the Urge, Study Says
Some smokers can better resist the urge to smoke because their brains don't respond to smoking-related images, according to new research from Duke University.
The difference between those people and smokers who will light up without hesitation may lie in what Duke scientists call the brain's sensitivity to "drug cues." The people who report a greater urge to smoke after a period of abstinence show stronger brain activity (than those who resist the urge to smoke) after they see images such as other smokers or a pack of cigarettes.
The researchers noted that other study participants who had fewer cravings showed stable brain responses to the same drug cues, even though they, too, had not smoked for hours.
While all the study participants were classified as smokers, their smoking habits may be predicted by how they respond to outside stimuli, the Duke researchers concluded. And, they added, brain scans might produce tests that could help determine which methods would be best to help a smoker quit the habit.
The study is published in the current issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.
California Suspends Medical Marijuana I.D. Card Program
California, which was one of the first states to enact a medical marijuana law, has suspended a program that issued identification cards to people who could use cannabis for medical reasons.
According to the Associated Press, California's health director Sandra Shewry has asked the state attorney general's office to review the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling before her office issues any more I.D. cards. So far, 123 California residents have been given the cards, the wire service reports.
Last month, the Supreme Court said in a 6-3 decision that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain or other conditions can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws. The ruling did not strike down laws in California and nine other states that permit medical cannabis use, but said federal drug laws take precedence.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office will review the request, but a spokeswoman told the wire service that the Supreme Court's ruling did not tell California how to deal with the issue.
"He has said to law enforcement in some of the bulletins ...that [the ruling] does not impose a mandatory duty to enforce the federal controlled substances act against people who are using medical marijuana legally under California law," the A.P. quotes spokeswoman Teresa Schilling as saying.
Panel Named to Recommend Medicaid Controls
Given a relatively tight deadline, a commission designed to recommend cost savings in Medicaid was named Friday by the Bush administration.
According to The New York Times, the panel, headed by former Tennessee governor and congressman Don Sundquist, has until Sept. 1 to recommend ways to cut spending growth by $10 billion during the next five years.
After making those recommendations, the panel is charged with using 2006 to find ways to initiate major changes, including possible alterations in eligibility for the Medicaid program, the Times reports.
Medicaid is a health care program for low income people, financed by both the federal government and individual states, and the growth in the number of eligible participants in recent years has caused many states to reduce services. According to the Times about 50 million Americans are eligible for the program, which costs more than $320 billion annually.
The newspaper quotes Sundquist as saying, "We are trying to come together in a bipartisan effort to improve Medicaid, not destroy it." The commission will have 13 members.
U.S. Court Upholds Ruling Against 'Partial Birth' Abortion Ban
A federal appeals court in St. Louis on Friday upheld a lower court's ruling that the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a Nebraska district judge's earlier ruling that the law was invalid because it made no exception for the mother's health. Similar rulings were issued in separate cases by federal judges in New York and San Francisco.
In 2003, President Bush signed the law banning intact dilation and extraction, a later-term procedure that opponents refer to as "partial birth" abortion. But the law was never enforced due to a number of legal challenges.
Many legal experts think appeals over the partial birth ban eventually will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the AP said.
Cheney Gets Good News From Pacemaker Exam
Vice President Dick Cheney got good news after Friday's routine inspection of the high-tech pacemaker that was implanted in 2001, the Associated Press reported. The device showed no irregular heartbeat and has never been activated, a spokeswoman said.
Cheney's appointment at George Washington University Medical Center included a physical exam, an electrocardiogram, and a stress test, the spokeswoman said. The pacemaker is designed to activate automatically if a person's heartbeat needs to be shocked back into a regular rhythm.
Cheney has had four heart attacks, though none as vice president. The heart device, called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, also was working fine when last inspected in May 2004, the wire service said.
Cheney is scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy later this month, his spokeswoman said.
Johns Hopkins Retains Top Hospital Ranking
For the 15th straight year, Johns Hopkins University Hospital has retained its spot atop U.S. News and World Report's ranking of the nation's best hospitals.
To make the magazine's 2005 honor roll, hospitals had to rank at or near the top in no fewer than six specialties. The rankings were compiled from votes by board-certified physicians randomly selected from a list of some 811,000 U.S. doctors provided by the American Medical Association.
Here are the magazine's top 10 hospitals for 2005:
- Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore
- Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
- Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
- Cleveland Clinic
- ULCA Medical Center, Los Angeles
- Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis
- New York Presbyterian, New York City
- Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
- University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle
- University of California, San Francisco Medical Center