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Health Highlights: Sept. 1, 2004

Unsafe Abortions Kill 70,000 Women Each Year: Report Drug Firms Court GOP Lawmakers at Convention Nursing Pillows Pose Suffocation Risk Test of 'Bad' Cholesterol May Signal Heart Attack Drug for Schizophrenia, Bipolar Has Diabetes Risk U.K. Documentary Suggests Mozart Had Tourette's

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

Unsafe Abortions Kill 70,000 Women Each Year: Report

About 70,000 women -- nearly 200 a day -- die each year around the world due to botched abortions, says a report by Ipas, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization.

In addition to the deaths, unsafe abortions also leave thousands of women with long-term debilitating injuries. Most of the problems occur in Asia, the report said.

The report was presented in London at Countdown 2015, a conference examining what progress has been made since the International Conference on Population and Development held in 1994.

That conference, sponsored by the United Nations, set goals to improve worldwide sexual and reproductive health by 2015.

"Until nations everywhere take steps to make abortion legal and readily available as well as helping to remove the stigma that surrounds it, women will suffer," Elizabeth Maguire, president of Ipas, said in a prepared statement.


Drug Firms Court GOP Lawmakers at Convention

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is playing gracious host to lawmakers attending the Republican national convention in New York City, to get their support to stop efforts to make it easier for Americans to buy cheaper Canadian prescription drugs.

Drug companies are holding a number of social events for GOP decision-makers during the convention, according to the Associated Press.

"It is important that we decisively convey our side of the story. We need to emphasize that there are real safety risks associated with importation," Jeff Trewhitt, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, told the news service.

Congress and several states are considering proposals that would permit residents to buy prescription drugs from Canada.

A spokeswoman for drug manufacturer Pfizer said drug-importation legislation is a major issue for the company. Darlene Taylor told the AP that Pfizer doesn't believe proposals to import cheaper drugs from other countries are necessarily the solution to high drug costs in the United States.


Nursing Pillows Pose Suffocation Risk

About 8,000 nursing pillows that pose a suffocation hazard are being recalled, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Wednesday.

The recall involves Boston Billows Nursing Pillows made by Boston Billows Inc. of Nashua, N.H. Infants left unattended on these pillows face a risk of suffocation. Consumers with these nursing pillows should stop using them immediately, the CPSC said.

The "C"-shaped white pillows are about 36 inches long, 10 inches wide and 5 inches deep, and have a removable 100 percent cotton hypoallergenic cover in various colors and prints. The fabric tag on the pillow reads, "Boston Billows, Inc."

The pillows were sold for between $34 and $38 in hospitals and specialty stores from February 2000 through December 2003.

Consumers can get information about a refund by calling Boston Billows at 877-274-4606 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.


Test of 'Bad' Cholesterol May Signal Heart Attack

A simple test that analyzes a person's bad cholesterol breakdown more closely than current diagnostics may be a good indicator of who is at high risk of heart attack, Canadian researchers say.

The new test measures the ratio of small particles found in LDL cholesterol called apolipoprotein B molecules, comparing them to similar molecules found in so-called "good" cholesterol (HDL), according to the Associated Press.

The McMaster University study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Munich, included 29,000 people in 52 countries. Researchers found that the new test was a better indicator of who was at high risk of a heart attack than standard cholesterol tests.

Patients who scored lowest on the new test were about four times more likely than those with the best test score to have a heart attack, according to the wire service account.


Drug for Schizophrenia, Bipolar Has Diabetes Risk

The Pfizer antipsychotic drug Geodon has been linked to cases of extremely high blood sugar and diabetes, the company warned doctors in a letter released this week.

Ironically, the long-time schizophrenia drug was newly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration less than a week ago for a second use, to treat uncontrolled mania associated with bipolar disorder.

On Tuesday, the company released a letter it had sent to physicians warning of a "few reports" of hyperglycemia and diabetes. According to the Associated Press, Geodon and competing "atypical antipsychotic drugs" have been linked to serious cases of these conditions, extreme enough in some instances to induce coma or death.

Other medications in Geodon's class include Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Abilify, Novartis' Clozaril, Janssen's Risperdal and AstraZeneca's Seroquel, the wire service said. The AP report did not mention similar steps that these competing companies may have taken to alert physicians.


U.K. Documentary Suggests Mozart Had Tourette's

Did Mozart have Tourette's Syndrome?

British composer James McConnel thinks so. McConnel himself has the disorder, which is characterized by uncontrolled swearing and facial tics.

In a documentary to air in the U.K. in October, the modern-day musician cites Mozart's fascination with word play, and an obsession with clocks and gadgets, according to BBC News Online.

"Tourette's is a constant battle between chaos and control, having a compulsion and trying to control it ," the BBC quotes McConnel as saying. "Mozart let his music run off in chaotic directions but then always brought it back under control."

However, McConnel said the condition, if Mozart had it, was not at the root of his musical genius.

"He would have been a brilliant composer without it," McConnel insists.

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