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Health Highlights: Sept. 11, 2004

Clinton Released From Hospital Following Heart Surgery Proposed Study Would Give ADHD Drugs to Healthy Children West Nile Hits California Hard Nightclub Lasers Can Harm Eyes Black Organ Donations Lag Behind Need Town-Gown Program Cuts High-Risk Drinking

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

Clinton Released From Hospital Following Heart Surgery

Former President Bill Clinton was released from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center Friday evening and returned to his suburban New York City home, where he continues to recuperate from quadruple bypass surgery last Monday.

Clinton, accompanied by family members, was in good spirits and had taken short walks in his home in the Westchester County community of Chappaqua, according to a statement from his office.

The 58-year-old was admitted to the hospital Sept. 3 after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath. Doctors said he had several risk factors for coronary trouble and probably avoided a major heart attack.

He and his family released a statement that said, "We appreciate more than words can say all the good wishes and messages of concern that we received during this difficult time in our lives We feel blessed to have such support, and it will continue to sustain us throughout the months of recuperation that remain ahead."

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Proposed Study Would Give ADHD Drugs to Healthy Children

In an effort to determine the effect of stimulant drugs on the brains of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a new federal panel has recommended giving the drugs to healthy children as young as 9.

The Food and Drug Administration's Pediatric Ethics Subcommittee said Friday that the advancement of science outweighed the risks posed by the proposed trial, the Associated Press reported.

Seventy-eight children -- half of whom had ADHD -- would be given a single 10 mg. dose of dextroamphetamine. The study would use MRIs to reveal brain patterns as the children complete certain tasks, the AP said.

Dr. Judith L. Rapoport, who has studied ADHD for 30 years, said the trial would seek to answer the question: Do the brains of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder respond to stimulants in fundamentally different ways from normal children?

She told the panel the dextroamphetamine dose was roughly equivalent to 50 mg. to 75 mg. of caffeine. Household surveys have shown many healthy schoolchildren get more caffeine by drinking soda and ice tea, Rapoport said.

Dr. Daniel Pine, a child psychiatrist who would be a co-investigator on the study that would be funded by the National Institutes of Health, said it could lead to better tests to diagnose the disorder. ADHD is often treated with stimulant drugs such as Ritalin.

Study critics said it was unethical to use healthy children as "human guinea pigs?"

A final decision on the trial rests with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the AP said.

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West Nile Hits California Hard

A 69-year-old Los Angeles County woman has died of West Nile virus, bringing to 13 the number of people in California killed this year by the mosquito-borne disease, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Saturday.

Nearly 500 people have been infected in California, making it the state hit hardest by West Nile this year, health officials said.

Nationwide, 35 people have died and 1,309 have been infected this year by West Nile, which was first detected in New York in 1999. For every reported infection, there are 15 to 30 additional infections that aren't reported because many cases produce slight or no symptoms at all, according to the newspaper.

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Nightclub Lasers Can Harm Eyes

Nightclub lasers may be a vision hazard, according to the United Kingdom's National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).

The board said that laser beams are strong enough to cause serious injuries, but often come with inadequate safety information and are used by people with no laser safety experience, BBC News Online reported.

Laser equipment is now affordable enough for smaller clubs and discos to be able to install them, the NRPB noted.

The kinds of lasers used in clubs and other entertainment venues are Class 3B or Class 4, which are powerful enough to damage dancers' sight when projected straight at their faces.

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Black Organ Donations Lag Behind Need

The number of black organ donations in the United States isn't keeping up with the need, medical specialists say.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, black patients account for 27 percent of the waiting list for organ transplants, but black donors make up only 12 percent of donors.

That means that blacks who need a kidney have to wait an average of 18 months longer for a transplant than whites, the Associated Press reported. The kidney's sensitivity to genetic factors means that black donors are preferable for blacks who need a kidney.

Experts say the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study is at least partly to blame for the low numbers of black organ donors. That study contributed to black people's distrust of doctors.

The Tuskegee study started in the early 1930s and continued until 1972, when it was exposed by the AP. Hundreds of poor black men with syphilis were left untreated in order to see what would happen to them.

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Town-Gown Program Cuts High-Risk Drinking

A program to reduce high-risk drinking by college students resulted in a reduction in drinking rates and alcohol-related harms at five U.S. colleges that fully implemented the program, says a Harvard School of Public Health study released Friday.

The program is called "A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking Among Students (AMOD)." It's meant to encourage collaboration between universities and surrounding communities to change environments around campuses that promote heavy drinking.

This includes: promotion of alcohol-free activities; expansion of substance-free residence halls; not selling alcohol-related items in student bookstores; prohibiting the sale of alcohol without a license; and requiring registration for people who purchase kegs of beer.

Ten colleges that took part in AMOD were monitored from 1997 to 2001 in order to evaluate the program's success.

The five colleges that fully implemented AMOD had declines of between 5 and 11 percent in rates of student binge drinking. They also had an 18 percent reduction in alcohol-related problems experienced by students, such as missing classes, getting injured, or getting in trouble with police.

These reductions did not occur at colleges that implemented only a few of the AMOD policies, the study found.

The research appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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