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Health Highlights: Dec. 2, 2011

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

Payment for Some Bone Marrow Donors OK: Appeals Court

Some bone marrow donors can be paid, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said new bone marrow donation technology is similar to blood-plasma donation and should therefore be exempt from a law making it a felony to sell human organs for transplants, the Associated Press reported.

However, that law still applies to the older bone marrow donation method, which extracts marrow from the donor's bones, the court said.

The appeals court decision overturns a lower court ruling against payment for any type of bone marrow donation. The case was brought by MoreMarrowDonors.org, which wants to offer bone marrow donors $3,000 in the form of a housing allowance, gift to charity or scholarship, the AP reported.

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Use of Pysch Meds High Among U.S. Foster Children

Foster children in the United States are being prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs at rates 2.7 to 4.5 higher than other children and often receive much higher doses of the drugs, according to Government Accountability Office investigation findings released Thursday.

The two-year investigation also found that hundreds of foster children are being prescribed five or more of the drugs at once, which can cause severe side effects such as suicidal behavior and diabetes, the Associated Press reported.

Psychotropic drugs, which affect the central nervous system and can change behavior or perception, are prescribed for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions.

Some of the drugs are not approved for used by young children and have "black box" label warnings for children's safety, but doctors often prescribe them off-label, the AP reported.

The GAO offered a number of reasons why prescription rates for the drugs are much higher among foster children for a number of reasons, including lax oversight by state agencies and the fact that these children have greater exposure to trauma before they enter foster care.

Critics contend the drugs are overused as a chemical restraint for disorderly children, the AP reported.

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Grape Tomatoes Recalled

Potential salmonella contamination has prompted the recall of 10-ounce and 10-pound bulk packages of grape tomatoes distributed by Front Row Produce in St. Louis.

The tomatoes were supplied by Rio Queen Citrus of Mission, Texas and shipped to food service distributors and retail stores in Illinois and Missouri, the Associated Press reported.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the contamination, which was discovered after random testing by Rio Queen Citrus.

For more information, consumers can call Front Row Produce at 314-241-4700.

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Senators Challenge Pfizer's Attempt to Block Generic Lipitor Sales

Three U.S. Senators are challenging drug maker Pfizer's attempts to persuade health insurance and benefits companies to favor its cholesterol-lowering statin drug Lipitor over new generic drugs.

Pfizer's patent on Lipitor recently expired and the company is offering large discounts to pharmacy benefit managers who block the generic competitors. Pharmacy benefit managers are middlemen between drug companies and health insurance providers, ABC News reported.

"Consumers and taxpayers foot the bill when drug benefit companies and insurers manipulate the marketplace to prevent access to generic drugs for millions of Americans," Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) said in a statement. "We hope that scrutiny into these business practices will restore fairness and open the gates to affordable prescription drug choices and tremendous cost savings."

Kohl and Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) want Pfizer, three pharmacy benefit companies and two insurance companies to provide more information about the agreements, ABC News reported.

"By working with manufacturers to push brand-name drugs, drug benefit companies may be abusing Medicare to boost their profits and denying generic alternatives to patients - a practice that needs to end immediately," Baucus said in a statement. "We need to take a close look to ensure we're protecting both taxpayer dollars and access to the medicine patients need."

Posted: December 2011


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