Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2008

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

Companies Agree to Halt Unapproved Health Claims About Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it has obtained a permanent injunction against Brownwood Acres Foods and Cherry Capital Services (doing business as Flavonoid Sciences) and two of their top executives, prohibiting them from making and distributing any products with label claims about curing, treating, mitigating or preventing disease.

The companies, which make various products including juice concentrates, soft fruit gel capsules, fruit bars, dried fruits, liquid glucosamine and salmon oil capsules, have a history of promoting unapproved health claims about their products, the FDA said in a prepared statement.

Under terms of a signed consent decree, the companies agreed to remove drug and unauthorized health claims from their labels, brochures and Web sites.

"The FDA will not tolerate unsubstantiated health claims that may mislead consumers. The FDA will pursue necessary legal action to make sure companies and their executives manufacture and distribute safe, truthfully labeled products to consumers," Margaret O'K. Glavin, the agency's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said.

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More Countries Reporting Tamiflu-Resistant Flu Viruses

The number of countries with reported cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 influenza viruses has increased to 20, the World Health Organization said Thursday in an update posted on its Web site. Many countries have stockpiled Tamiflu (oseltamivir) as a front-line defense in the event of a flu pandemic.

The list of countries reporting Tamiflu-resistant influenza now includes Japan, which uses more of the drug than any other nation, the Canadian Press reported.

Since January, resistant flu viruses have been detected in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, the United States and 15 European countries. Rates of resistance vary from country to country. The overall resistance rate in Europe is about 19 percent but is much higher in some countries, such as in France (40 percent). The rate of resistance in Canada and the United States is about 8t percent.

Experts noted that H1N1 viruses that carry the genetic mutation that protects them against Tamiflu are still susceptible to the drugs zanamivir (Relenza), amantadine, and rimantadine, the CP reported.

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Magnetic Dart Boards Recalled

Family Dollar of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 250,000 Fun 'n Safe magnetic dart boards because small magnets on the ends of the darts can detach and pose a hazard to young children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday.

The small magnets can be swallowed or aspirated. If more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal blockages or perforations, which can be fatal. There have been no reports of injuries.

The magnetic dart boards were sold at Family Dollar stores nationwide from January 2001 through January 2008 for about $5. The toys should be immediately taken away from children and returned to a Family Dollar store for a refund, the CPSC said.

For more information, contact Family Dollar at 800-547-0359.

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Large Amount of Recalled Beef Went to School Lunch Programs

Of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled last week, more than a third (about 50 million pounds) went to school lunch programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Thursday.

Of that 50 million pounds, about 20 million pounds have been eaten, 15 million pounds are on hold in storage facilities, and 15 million pounds are still being tracked down, Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service's special nutrition programs, told the Associated Press.

USDA officials also said they couldn't provide the names of all the places that may have received the recalled beef produced by Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. There have been no reports of illnesses.

"Sitting here today, I cannot tell you how many locations the product as gone to," said Dr. Kenneth Peterson, of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Our focus is identifying the locations and making sure the product is under control."

The beef recall, the largest in U.S. history, was issued after the release of videos showing workers using inhumane methods to force sick and crippled cows to slaughter.

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Computers Provide Accurate Alzheimer's Diagnosis: Study

British researchers say computers can diagnose Alzheimer's disease more quickly and accurately than current methods.

The University College London team found that a computer was as much as 96 percent successful in accurately identifying Alzheimer's-inflicted brain damage, BBC News reported.

The current approach, which uses brain scans, blood tests and patient interviews, is about 85 percent accurate in diagnosing Alzheimer's.

In this study, researchers taught a computer to recognize the differences between MRI brain scans from patients known to have Alzheimer's and patients with no signs of the disease, BBC News reported.

The University College London team said computers may help ensure Alzheimer's patients are diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease, which increases the chances of effective treatment.

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Report Recommends Measures to Combat Alcohol Misuse in Britain

Higher alcohol taxes, an end to happy hours, and much lower blood alcohol limits for drivers are needed to help fight an epidemic of alcohol misuse in Britain, says a British Medical Association report released Thursday.

"As doctors, we see first hand how alcohol misuse destroys lives. It causes family breakdowns, is a major factor in domestic violence, ruins job prospects, is often related to crime and disorderly behavior and it kills," said Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, the Associated Press reported.

Alcohol misuse is linked to billions of dollars of health and law enforcement costs each year in Britain, where the alcohol-related death rate increased from 6.9 per 100,000 in 1991 to 12.9 per 100,000 in 2005.

One study found that alcohol was associated with 70 percent of all peak-time hospital emergency department admissions, the AP reported.

Posted: February 2008


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