Health Highlights: Jan. 15, 2010

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

FDA Can't Block E-Cigarette Imports: Judge

The importation of electronic cigarettes into the United States can't be blocked by the Food and Drug Administration, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The FDA considers electronic cigarettes -- battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine without tobacco or combustion -- to be unapproved drug devices and has told manufacturers they need FDA approval to sell them in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

Two U.S.-based e-cigarette distributors went to court to fight the FDA's policy of blocking and confiscating e-cigarettes when they reach U.S. ports. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a temporary injunction halting the FDA's actions.

Leon ruled that e-cigarettes are essentially a modern-day tobacco product and said the FDA had overstepped its authority in blocking their importation, the Post reported.

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Tylenol Maker Failed to Investigate Problems: FDA

McNeil Healthcare, LLC, failed to properly investigate other products that may have been affected by the same complaints, including stomach problems, that prompted a recall of Tylenol Arthritis Relief Caplets in late December, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a letter to McNeil, the FDA cites Tylenol Extra Strength and Rolaids as two other products that promoted complaints about an "uncharacteristic smell" that contributed to the recall of the arthritis caplets, ABC News reported.

"Since the date of the discovery, your firm did not extend the assessment of the event to other products that received packaging components from the same supplier," said the FDA letter, which was dated Jan. 8 and posted on the agency's Web site Jan. 13. The FDA noted more than 10 "musty-moldy odor" complaints about Rolaids and more than 39 such complaints about Tylenol Extra Strength, "including three adverse event reports."

"Certainly, the FDA report raises serious questions about the manufacturer's response," Robert Field, professor of health management and policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health, told ABC News. "The report has found that the investigation was limited and that the procedures for quality control were not in writing (and) various other lapses that were fairly significant."

On Friday, McNeil announced an expanded recall of some batches of Tylenol caplets, geltabs, arthritis treatments, rapid release and extended relief Tylenol. Other products included in the recall are chewable extra strength Rolaids, Motrin IB, St. Joseph aspirin, and Benadryl allergy tablets, the Associated Press reported.

McNeil is an arm of Johnson & Johnson.

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Gay Marriage Ban Adds to Social Stigma: Expert

California's ban on same-sex marriages contributes to the social stigma that puts gay men and lesbian women at increased risk for substance abuse, depression and suicide, says a Columbia University social scientist.

Ilan Meyer was testifying Thursday in the federal trial to determine whether voter-enacted Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. It's the first federal trial to consider the constitutionality of state gay marriage bans, the Associated Press reported.

"People in our society have goals that are cherished by all people, that are part of the social convention," Meyer said. "We are all raised to think there are certain things we want to achieve in life, and this Proposition 8 says if you are gay or lesbian, you cannot achieve this particular goal."

In other testimony Thursday, a city of San Francisco economist said the gay marriage ban costs the city millions of dollars a year in lost revenue and increased services, the AP reported.

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Recalled Dog Treats May Contain Salmonella: FDA

Some Merrick Pet Care beef dog treats may be contaminated with salmonella that could infect people if they handle the treats and don't thoroughly wash their hands, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Merrick Beef Filet Squares were sold across the U.S. through retail stores and the Internet. The recalled products were packaged in 10-ounce green, red and tan resealable plastic bags that are labeled "best by 111911," the Associated Press reported.

There have been no reports of illnesses linked to the recalled dog treats.

The FDA said routine testing of the treats revealed evidence of salmonella and another inspection uncovered manufacturing and packaging problems, the AP reported.

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Parenthood Linked With Lower Blood Pressure: Study

Parents have lower blood pressure than adults without children, says a U.S. study.

It included 198 participants, ages 20 to 68, who wore portable monitors that took blood pressure readings three times an hour, 24 hours a day, USA Today reported.

"Women were driving the effect. Women with children had the lowest blood pressure, and women without had the highest," said study co-author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

The study, which appears in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found no differences between parents with children under age 2, parents with teens and parents with children over 18 years old.

That finding suggests that blood pressure readings indicate "something about the people who choose to be parents, rather than the day-to-day experience of being a parent," Thomas Kamarck, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, told USA Today. He wasn't involved in the study.

Posted: January 2010


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