Health Highlights: July 22, 2007

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

FDA Expands Recall of Food Products That May Contain Botulism Toxin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expanding a July 18 warning concerning food products made by Castleberry Food Company of Augusta, Ga., which the FDA says may contain deadly botulinum toxin.

Castleberry has voluntarily expanded the recall to include foods for both humans and pets, the FDA said.

The recall was initially prompted by cans containing chili sauce being found in Texas and Indiana homes about two months ago after some of the family members became ill.

The list of additional recalled products includes 12 different types of chili sauces for humans. The four recalled pet foods are listed under the the title of Natural Balance Eateries. While botulism poisoning is rare in dogs and and just about non-existent in cats, the FDA said, it is very prevalent in ferrets.

A complete list of the suspected food items can be found in a special news release on the FDA Web site.

Problems in production of the chili sauce was discovered about two months ago, the AP said.

Cans were coming out of a heating process too hot to be sent into a cooling area, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the AP. The company temporarily stopped production to make sure that the cans hadn't expanded, which could have fostered contamination, said the CDC expert, Ezra Barzilay.

An investigation of the cans and their contents by state, company and independent experts found no problems, the wire service said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged anyone who had 10-ounce cans of Castleberry's, Austex, and Kroger hot dog chili sauce with "best by" dates of April 30, 2009 to May 22, 2009 to throw the product away.

Botulism, caused by a bacterial toxin, causes muscle paralysis and can hospitalize victims for months. It is fatal in about 8 percent of cases, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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5 Polyps Removed During President Bush's Colonoscopy

President Bush had five small tumors removed from his large intestine Saturday during a routine colonoscopy, the Associated Press reported. None of the growths was as large as a centimeter and none "appeared worrisome," according to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

The President, who had transferred power to Vice President Cheney earlier in the morning before undergoing the procedure, which requires anesthesia, reclaimed his powers 9:21 a.m. Eastern time, the wire service reported. The polyps have been sent to the National Naval center in Bethesda, Md. for examination and results were expected within three days, the A.P. said.

Stanzel said the President took a bicycle ride at Camp David later in the day and had spoken with his wife, Laura, by phone in Midland, Tex., the wire service reported. "The president was in good humor and will resume his normal activities at Camp David," Stanzel said.

Bush, who is 61, last had a colorectal cancer check on June 29, 2002, in a procedure that began at 7:09 a.m and ended at 7:29 a.m.

Two polyps discovered during examinations in 1998 and 1999 make Bush a prime candidate for regular examinations. For the general population, a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer is recommended every 10 years. But for people at higher risk or if a colonoscopy detects precancerous polyps, follow-up colonoscopies often are scheduled in three- to five-year intervals.

"Although no polyps were noted in the exam in 2002, age and history would suggest that there's a reasonable chance that polyps will be noted this time," Snow said Friday. "If so, they'll be removed and evaluated microscopically."

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More Than 10 Percent Seeking Sleep Aids Use Natural Supplements, Study Says

There's still not enough evidence to determine whether two over-the-counter natural supplements can help a person sleep, but a recent survey shows that at least 11 percent of the respondents in a national poll are using them.

The Washington Post reports that a survey of 31,000 participants appearing in a recent issue of the journal Sleep shows that almost 6 percent said they used valerian and more than 5 percent used melatonin. According to the Post, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that a physician be consulted before any sleep aid be used, even non-prescription ones.

Previous studies on the two substances have been inconclusive, the newspaper says, although there is some indication that melatonin helps counteract jet lag. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that melatonin has been tied to depression, and both supplements can interact with other drugs, the Post reports.

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Pharmaceutical Executives Sentenced to Probation, Community Service

There will be no jail time for three executives from the pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma, even though they had pleaded guilty to the charge of misbranding the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin.

The New York Times reports that, following "wrenching testimony" from family members whose children or siblings had died from overdoses of OxyContin, U.S. District Court Judge James P. Jones, sentenced the three executives to three years' probation and 400 hours of community service in drug treatment programs.

Jones said that the prosecution had not demonstrated evidence that the executives were aware that that drug's addictive dangers were being understated to physicians who prescribed it. A plea bargain had determined there would be no jail time.

The company and its executives also paid $634.5 million in fines, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Since the drug was introduced in the United States in 1996, OxyContin abuse and addiction has become a widespread problem in the country.

However, for many years Purdue Pharma claimed that the time-release formulation of OxyContin meant that the drug was less likely to cause abuse and addiction than other painkillers such as Vicodin or Percocet, Times reported.

In order to settle criminal and civil charges related to the "misbranding" of OxyContin, Purdue agreed to pay the fines, and three former and current executives, including its president and top lawyer, also paid fines, the newspaper reported.

The Stamford, Conn.-based company also agreed to pay $19.5 million to 26 states and the District of Columbia to settle complaints that it encouraged physicians to overprescribe OxyContin.

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China Closes Plants Involved in Pet Food Recall

China says it has revoked the licenses of three manufacturers involved in shipping contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States and in exporting mislabeled drug ingredients, The New York Times reported Friday.

The Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company and the Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Company are alleged to have added melamine -- a chemical used to make plastics -- to pet food ingredients that wound up killing or injuring thousands of pets in the United States, the Times said. It led to one of the largest pet food recalls in U.S. history.

Chinese regulators also said they had closed the Taixing Glycerin Factory, which was accused of mislabeling a toxic product used to make antifreeze as a sweetener. The chemical ended up in cold medicine and led to the deaths of at least 100 people in Panama, the Times said.

The Chinese government also conceded that several domestic companies had shipped seafood laced with banned antibiotics to the United States, the newspaper reported. Chinese regulators said they didn't catch the problem earlier, because the seafood producers hadn't been properly registered.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned imports of certain Chinese-produced shrimp, catfish, eel and other seafood after finding prohibited chemicals on the products.

Earlier this month, China executed the former chief of its food and drug agency on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for approving untested medicines.

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CVS Recalls Sippy Cups for Choking Hazard

CVS pharmacies are recalling some 84,000 sippy cups made in China, because toddlers can chew through the plastic spouts, posing a choking hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The Playschool "No Spill" cups were sold at CVS stores nationwide from September 2006 through April 2007 for about $5. Distributed in a variety of colors, they have serial number 382814, which is printed on the back of the packaging.

CVS has 36 reports of toddlers chewing through the plastic spout, causing one choking incident and three near-choking incidents, the CPSC said. No injuries have been reported.

cup recall

Consumers should stop using the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund.

For more information, contact CVS at 866-434-0098.

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Posted: July 2007


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