Health Highlights: July 29, 2007

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

VP Cheney's Heart Monitoring Device Replaced

Vice President Dick Cheney's heart monitoring device was replaced Saturday with a similar, updated model.

The New York Times reports the minor surgery to implant the cardioverter-defibrillator that monitors and corrects Cheney's heart rhythm, was conducted without incident.

The vice president was sedated for the Saturday morning procedure, the Times reports, and he walked out of the George Washington University Hospital clinic at midday and returned home. The device "was successfully replaced without complication," the newspaper quotes Cheney spokeswoman Megan E. McGinn, as saying.

The device was implanted in 2001 and acts as both a pacemaker and defibrillator to shock the heart back into normal rhythm. The wires that run from the device into the heart were not replaced, the Times reported.

McGinn said Friday the need to replace the aging battery had been determined at a physical examination in June. She said the vice president, 66, was scheduled to have the procedure at George Washington University Hospital, located a few blocks from the White House.

At last month's checkup, Cheney also had a stress test, which found nothing unexpected, the Associated Press said.

Cheney has a history of cardiovascular problems, including a clot in his left leg discovered in March; a weak spot in an artery called an aneurism that was surgically repaired in 2005; four prior heart attacks; and quadruple bypass surgery, the wire service said.

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Next Year's Vioxx Trials May Include Stroke Cases

Until now, all of the lawsuits brought to trial involving the controversial painkiller Vioxx had centered on plaintiffs who had suffered heart attacks.

But according to the Associated Press, the federal judge appointed to oversee pretrial motions for the more than 8,500 federal lawsuits against Vioxx's maker Merck and Co. said that some of the trials next year could involve people who had suffered a stroke.

"We may carve out five or six stroke cases and try them," the wire service quotes U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon as telling attorneys for the plaintiffs and Merck.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004 after studies revealed that using it increased a person's heart attack twofold.

Plaintiffs have sued Merck in both federal in state courts. In federal cases, Merck has won four of five. In all, there are almost 30,000 lawsuits filed against Merck. The company has won about half the cases, but it lost a big jury award in Texas, which is now on appeal.

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Sara Lee Recalls 27 Whole Wheat Bread Brands

Sara Lee Corp. has announced a recall of 27 different whole wheat bread products because a routine inspection at its plant in Meridian, Miss. found "small metal pieces" in some of its baked goods, the Associated Press reports.

The problem apparently developed in a flour-sifting machine, which company spokesman Mark Goldman described to the wire service as "not up to our specification and raised the possibility some metal could have dislodged." The problem was only at the Meridian bakery, Goldman added.

The products have been sold in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, the A.P. reports. The brands are EarthGrains, Publix, Sara Lee Delightful, Sara Lee Hearty and Delicious. Other affected brands were stamped "best if purchased by" July 25, 2007, to Aug. 7, 2007, and included the code "222."

Consumers can return the bread to the store where they bought it for a refund, the wire service reported.

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FDA Permits Limited Use of Irritable Bowel Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will allow restricted use of the irritable bowel syndrome drug Zelnorm (tegaserod maleate) among certain women younger than age 55.

In a statement issued Friday, the agency said use of the drug would be permitted in certain female patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, and chronic idiopathic constipation.

On March 30, the FDA asked the maker of Zelnorm, Novartis, to suspend U.S. sales after a safety analysis found users had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and unstable angina (chest pain that can signal a heart attack).

At the time, the FDA said it would work with Novartis to develop guidelines for patients in whom the benefits of Zelnorm outweigh its risks.

"These patients must meet strict criteria and have no known or pre-existing heart problems and be in critical need of this drug," said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Zelnorm will remain off the market for general use."

Zelnorm was first approved by the FDA in 2002 for the short-term treatment of irritable bowel with constipation. Two years later, it was approved to treat chronic constipation in men and women under age 65.

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Toro Electric Blowers Recalled

Some 900,000 electric blowers produced by the Toro Co. of Bloomington, Minn., are being recalled because the rotating portion inside them -- called the impeller -- could break and force plastic pieces out the front, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

Toro has 154 reports of broken impellers, including 21 incidents of minor cuts and bruises, the agency said.

The recall involves model number 51586, produced between January 2000 and December 2002. Affected serial numbers range from 000055100 to 220255609.

recalled toro blower

Toro dealers and other retailers, including Home Depot, Lowes, Target and K-Mart, sold the product for about $32, the CPSC said.

For information about getting a replacement, contact Toro at 888-279-3191.

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Products Recalled for Botulism Risk Still Available

Cans of recalled chili, stew, hash, and other products are still being sold across the United States, despite the possibility they could be contaminated with deadly bacteria, the Associated Press reported Friday.

More than a week after Castleberry's Food Co. recalled more than 90 products for possible botulism contamination, thousands of cans are still being pulled from store shelves as quickly as U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors can find them.

The last two years' worth of inventory produced at Castleberry's Augusta, Ga., plant are now on the recall list -- which could add up to tens of millions of cans. Of more than 3,700 stores visited nationwide by the FDA at one point, roughly 250 still sold the recalled products, the wire service said.

A list of the recalled products is available from the FDA. Any consumer who has a recalled can should immediately double bag the product and throw it away, the agency advised.

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Posted: July 2007


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