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Health Highlights: July 5, 2011

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

Maker Seeks to Prevent Drug's Use in Lethal Injections

A Danish drug company says it will restrict distribution of its Nembutal drug to prevent it from being used in lethal injections to execute prisoners in some U.S. states.

Nembutal is the trade name for Lundbeck's pentobarbital sodium injection. It's used to treat severe epilepsy but is also used by a number of states in a three-drug mixture used to execute death row inmates, Agence France-Presse reported.

Lundbeck said Friday that Nembutal will now "be supplied exclusively through a specialty pharmacy drop ship program that will deny distribution of the product to prisons in U.S. states currently active in carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection."

Distributors were notified of the plan in late June, AFP reported.

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Paycheck Can Be Dangerous: Study

Payday can be life threatening, according to a new study.

A U.S. researcher looked at four major demographic groups -- military personnel, people receiving tax rebate checks, seniors on Social Security, and recipients of Alaska's Permanent Fund dividends -- and found a spike in death rates in the week after they received their checks, msnbc.com reported.

The largest increases occurred in deaths caused by substance abuse, external causes (accidents of various kinds), and heart attacks.

"After getting paid, people are just more active -- they go out to dinner, head to the store, drive more, go to bars, etc.," said University of Notre Dame economist William Evans, msnbc.com reported. "Some of this behavior is inherently risky, like drinking too much or driving drunk. Some of the activity will naturally increase risk -- if you drive more, the risk of being in a car accident has increased."

"Some of the links are not so obvious," he added. "For example, more activity may spur on a heart attack. And some of it is increased risk taking, as with substance abuse."

The study appears in the Journal of Public Economics.

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Babies' Brains Respond to Others' Emotions at Early Age

A new study finds that babies can respond to emotions in other people's voices by the time they're three months old, earlier than previously believed.

Researchers used functional MRI to monitor brain activity in 21 babies as they heard emotional sounds, such as laughing and crying, and other sounds, such as water or toys, BBC News reported.

The scans showed activity in the babies' temporal cortex when they heard the emotional human voices, the same part of the brain that's activated in adults.

This finding about when human brains develop the ability to process voices and emotions "fundamentally advances our understanding of infant development," said Professor Declan Murphy of King's College London, BBC News reported.

This knowledge could be used to identify differences between the way that autistic and non-autistic brains develop, according to researchers.

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Canada to Fund Trials of Controversial MS Treatment

The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it will fund clinical trials for a controversial multiple sclerosis treatment that clears blocked neck veins.

A scientific working group established by the government last year recommended proceeding with the trials after a review of seven ongoing studies of the link between "chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency" and its connection to MS, Agence France-Presse reported.

The government will issue of call for applications to conduct the trials after the clinical trial terms are established by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

The so-called "liberation treatment" is not offered in Canada and many Canadians with MS have gone to other countries for the treatment. Some said they had major improvements in their mobility after the procedure, while others reported little benefit, according to AFP.

Posted: July 2011


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