Health Highlights: July 7, 2011

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

Smokers Who Quit Can Have Normal-Weight Babies: Study

A female smoker who quits when she learns she's pregnant can have a baby with a normal birth weight, according to a new study.

The findings are based on data from more than 50,000 pregnant women in Southampton, England, from 2002 to 2010. The average weight of babies born to smokers who kicked the habit when they found out they were pregnant was 33 grams (10.6 ounces) more than babies born to women who kept smoking during their pregnancy, Agence France-Presse reported.

Birth weight is an important predictor of long-term health. The study was presented this week at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

"Once you find out you're pregnant, it's not too late to do something about your smoking," study author Nick Macklon, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southampton, told AFP. "If you stop smoking, you can have a baby with the same birth weight as if you'd never smoked."

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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.

Posted: July 2011


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