Health Highlights: May 4, 2010

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

FDA Orders Baxter to Recall and Destroy Infusion Pumps

Baxter International must recall and destroy all of its Colleague infusion pumps in the United States because the company has failed to fix serious problems with the pumps, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The pumps are used to deliver intravenous fluids and medicine, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA also ordered the Deerfield, Ill.-based company to give refunds or replacement pumps to customers at no cost.

The agency said as many as 200,000 Colleague infusion pumps may be in use, the AP reported.

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Subsidy Reduces Employers' Early Retiree Health Coverage Costs

The Obama administration will provide $5 billion in subsidies to help employers provide medical coverage to early retirees.

White House officials said the subsidy program, which begins June 1, will enable employers to recover a large part of the cost of medical claims for retirees ages 55 to 64 who aren't eligible for Medicare, the Associated Press reported.

Employers can get reimbursed for up to 80 percent of the cost of early retiree medical claims between $15,000 and $90,000. The government money can be used to lower premiums for retirees and their dependents, or by employers to keep their costs under control.

The early retiree subsidy was included in the new health care law. Currently, nearly two million Americans ages 55 to 64 have health insurance through a former employer, the AP reported.

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Gulf Oil Slick No Threat to Human Health

The massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico poses little risk to human health, experts say. The source of the slick is a broken underwater pipe where a BP oil rig exploded and sank on April 20.

"I think that people get afraid about health effects when these events happen, and rightfully so," LuAnn White, director of the Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, told ABC News. "But what we see from oil spills is more ecological effects than human health effects."

Oil emits gases called volatile compounds, which can be toxic and cancer causing. But this spill is far from shore, making it highly unlikely that anyone on the coast will be exposed to these gases, said White, who is working with the Louisiana state health department to assess the effects of the oil slick.

She added that tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have not detected any evidence of dangerous airborne chemicals in coastal areas, ABC News reported.

Direct contact with, or ingestion of, oil does pose health risks. But that threat mainly affects clean-up crews, who are well-trained and have special protective equipment, Dr. Marcel Casavant, chief of pharmacology and toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told ABC News.

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Lynn Redgrave Dies of Cancer

Actress Lynn Redgrave died Sunday night after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 67.

Her publicist said Redgrave's children and friends were with her when she died at her home in Connecticut, the Associated Press reported.

"Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer," Redgrave's children said in a statement released Monday. "She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Our entire family asks for privacy through this difficult time."

The Oscar- and Tony-nominated actress became famous when she played the title role in the 1966 film "Georgy Girl." She appeared in a number of films, Broadway productions and television shows.

A private funeral will be held later this week, the AP reported.

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Faulty Genes Cause Paget's Disease: Study

Faults in three genes cause the majority of cases of a painful bone condition called Paget's disease, researchers say.

They analyzed the DNA of 1,250 patients with Paget's and found that they had more faults than normal in three genes believed to regulate bone repair. Together, these gene faults account for 70 percent of cases of the disease, said the researchers, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Nature Genetics.

The finding, which may explain why family history is a major risk factor for the condition, could lead to a screening test for Paget's disease.

"This is important since we know that if treatment is left too late, then irreversible damage to the bones can occur," said project leader Professor Stuart Ralston, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, BBC News reported. "If we were able to intervene at an early stage with preventative therapy, guided by genetic profiling, this would be a major advance."

Posted: May 2010


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