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Health Highlights: Dec. 2, 2010

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

Retirees May Need More Than $100,000 for Health Expenses: Report

Even with Medicare coverage, a 65-year-old American who retires this year may need more than $100,000 to cover premiums, co-payments and other non-reimbursed medical costs during retirement, according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The institute said those retirement health costs are likely to be higher for women because they live longer than men, reported.

A 65-year-old man who retires in 2010, has average health expenses, and is comfortable with a 50 percent chance of having enough money saved for health expenses would need $65,000 in savings. A woman in the same circumstances would need $93,000, according to the institute.

But men who want to have a 90 percent chance of having enough money saved for health expenses should have $124,000 and women should have $152,000, reported.


Emergency Contraceptive Pill Ella Now Available in U.S.

American women can now buy the controversial emergency contraception pill "ella," drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Wednesday.

Women will need a doctor's prescription to get the pill, which can prevent a pregnancy as many as five days after sex. The wholesale price will be $35.75, the Washington Post reported.

Ella, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration in August, was approved for sale in Europe last year and was already available in at least 22 countries.

Proponents say the availability of ella in the United States will provide an important new option to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But critics say approving ella as a contraceptive is misleading because it could be used to induce an abortion, the Post reported.


Lap-Band Works for Patients Who Aren't Severely Obese: FDA Panel

The Lap-Band weight-loss device is safe and effective in patients who aren't as obese as current users, according to a report released this week by U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewers.

Currenty, Lap-Band is approved for severely obese patients but Allergan Inc. is seeking FDA approval to sell the device to people who are less obese, Bloomberg news reported.

The surgically-implanted device is an adjustable band that reduces the amount of food that can be held by the stomach. The FDA reviewers said clinical trials showed the Lap-Ban helped non-severely obese patients lose weight and improved their quality of life.

They also noted that there were no deaths and "only" 2.3 percent of side effects were severe, Bloomberg reported.

An FDA panel of outside advisers will meet Friday to decide whether to recommend FDA approval of expanded use of the Lap-Band.


Mylanta and Alternagel Antacids Recalled

A dozen types of Mylanta and one type of Alternagel antacid are being recalled because they don't list the alcohol content of flavoring agents, says Johnson & Johnson.

The company said there are no safety concerns related to the recall of as many as 12 million bottles of Mylanta and 85,000 bottles of Alternagel and consumers can still use the products as directed, ABC News reported.

"Certain flavoring agents contribute small (less than 1 percent) amounts of alcohol," Johnson & Johnson said on the Mylanta website. "It is unlikely that use of these products will cause either absorption or alcohol sensitivity related adverse events."

So far this year, Johnson & Johnson has announced more than half a dozen recalls that included products such as Children's Tylenol, Benadryl, and Motrin, ABC News reported.


Health Care Law Constitutional: Judge

Another federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of the new U.S. health care law.

Judge Norman K. Moon of the Federal District Court in Lynchburg, Va. on Tuesday granted the government's request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Liberty University, the private Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, The New York Times reported.

Moon ruled that the health care law's requirement that most Americans have health insurance falls within the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

Last month, a ruling by Judge George C. Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit also upheld the law.

Since the law was enacted in March, there have been about two dozen legal challenges. Rulings in two more lawsuits are expected within the next few months, The Times reported.

Many experts predict that the Supreme Court will eventually have to make a final ruling on the constitutionality of the health care law.


Lowe's Recalls Roman Shades and Roll-Up Blinds

About 6 million Roman shades and 5 million roll-up blinds that pose a strangulation hazard to children are being recalled by Lowe's, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall was triggered by reports that two young children nearly strangled after becoming entangled in exposed cords in the window coverings, reported.

The recalled Roman shades were sold at Lowe's stores, other retail stores, and online from at least 1999 to 2010. The roll-up blinds were sold between 1999 and 2005.

The CPSC said consumers should stop using the window coverings and get free repair kits by contacting the Window Covering Safety Council at 1-800-506-4636 or by going to the council's Web site, reported.


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Posted: December 2010