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Health Highlights: July 26, 2011

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

Mexican Papayas Linked to Food Poisoning Outbreak

Possibly tainted papayas from Mexico may be the cause of a U.S. food-poisoning outbreak that's affected more than 90 people in 23 states.

A company in South Texas is recalling papayas imported from Mexico that may be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. The recall covers Blondie, Yaya, Mananita and Tastylicious brand papayas sold before July 23, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Of the 90 reported food-poisoning cases, 17 have occurred in Illinois. Patients had to be hospitalized in eight of the 17 cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

People who have become ill after eating papayas should seek medical care and contact their local health departments, officials advise, the Tribune reported.


Prices of Popular Drugs Set to Fall

The prices of a number of widely used drugs are expected to drop in coming years as brand name patents expire and generic versions become available, according to experts.

Over the next 14 months, patents on seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs will expire, according to London-based EvaluatePharma Ltd. That includes the two leading sellers, the cholesterol medication Lipitor and the blood thinner Plavix, the Associated Press reported.

Generic versions of other top-selling drugs for asthma, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, bipolar disorder and high triglycerides will also be introduced on the market.

Over the next decade or so, the patents of about 120 brand-name drugs will expire, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc., the AP reported.


FDA Cites Death Risk With Heart Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, joined by drug regulators in Europe, has issued safety warnings about the 2-year-old drug Multaq, approved to treat an abnormal heartbeat.

A recently halted 3,000-patient study of Multaq among people with atrial fibrillation showed twice as many deaths compared to those who didn't take the drug, The New York Times reported. The study had been sponsored by the drug's maker, Sanofi-Aventis, which cited "a significant increase in cardiovascular events," the newspaper said.

Multaq was approved in 2009 to treat short-term heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias) of less than six months. FDA records show at least 241,000 prescriptions written since then, the Times said.

Sanofi issued a statement saying the "benefit-risk profile remains positive" for the drug's currently approved use.

The European Medicines Agency said it was reviewing the data and would offer additional direction in September, the newspaper reported.


USDA Proposes Changes for Meat Additive Labeling

Meat producers would have to clearly specify which additives are added to raw meats and poultry under a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The department "wants consumers to know when there's less chicken in their chicken," reported the Associated Press.

Additives such as chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, salt or water would have to appear on the product's label. The department said about 33 percent of raw poultry, 15 percent of raw beef and 90 percent of raw pork may contain additives. Ground beef would be exempt from the new rule, the wire service reported.

Current labels aren't as visible or clear as the USDA would hope. The new rule would require that additives be part of the product's title, as in "Chicken Breast - 40 Percent Added Solution of Water and Teriyaki Sauce," the AP said.

Reaction among manufacturers was mixed. A spokesman for the National Chicken Council said his industry is divided on the issue. The American Meat Institute called the proposal "wasteful," noting it would lead to a rise in meat prices, the AP reported.

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Posted: July 2011