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Health Highlights: June 12, 2009

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

Nursing Deficit Shrinks, With Economy's Help

The shrinking economy is helping to restore a withering nursing pool in the United States, easing a decade-long shortage of hospital nurses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, based on a new study's findings.

The number of nurses entering the workforce shot up by 243,000 (18 percent) in 2007-2008, the largest two-year rise in 30 years, the newspaper said. Many nurses who had left the profession -- about half of them older than age 50 -- returned for reasons including making up for a partner's lost income or acquiring health benefits, according to the study published Friday in the journal Health Affairs.

The shortage began in about 1998 and topped out in 2001, when some 13 percent of the average hospital's nursing needs were unmet, the Journal said.

In addition to the souring economy, other factors helping to restore the nursing pool included expanding nursing schools, efforts to attract young candidates and a jump in foreign-born nurses, the newspaper reported.


Injected Ibuprofen Gets FDA Approval

Caldolor, the first injected form of ibuprofen, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat pain and fever, the agency said in a news release.

The drug will be available only for hospital use in 400 milligram to 800 milligram doses, depending on whether the patient has acute pain or fever. It's particularly useful for patients who cannot take ibuprofen in its oral form, the agency said.

Clinical testing involving 319 women who had undergone an elective hysterectomy found they were much less likely to ask for morphine if given Caldolor. Nausea, flatulence, vomiting and headache were the most common adverse reactions.

The drug is produced by Tennessee-based Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Senate Votes to Give FDA Broad Authority Over Tobacco

The U.S. Senate voted 79-17 on Thursday to give the Food and Drug Administration broad authority over the manufacture, sale and advertising of tobacco products.

The House has approved a similar measure and the legislation has the support of President Barack Obama, the Associated Press reported. His predecessor, George W. Bush, opposed prior bills aimed at establishing FDA regulation of tobacco.

Federal legislators have been trying for more than a decade to give the FDA such authority. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2000, ruled 5-4 that the agency did not have such powers under current law, the AP said.

The latest measure authorizes the FDA to set levels for nicotine and other cigarette ingredients, and requires tobacco makers to list the contents of their products. It also requires the agency to approve any new products in much the same way that it now does with drugs and medical devices. The FDA also has the authority to require stronger warnings on cigarette packaging.

The new FDA operation is financed with additional tobacco company fees, the AP said.


Medtronic Recalls 21,000 Pacemakers

Medtronic is recalling 21,000 pacemakers sold under the Kappa and Sigma brand names because wires that connect the devices' electronic circuit to other components may fail, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

Although more than 1.7 million Kappa and Sigma pacemakers have been implanted in people, only about 21,000 devices are affected by the recall, mostly those that have been in patients for at least five years, the agency said.

People whose pacemakers malfunction may have a return of symptoms of abnormal heartbeat, including fainting and lightheadedness, the FDA said. In rare cases, a malfunction could lead to serious injury or death, the agency warned.

Medtronic issued a letter last month alerting doctors of the problem.

Affected devices are Kappa Series 600/700/900 and Sigma Series 100/200/300. People in whom these pacemakers are implanted should contact Medtronic at 1-800-505-4636, or visit its Web site at to figure out if their devices are included in the recall.


Frozen Chicken Has Undeclared Allergens

Some 608,188 pounds of frozen chicken sold at Kroger stores across the United States are being recalled because the products may contain undeclared allergens including milk, soy and wheat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The products, in 32-oz. plastic bags, are labeled as "Kroger, Fully Cooked, Buffalo Style Chicken Wings, Chicken Wing Sections Coated With Sauce."

Each affected bag has the establishment number "P7091A," "P73477" or "P13485A" near the zip seal, a "Best By" date of "JUL 25, 2009" through "JUN 8, 2010", and a UPC code of "0 11110 97158 6." The products were produced July 25, 2008 through June 8, 2009.

People with questions should contact Kroger Consumer Relations at 1-800-632-6900.

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Posted: June 2009