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Health Highlights: March 25, 2009

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

Single Embryo Transplant More Effective, Cheaper: Study

It's more effective and less costly to implant single embryos instead of two embryos at a time, says a study that challenges the belief that implanting multiple embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) improves a woman's chances of becoming pregnant and is more cost-effective.

Finnish researchers looked at more than 1,500 women who went through more than 3,600 assisted reproduction cycles. They found the live birth rate was 5 percent higher for women who had a single embryo implanted at a time, compared to double embryo transplants, Agence France Presse reported.

The single embryo method was also less costly, especially when the researchers factored in health complications due to multiple pregnancies.

The study was published in the journal Human Reproduction.

"At a time when there is an intense debate in many countries about how to reduce multiple pregnancy rates and provide affordable fertility treatment, policy makers should be made aware of our results," study lead researcher Hannu Martikainen, of the University of Oulu, said in a news release, AFP reported.

"These data should also encourage clinics to evaluate their embryo transfer policy and adopt elective single embryo transfer as their everyday practice for women younger than 40," Martikainen said.


Many Chronically Ill Patients Report Medical Errors: Survey

A new survey finds that 23 percent of chronically ill U.S. patients and their caregivers report they've been victims of a medical error.

The AARP survey found that 21 percent of chronically ill patients said their healthcare providers didn't communicate well with one another, and 20 percent of patients said their health suffered as a result, United Press International reported.

Among the other findings:

  • 26 percent of chronically ill patients say they lack confidence in the healthcare system.
  • 30 percent say their healthcare provider did not have all the necessary information when they arrived.
  • 24 percent received conflicting information from two or more healthcare providers.
  • 16 percent say they received unnecessary medical tests.

"Health spending for an older person with just one chronic disease is more than twice that of a healthy person," John Rother, AARP executive vice president, said in a news release, UPI reported.

"Chronic conditions are often preventable, and they take a terrible toll on millions of Americans. Our fragmented healthcare system makes it incredibly difficult for chronically ill patients and their caregivers to get the appropriate care they so desperately need," Rother said.


Insurers Say They May Drop Higher Premiums for Sick Patients

America's health insurers are offering to drop their controversial practice of charging higher premiums to sick people, the Associated Press reported.

In a letter to key senators charged with reforming the U.S. health care system, America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said they are willing to "phase out the practice of varying premiums based on health status in the individual market" if all Americans are required to get coverage.

There are an estimated 48 million uninsured people in the United States, according to the AP. The insurance industry is trying to head off creation of a government insurance plan that could compete with them to provide those people services, the wire service reported.


HIV Contributes to a Quarter of TB Deaths: WHO

One in four tuberculosis deaths worldwide is HIV-related, a rate twice as high as previously believed, says the World Health Organization.

There were an estimated 1.37 million new cases of TB among HIV-infected people and 456,000 deaths worldwide in 2007. Despite the fact that TB kills more people with HIV than any other disease, only 1 percent of people with HIV had a TB screen in 2008, BBC News reported.

HIV has caused a tripling of TB incidence in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s. In some countries, 80 percent of TB patients are also infected with HIV, the WHO said.

"These findings point to an urgent need to find, prevent and treat TB in people living with HIV and to test for HIV in all patients with TB. Countries can only do that through stronger collaborative programs and stronger health systems that address both diseases," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, BBC News reported.

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Posted: March 2009