Health Highlights: Sept. 27, 201009/27/10
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of
Segway Executive Dies While Riding Upright
Scooter in English Countryside
A British executive who owned the company that makes the upright
scooter known as the Segway died this weekend after he apparently
rode an all-terrain version of the vehicle off a cliff and into a
river in west Yorkshire.
The death of Jimi Heselden, 62, came on the heels of a study
published last week in the
Annals of Emergency Medicine that questioned the safety of
these popular scooters.
In that study, reported online last Friday by
Consumer Affairs magazine, researchers from George Washington
University looked at 44 patients who came to the emergency
department with injuries sustained while riding the Segway.
Only 7 percent of the patients had worn helmets, and head
traumas were common. The incidence of Segway injuries has been
increasing steadily, the researchers added.
"All of the injuries were sustained by riders simply falling off, mostly from striking an inanimate object, study author Dr. Mary Pat McKay told the magazine. "The Segway may seem cool, but there's nothing cool about a head injury. One-quarter of the patients who came to our emergency department with Segway injuries were admitted to the hospital. Forty percent of the admitted patients were admitted to the ICU because they had traumatic brain injuries."
The researchers urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to
gather injury data on the Segway to gauge the scope of the
"In the meantime, all Segway riders should wear helmets and pay close attention to what is in front of and around them when riding," McKay told Consumer Affairs.
Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Stem Cell Research Ban
Important biological material would be lost if a judge's order
discontinuing federal funding of stem cell research is allowed to
stand, the Obama administration told an appeals court in
Washington, D.C., on Monday.
A three-judge Court of Appeals panel was questioning the
repercussions of a lower court judge's ban on President Barack
Obama's rules for federal funding of human embryonic stem cell
research. The appeals court is deciding whether to throw out the
The judges wanted to determine if suspending the taxpayer-funded
research would destroy the work or simply delay it, the
Associated Press reported.
In deciding to temporarily block Obama's rules, the lower-court
judge said the rules probably violate the law involving government
funding of embryo destruction.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth Brinkmann told the
appellate judges that the injunction would halt funding to 24
research projects at the U.S. National Institutes of Health that
have already received $64 million in taxpayer investment, the
Thomas Hungar, a lawyer for an adoption group, responded that
just because the government can't do the research on its preferred
timetable, it's not an irreparable harm, the news service
Embryonic stem cells are cells that can turn into any tissue of
the body. Scientists hope that someday stem cells can be used to
treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including spinal cord
injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments.
High Costs Spark Debate Over New Cancer Treatments
The latest in a string of high-priced cancer-fighting treatments
is Dendreon Corp.'s Provenge, approved in the United States in
April for men with terminal prostate cancer. Whether Medicare will
cover the $93,000 one-time therapy could be decided at a meeting on
Provenge, which extends patients' lives by four months on
average, and other pricey new cancer drugs have ignited controversy
about whether their cost is worth the benefit. The first so-called
"cancer vaccine," Provenge is individually designed using the
patient's own cells in order to trick the immune system into
fighting the tumors.
Given the aging population of men at risk of developing prostate
cancer and changes in private insurance plans under the new U.S.
health care law, the burden to taxpayers could be huge, some
But researchers say Provenge and similar treatments on the
horizon could revolutionize cancer care, according to the
Associated Press. Calling for a "national investment," Dr. Christopher Logothetis, chief of prostate cancer research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said Medicare coverage is essential to determine the potential of these treatments.
"It's no longer a fringe science. This is working," he told the
AP. "We need to get it in the door so we can evolve it."
Glass Flakes Trigger Recall of Amgen Anemia Drugs
Certain lots of the anemia drugs Epogen and Procrit have been
recalled because they may contain glass flakes, says
California-based biotechnology company Amgen.
The flakes result from interaction of the drugs with glass
vials, according to the company, the
Associated Press reported.
In most cases, the flakes are barely visible and there have been
no complaints or reports about problems that can be directly linked
to the glass flakes, Amgen said.
The Web sites for the drugs contain information about the lot
numbers and expiration dates of the recalled products, the
Epogen is used to treat anemia in kidney failure patients who
are on dialysis, and Procrit treats anemia in cancer patients
receiving chemotherapy and in some patients with HIV.
Recalled Baby Formula Poses Little Risk, Manufacturer Says
The maker of Similac says it's unlikely any recalled containers
of the baby formula are tainted by insects, and doctors say the
risk of serious harm is low even if babies do consume bug-tainted
Abbott Nutrition announced the voluntary recall of five million
cans and plastic containers of Similac powdered formula after
common warehouse beetles were found near a production line at its
Sturgis, Mich., plant late last week, the
Associated Press reported.
Production was immediately halted and tests conducted on
containers of formula from that production line showed that "99.8
percent of product was not contaminated," according to company
spokeswoman Kelly Morrison.
One doctor told the
AP that there's "no reason for parents to panic."
Even if a baby consumes bug-tainted formula, symptoms might
include a mild upset stomach that should last only a few days, said
Dr. Joseph Gigante, an associate professor of pediatrics at
Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville.
For more information about the recall, Abbott asks consumers to
phone (800) 986-8850.
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