Health Highlights: Dec. 21, 201012/21/10
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
House Passes Overhaul of Food Safety System
A bill designed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
the power to keep the nation's food supply safe was passed by the
House on Tuesday, and is expected to be signed into law by
President Barack Obama as early as Wednesday.
The legislation represents the first significant strengthening
of the nation's food safety laws since 1938, and follows a series
of well-publicized outbreaks of food-borne illnesses linked to a
wide variety of foods, including spinach, peanuts and eggs.
The 215-144 vote came just before Congress was set to adjourn
for the year, and the overhaul will affect all whole and processed
foods, with the exception of meat, chicken and eggsm, according to
Under the auspices of the $1.4 billion bill, the government will
be able to inspect processing plants, order recalls and set
stricter standards for imported foods. Larger farms and food
manufacturers will have to prepare detailed food safety plans and
tell the FDA what food safety measures they are implementing at
different stages of production, the wire service reported.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Tuesday that the bill
will give her agency new tools to guarantee food safety. "This law
makes everyone responsible and accountable at each step in today's
global food supply chain," she noted.
The bill does exempt small farmers and food processors, and
those who sell directly to the public at farmers markets and farm
stands, after advocates claimed that smaller food suppliers would
be unable to afford the testing and record-keeping that the bill
Health Insurance Premium Hikes May be Reviewed
Health insurance companies will have to disclose and justify any
premium increases of 10 percent or more next year, under
regulations proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration.
The increases would be reviewed by state or federal officials to
assess whether they are unreasonable,
The New York Times reported.
The review of premiums would "help rein in the kind of excessive
and unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance
unaffordable for so many families," said Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The new federal health care law calls for an annual review of
"unreasonable increases" in health insurance premiums but does not
The Times reported.
Pfizer Recalls More Bottles of Lipitor
Consumer complaints about an "uncharacteristic" odor have
prompted the recall of a batch of 19,000 bottles of the cholesterol
drug Lipitor, Pfizer Inc. announced Tuesday.
The recall covers bottles containing 40-milligram tablets, the
Associated Press reported.
This is the fourth such recall made by Pfizer since August. The
previous odor problems were traced to a wood preservative chemical
called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. The chemical is often applied to
pallets used for storage and transport, but Pfizer said this is not
done with medicine shipments.
The company made changes in August to fix the problem but said
the lot of Lipitor in this latest recall was shipped before the
changes. So far, Pfizer has recalled more than 360,000 bottles of
Scientists Document Proteins in Brain's Synaptic System
There are at least 1,461 protein components in the brain's
synaptic information-processing machinery, says a new study.
Synapses, which are junctions where one neuron connects with
another, play a critical role in the brain. The researchers said
their findings could help improve understanding of how synapses lay
down memories and how synapse defects lead to a number of brain
The New York Times reported.
The study, published in the journal
Nature Neuroscience, is the first to compile a complete catalogue of all the protein components of the synaptic system.
The new inventory of synaptic proteins "should open a major new
window in mental disease," Jeffrey Noebels, a genetics and epilepsy
expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, told
The Times. "We can go in there and systematically look for disease pathways and therefore druggable targets."
XMRV Virus Doesn't Cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Study
A virus called XMRV is not the cause of chronic fatigue
syndrome, British scientists say.
In 2009, U.S. researchers linked the virus to the condition
after finding it in blood samples. But this new study says that
2009 finding was the result of a "false positive," caused by cross
contamination in the laboratory,
BBC News reported.
While chronic fatigue syndrome may still be caused by a virus,
it is not XMRV, according to the British team.
"Our conclusion is quite simple. XMRV is not the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome," said study leader Professor Greg Towers, a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow at University College, London, BBC News reported.
"It is vital to understand that we are not saying chronic fatigue syndrome does not have a virus cause -- we cannot answer that yet -- but we know it is not this virus causing it," he added.
The study appears in the journal
U.S. Face Transplant Recipient Meets Donor's Family
The first American to receive a face transplant met the donor's
family on the weekend.
Connie Culp received her face transplant two years ago. The
donor was Anna Kasper, a Cleveland resident who died of a heart
attack in December 2008, the
Associated Press reported.
Culp and Kasper's husband and children met for about 90 minutes
Saturday. Culp later told
The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland that there were some
initial awkward moments but also said the get-together was
The Kasper family said Culp, who lives in southeast Ohio, is the
perfect recipient because she has the same personality and love of
life as Anna Kasper, the
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