Health Highlights: Jan. 19, 201101/19/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Rep. Giffords Ready to Start Rehab on Friday: Reports
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head on Jan. 8 in
Tucson, will enter a rehabilitation center in Houston on
Giffords' parents, Gloria and Spencer Giffords, emailed the
information to relatives and friends, telling them medical experts
"want to start aggressive rehab immediately," according to
published news reports.
The facility, the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research at
Memorial Hermann hospital, specializes in brain injuries, ABC
"There is a team of medical specialists involved...including military surgeons who specialize in bullet wounds to the head," the email says.
Giffords, now a patient at University Medical Center in Tucson,
makes progress daily "and shows higher levels of comprehension and
complex actions," the email message reportedly said. She flipped
through photos on her husband's iPhone, and was able to untie his
tie when he returned from a memorial service for her aide who was
killed in the attack,
The Democratic congresswoman has also read get-well cards sent
by school children, the email said.
Follow-Up to House Repeal of Health Care Law Uncertain
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal
President Barack Obama's health care reform law, but what happens
now is uncertain.
Many experts believe the vote is as far as the Republicans can
go in their attempt to abolish the law. That's because the
Democrats who control the Senate say they will block any repeal
efforts and President Obama has vowed to use his veto power should
a bill to repeal come to his desk for his signature.
It would likely require 60 Senate votes to overturn the law and
the Republicans have only 47 Senate votes.
However, House Republicans have said they can find ways to
withhold money required to carry out the law, which would provide
health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people, the
Associated Press reported.
Democrats note that the law is already giving millions of
Americans benefits, such as lower prescription prices for Medicare
recipients with high drug costs and extended coverage for young
adults on their parents' insurance plan.
The outcome of the Republicans' repeal effort depends on the
type of replacement legislation they offer, according to Rep. Chris
Gibson (R-N.Y), the
AP reported. If the public supports it, Democrats in the
Senate may give it serious consideration, he suggested.
That's easier said than done, according to Democrats.
On Thursday, the House is expected to vote to instruct
committees to draft health care legislation that includes
Republican priorities such as stricter language barring taxpayer
funding for abortions and limits on medical malpractice awards, the
A previous Republican bill offered as an alternative to the new
law would have provided insurance coverage to only a fraction of
the Americans reached by the Democrat's legislation.
But Republicans contend that a modest, step-by-step approach to
health reform may be more sustainable in the long run than the
current large-scale effort, the
FDA to Update Medical-Device Approval Process
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to implement modest
changes to the way it approves most medical devices.
The agency, under fire from safety advocates for allowing
devices such as heart pacemakers to get to market with little
scrutiny, said it will adopt some new measures starting in March,
Associated Press reported. The current system was adopted in
The FDA intends to simplify the approval process for devices
posing little risk, but will postpone acting on proposals that
would give the FDA broader power over devices and create a
sub-category of devices requiring additional medical data, the
Those two proposals drew a storm of opposition from industry
lobbyists when they were announced last summer, and health
advocates say the FDA caved to pressure.
"Today's FDA report gives the impression that FDA backed down on several safeguards as a result of unfavorable comments," Dr. Diana Zuckerman, of the National Research Center for Women and Families, said in a statement Wednesday. "FDA decisions should not be based on a popularity contest, especially since lobbyists rig the results."
The FDA said it was waiting for an opinion from the Institute of
Medicine, which advises the agency on policy guidelines, before
deciding on the major changes.
Medicaid Patient Hospitalizations Rise More Than
Hospital admissions of Medicaid patients rose 30 percent between
1997 and 2008, compared with 27 percent for uninsured patients and
five percent for patients with private health insurance, says a
U.S. government report released Wednesday.
The number of hospital admissions for Medicaid patients
increased from 5.6 million in 1997 to 7.4 million in 2008, compared
to an increase of 1.7 million to 2.1 million for uninsured patients
and an increase of 13.4 million to 14.1 million for those with
During the study period, a hospital's average cost for a
Medicaid patient stay rose 11 percent, compared with 26 percent for
an uninsured patient and 34 percent for a privately-insured
patients, according to the latest
News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and
The average cost for a Medicaid patient's hospital stay in 2008
was $6,900 and the cost for an uninsured patient was about the
same, compared to $8,400 for a privately-insured patient.
Among the other findings:
- In 2008, Medicaid patient stays cost hospitals about $51
billion, compared to $16 billion for uninsured patients and $117
billion for privately-insured patients.
- Medicaid was the primary payer for nearly one in five (18
percent) of the nearly 40 million hospital stays in 2008.
- Maternity-related and newborn infant care accounted for half of
all Medicaid patient hospital stays, compared with one-fifth of
uninsured patient stays and one-third of privately-insured patient
Statins May Not Benefit Healthy People: Study
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may not provide any benefit to
healthy people, say researchers who reviewed the results of 14
The team concluded that while statins reduce death rates, there
is no evidence to justify their use in people who have a low risk
of developing heart disease,
BBC News reported.
The study appears in the journal
The Cochrane Library.
"The decision to prescribe statins (for healthy people) should not be taken lightly," Amy Thompson, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.
"This systematic review echoes what we already know -- that statins have huge benefits for people with heart and circulatory disease, or those who are at high risk as they help to reduce the risk of heart disease including heart attacks," she said. "It is still unclear whether statins provide any real benefits for people without heart and circulatory disease and who are at low risk of developing it."
Antioxidants May Help Male Fertility: Study
Antioxidants may boost a man's fertility, according to
They reviewed data from 34 clinical trials involving more than
1,000 couples at fertility clinics. Most of the men in the couples
had low sperm counts,
BBC News reported.
The couples were more likely to have a pregnancy or live birth
if the man took antioxidants, which include certain vitamins and
The findings appear in the journal
The Cochrane Library.
The research is "encouraging" but more research is required, Dr.
Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of
Sheffield in the U.K., told
He noted that antioxidant therapy is unlikely to increase the
amount of sperm produced by a man and could not therefore help with
all cases of male infertility.
Journal Lax With Complaints About Vaccine-Autism Study:
Complaints about a study that linked childhood vaccines to
autism led to only a cursory investigation by the journal that
published the study, according to an article published Tuesday by
British Medical Journal.
The now-retracted 1998 study was written by Dr. Andrew Wakefield
and colleagues and published in
The Lancet. After complaints about Wakefield's research surfaced in 2004, the authors reaffirmed their findings, CNN reported.
However, the investigation into how the study was conducted was
led by the editor of
The Lancet and involved "no formal investigation" of the
allegations about Wakefield's research, says the article in the
"In short, the accused were investigating themselves," according to the BMJ article,
In January, 2010, Britain's General Medical Council ruled that
the way Wakefield conducted his research was dishonest and
irresponsible. His study was retracted one month later by
The editors of
The Lancet said they "strongly disagree" with the
BMJ article and "firmly stand by our actions and decisions,"
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