Health Highlights: March 16, 201103/16/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Radiation Fears Lead to Shortage of Potassium Iodide in U.S.
Fears that radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear power plants
could reach the United States have led to a shortage of potassium
iodide in the U.S., according to companies that supply the
Potassium iodide protects against radiation poisoning of the
thyroid gland. Virginia-based Anbex Inc. sold out of its supply of
more than 10,000 14-tablet packages on Saturday, company president
Alan Morris told the
Wall Street Journal.
The company was getting about three orders a minute, compared
with as few as three a week normally. "Those who don't get it are
crying. They're terrified," Morris said.
"It's actually been insanity here," Deborah Fleming, co-owner of Fleming Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis County, told the Wall Street Journal. She estimates the company is getting dozens of calls an hour, along with emails, from people seeking potassium iodide.
But government officials say there's no cause for alarm. For
example, no harmful levels of radiation have been detected in
California and Washington state and no dangerous levels are
expected to occur.
"Japan has an evacuation area of about 12 miles from the nuclear plants. Washington state is 5,000 to 6,000 miles away from Japan," Tim Church, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, told the Wall Street Journal.
State Medical Boards Often Fail to Take Action: Study
A new study says that state medical boards failed to discipline
55 percent of U.S. doctors punished by hospitals between 1990 and
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen examined the National
Practitioner Data Bank to find cases of disciplinary action and
medical malpractice payments against doctors during the 20-year
Washington Post reported.
Of the 10,672 physicians who had their clinical privileges
restricted or revoked by hospitals during that time, 5,887 did not
face any licensing action by state medical boards, said the
It also found that 2,071 of the 5,887 physicians who faced no
action from state medical boards were punished by hospitals for
serious violations such as: posing an immediate threat to health or
safety; being incompetent or negligent; or providing substandard
Medicare Paid Millions for Erectile Dysfunction Drugs
Medicare spent $3.1 million in 2007 and 2008 to buy erectile
dysfunction drugs for senior citizens, even though the drugs are
not covered by the health program, say U.S. government
Of that amount, more than $3 million was paid for Viagra. Other
erectile dysfunction drugs included Cialis, according to the report
released Tuesday by George Reeb, acting director inspector general
for audit services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Bloomberg News reported.
A software error was to blame for the spending on erectile
dysfunction drugs, said Medicare administrators. They added that
they will try to recover payments to private drug insurers who
administer Medicare's drug plans.
Reeb also said that Medicare paid an undetermined amount for
erectile dysfunction drugs in 2009 and 2010,
Gay, Lesbian Families More Accepted Than Single Moms: Survey
Americans appear to be more accepting of gay and lesbian
families than single mothers, suggests a new survey.
The Pew Research Center poll of 2,691 people found that
one-third of respondents are comfortable with a wide range of
family situations (acceptors), one-third consider non-traditional
family structures a threat to the country's moral fabric
(rejectors), and another third have mixed views (skeptics),
Most acceptors and skeptics believe gay and lesbian families are
at least OK and may even offer something positive to society. But
single mothers don't have the same level of acceptance.
The survey found that 98 percent of acceptors believe there's
nothing wrong with women raising their children alone, but 99
percent of skeptics and 98 percent of rejectors believe this type
of family unit is bad for society,
msnbc.com reported. The poll only asked about single mothers,
not single fathers.
White House Pushes to Slow Challenge to Health Care Law
The U.S. Supreme Court should not allow Virginia to bypass a
federal appeals court in the state's challenge to the new federal
health care law, the Obama administration said in court papers
filed with the justices Monday.
The federal government says there is no reason to take the rare
step of "short-circuiting" review by appellate judges, a process
that has already been accelerated, the
Associated Press reported.
The health care law's requirement that all citizens must buy
health insurance or face a penalty was struck down by a federal
judge in Virginia. The Obama administration says the requirement is
within Congress' powers and asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Richmond, Va. to reverse that ruling.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli then petitioned the
Supreme Court in an effort to sidestep the appeals court, the
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