Health Highlights: May 23, 201105/23/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Infant Deaths Spur FDA Warning Against Food Thickening Gel
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents to
avoid feeding a food-thickening agent, SimplyThick, to premature
babies. The gel is typically given to babies born prematurely
(before 37 weeks) to help them with problems swallowing.
The warning comes after the product was linked to 15 cases of
necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially lethal condition
involving inflammation and death of intestinal tissue. Two of the
babies in these cases died, the FDA said in a statement.
The agency said it first learned of the potential problem with
SimplyThick on May 13, with cases reported over the prior six
months in premature infants treated at centers around the country.
The babies were given SimplyThick to help with swallowing
difficulties linked to prematurity. Some of the babies fell ill
after using SimplyThick after discharge from the hospital, the FDA
NEC typically has symptoms such as bloated abdominal area,
trouble with feeding, green-colored vomiting (from bile), and
bloody stools. Parents and caregivers with any concerns about the
use of SimplyThick should contact their health care provider, the
According to the agency, SimplyThick is sold at distributors and
pharmacies across the United States in packets of individual
servings or in 64-ounce dispenser bottles.
Crossing Your Arms Might Ease Hand Pain: Study
The simple act of crossing your arms in front of your body might
help lessen pain occurring in the hands, British researchers
According to the
BBC, the scientists studied 20 people who were given a brief laser-delivered pin-prick of pain to their hands.
Reporting in the journal
Pain, the team from University College London said that rates of self-reported pain declined when the arms were crossed over the body's "midline," an imaginary division running down the center of the body. Results from electroencephalogram (EEG) also suggested a weaker pain response after arms were crossed.
According to the authors, the act of crossing the arms seems to
confuse the brain's "maps" that tell it where the pain has
occurred, lessening the response. "When you cross your arms these
maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective
brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being
perceived as weaker," lead author Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti told
He said that his team, along with Australian researchers, is now
testing out this novel pain-reduction technique on people with
chronic pain conditions.
U.S. Insurers Told to Justify Rate Hikes Over 10 Percent
The Obama Administration on Thursday told the health insurance
industry that insurers must now justify any increases in rates that
exceed 10 percent, in an effort to hold back soaring premium rates,
The New York Times reported.
In a period where many Americans are putting off care due to
faltering finances, insurers are reaping the benefit in higher
profits, said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human
"Health insurance companies have recently reported some of their highest profits in years and are holding record reserves," she said. "Insurers are seeing lower medical costs as people put off care and treatment in a recovering economy, but many insurance companies continue to raise their rates. Often, these increases come without any explanation or justification."
The 10 percent threshold was first proposed in December, but the
insurance industry criticized it as arbitrary, the
Times said. The administration rejected that notion, and on
Thursday upheld the 10 percent threshold.
Workers in some states experienced health insurance premium
hikes of 20 percent to 40 percent in 2011, the
Times said, even as coverage shrinks and deductibles
Federal officials do not have the authority to block rate
increases over 10 percent that are found to be unjustified, but
many states do have that capability. The administration is
therefore providing $250 million in aid to states to help them
fight increases deemed to be unreasonable, the
The new rule has its critics and admirers. "If we believe health
care costs are crushing the economy, we ought to have a debate
about how to bring costs under control," Karen M. Ignagni,
president of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, told
Times. "Focusing on premiums diverts attention from that debate."
But a consumer advocate supported the new move. "The days of
insurance companies running roughshod over consumers and jacking up
rates whenever they want are over," Ethan S. Rome, executive
director of Health Care for America Now, which represents labor
unions and civil rights groups, told the
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.