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Health Highlights: June 16, 2011

Health Highlights: June 16, 2011


Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Syphilis Screening Could Save Many Babies: Study

Screening all pregnant women for syphilis and treatment with antibiotics could save hundreds of thousands of babies' lives worldwide each year, according to a new study.

Researchers at University College London analyzed 10 previous studies that included more than 41,000 women in total and found that syphilis screening achieved a 58 percent decrease in stillbirths and a similar reduction in deaths in the first few weeks of life, BBC News reported.

The study appears in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Syphilis in pregnant women causes 500,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Even though screening is cheap and effective, it's done in fewer than one in eight women worldwide, BBC News reported.

Screening for syphilis should be done at the same time that pregnant women are tested for HIV, study author Dr. Sarah Hawkes said.


Medicaid Patients Face Benefits Cuts: Report

More than $90 billion in special U.S. government funding for Medicaid will end in a few weeks, leading to cuts in benefits for millions of low-income people.

The money began flowing from the Obama administration in February 2009 as the recession deepened. But neither the White House nor Congress has made any move to extend that extra funding for Medicaid, even though there are more beneficiaries now than two years ago, The New York Times reported.

Federal Medicaid spending will decline next year for only the second time in the program's 46-year history, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

"Medicaid is very much on the chopping block," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W. Va., and chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, told the Times. "Seniors vote. But if you are poor and disabled, you might not vote, and if you are a child, you do not vote -- that's a lot of Medicaid's population. They don't have money to do lobbying."

To cope with the loss of the extra federal money, states plan to cut costs by limiting benefits for Medicaid recipients, reducing the number of covered services, cutting Medicaid payments to hospitals and doctors, forcing beneficiaries to pay larger co-payments, and increasing the use of managed care, the Times reported.

These measures are expected to increase costs in other parts of the health-care system, the newspaper said.

For example, doctors may be less likely to accept Medicaid patients, forcing them to seek care in hospital emergency departments. And hospitals may attempt to make up for the loss of Medicaid revenue by boosting what they charge other patients, according to experts.


Rep. Giffords Released From Hospital

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was released from a Houston rehabilitation hospital Wednesday, more than five months after being shot in the head during an assassination attempt.

Giffords, 41, will live with her astronaut husband in a Houston suburb and will receive care from a 24-hour home health provider, hospital officials said. She will go to the Memorial Hermann Hospital each weekday for physical therapy, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR [Memorial Hermann Hospital] five months ago," Dr. Gerald Francisco, the hospital's chief medical officer, said in a statement. "We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment."

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Gifford's husband, Mark E. Kelly, said in a statement, the Times reported. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her. She will still go to TIRR each day but, from now on, when she finishes rehab, she will be with her family."


FDA Warns About Drugs With Similar Names

Confusion about the names of two medicines is leading to medication errors that have resulted in the hospitalization of some patients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The problem involves risperidone (Risperdal) -- an antipsychotic medication used to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability in people with autism -- and ropinirole (Requip), a dopamine agonist used to treat Parkinson's disease and Restless Legs Syndrome.

Factors contributing to the confusion between the two drugs include: similarities of both the brand and generic names; similarities in container labels and carton packaging; illegible handwriting on prescriptions; and similar drug characteristics, such as drug strengths, dosage forms and dosing intervals.

Doctors need to clearly print or spell out the medication name on prescriptions and ensure their patients know the name of their prescribed medication and their reason for taking it, the FDA said.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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.


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