Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 201111/23/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Medicare Chief Steps Down
Medicare chief Don Berwick will step down Dec. 2 after his
confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans, the White House
The Harvard professor was the point man for carrying out the
Obama administration's health care law and was widely respected for
his ideas on how to improve the health care system, the
Associated Press reported.
However, Berwick's widely cited praise of Britain's
government-run health care system stirred the ire of some
Republican senators, the
AP said. He later said that he was not advocating the United
States copy the British system, but this did little to assuage
White House deputy press secretary Jamie Smith praised Berwick
for his "outstanding work" and condemned the Republicans for
"putting political interests above the best interests of the
Berwick's position will be taken by his principal deputy Marilyn
Tavenner, a former Virginia health official who has been at
Medicare since early last year, the
New Insomnia Drug Approved by FDA
The first insomnia drug for people who wake in the middle of the
night and then have trouble getting back to sleep has been approved
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate sublingual tablets) should only be
used when a person has at least four hours of bedtime remaining and
should not be taken with any other sleep aids or if a person had
consumed alcohol, the FDA said.
Zolpidem tartrate was first approved in 1992 in the United
States under the brand name Ambien. Intermezzo is a lower dose
formulation of zolpidem.
The recommended and maximum doses are 3.5 milligrams for men and
1.75 mg for women, taken once per night. The dose is lower for
women because their bodies take longer to clear the drug.
The approval was based on two clinical trials involving more
than 370 patients. Patients who took the drug fell back to sleep
quicker than those who took a placebo. Headache, nausea and fatigue
were the most common adverse side effects reported by patients
taking Intermezzo, the FDA said.
Intermezzo is made by California-based Transcept Pharmaceuticals
New Baseball Deal Limits Players' Use of Smokeless Tobacco
Major League Baseball's new contract limits players' use of
smokeless tobacco but doesn't ban it during games.
Players won't carry tobacco packages and tins in their back
pockets or use tobacco during pregame/postgame interviews or at
team functions, according to a baseball union summary obtained by
But the deal does not ban the use of chewing tobacco during
games, something that was called for by public health groups and
others who said a ban would protect impressionable children
watching games on TV.
"Our members understand that this is a dangerous product, there are serious risks associated with using it," union head Michael Weiner told the AP. "Our players felt strongly that those were appropriate measures to take but that banning its use on the field was not appropriate under the circumstances."
Baseball Players Will be Tested for Human Growth Hormone
Professional baseball players will be tested for human growth
hormone beginning next spring.
Under the new Major League Baseball contract, each player will
have a blood test for HGH in spring training, but the testing will
not continue during the regular season. It will resume after the
The New York Times reported.
Owners and players will then decide whether to conduct HGH
testing during the 2013 regular season.
HGH, which cannot be legally used without a prescription, can
help athletes recover quickly and build muscle mass, according to
experts. Over the past decade, dozens of baseball players have been
tied to HGH,
The Times reported.
Major League Baseball will be the first professional sports
league in North America to test players for HGH.
Low Levels of Arsenic Common in Apple Juice: FDA
Low levels of the toxic heavy metal arsenic were found in most
samples of apple juice tested by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, according to new data released by the agency.
The FDA said 95 percent of the 160 apple juice samples collected
between 2005 and 2011 had arsenic levels below 23 parts per billion
(the agency's "level of concern"), and nearly 88 percent of the
samples had levels less than 10 ppb,
ABC News reported.
Eight samples of apple juice contained high levels of
The FDA said it has increased its monitoring of arsenic levels
in apple juice and will continue to collect samples for analysis.
The agency also plans to establish what level of arsenic is
considered safe and will be able to take action against juice
makers who fail to meet that standard,
ABC News reported.
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