Thursday, 15 December 2011 09:59

Health Highlights: Dec. 15, 2011

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

Drug Shortages Caused by Production Problems: GAO

Production problems and factory shutdowns are the main reason for the shortages of important drugs in the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the federal Government Accountability Office.

The GAO said the number shortages of crucial drugs, including cancer drugs and nutritional products, has more than tripled since 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Manufacturing problems were the primary cause of most shortages," the GAO concluded in its analysis of the situation.

The GAO said the solution includes giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to force manufacturers to give immediate notice when they experience problems that will halt production, and to require manufacturers to "take certain actions to prevent, alleviate or resolve shortages," the WSJ reported.


Asthma, Bronchitis Among Top Kids' Medical Conditions: Report

Acute bronchitis, asthma, trauma-related disorders, middle-ear infections and mental disorders were the five most commonly treated medical conditions among U.S. children in 2008, a federal government report says.

More than 40 percent of the nation's children age 17 and younger were treated for at least one of those conditions that year, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

About 12 million children were treated for acute bronchitis, making it one of the most common ailments. However, bronchitis had the lowest treatment cost, an average of $226 per child.

Mental disorders were the fifth most commonly treated condition (5 million children) and had the highest treatment cost, an average of $2,483 per child.

Medicare paid the largest share of treatment costs for asthma (51 percent) and mental disorders (46 percent), while private insurance paid the largest share for the treatment of middle-ear infections (64 percent), trauma (62 percent) and bronchitis (55 percent).


New Bill Would Boost Monitoring of Medical Implants

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday would require makers of artificial hips and other medical implants to monitor the performance of their products after they receive Food and Drug Administration approval.

Recently, there have been a number of problems with artificial hips and other medical implants and the bill is meant to address longstanding complaints by patients advocates and others about the FDA's approval system for certain types of implants, The New York Times reported.

Under what's known as the 510(k) process, the manufacturer need only show that a new product is "substantially similar" to a product already on the market. Thousands of all-metal hips approved under this process are now failing prematurely in patients.

The new bill would not require pre-approval testing of such medical implants but would give the FDA the power to force companies to gather data on the performance of the products. The bill would also boost federal scrutiny of product recalls, The Times reported.


U.S. Must Protect Research Participants: Panel

Greater transparency, easy-to-understand warnings for patients about the potential dangers of participating in studies, and high ethical standards should be required in research funded by the U.S. government, says a report released Thursday by the President' Bioethics Commission.

The commission also said federal officials should consider compensating victims who are harmed in future research financed by U.S. government dollars, Agence France-Presse reported.

The panel was convened by President Barack Obama last year after it was revealed that 1,300 people in Guatemala were exposed to venereal disease as part of U.S.-led research in the 1940s. The research resulted in 83 deaths.

Last year, the U.S. was involved in 55,000 human research projects worldwide, most of them for health and medical purposes, AFP reported.