Health Highlights: Aug. 22, 2012

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

Michael J. Fox to Return to TV

A new drug regimen has helped actor Michael J. Fox better manage the tics and tremors caused by his Parkinson’s disease and he will star in a new sitcom that will premiere on NBC in fall 2013.

The network said the new show will feature Fox in a role “loosely drawn” from his real life and his Parkinson’s disease will be written into the script, The New York Times reported.

NBC has committed to ordering a season’s worth of the episodes, 22 in total, without making a pilot episode of the still untitled show.

Fox publicly disclosed his Parkinson’s disease in 1998 and left the ABC sitcom “Spin City” in 2000 after his symptoms worsened. He then focused his efforts on securing financing for research to find a cure for Parkinson’s, The Times reported.


Reumofan Products are Dangerous: FDA

Consumers should not use Reumofan dietary supplements because they could cause serious problems such as bleeding, stroke and death, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium are marketed as natural remedies for arthritis and muscle pain, but the FDA says the products contain several prescription drugs that can interact with other medications and cause life-threatening side effects in some people, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA first warned consumers about Reumofan products in June, but issued a new safety alert Tuesday because it has continued to receive reports about complications associated with the products.

Reumofan products are made in Mexico by Riger Naturals and sold in the U.S. at some retail outlets, flea markets and over the Internet, the FDA said.


FDA Should Release Name of Melon Farm Linked to Salmonella Outbreak: Advocates

Federal officials should release the name of an Indiana farm that produced cantaloupes responsible for a salmonella outbreak that has killed at least two people and sickened at least 140 others in 20 states, food safety advocates say.

They argue that people have a right to know the farm’s name and details of its cantaloupe distribution network so that they can protect their families, the Associated Press reported.

On Friday, Indiana health officials issued on advisory telling people to throw out any cantaloupes that were grown in southwestern Indiana and purchased on or after July 7. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also told consumers to discard any cantaloupes that might be from that area.

The state’s advisory said a farm in that region had voluntarily recalled its cantaloupes and stopped shipping them as a “precaution.” State officials did not release the name of the farm and have not provided any additional information about the farm, explaining that the FDA-led investigation is not complete, the AP reported.

The name of any farm suspected of being involved in the outbreak will not be released until investigators have pinpointed the source or sources of the salmonella, an FDA spokeswoman said.


Texas Can Cut Funding to Planned Parenthood: Court

An appeals court ruling Tuesday means that Texas can now cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a federal judge’s temporary injunction against a new Texas law that bans clinics affiliated with abortion providers from getting money through the state’s Women’s Health Program, which is meant to provide services to low-income women who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

Under the temporary injunction, funding for Planned Parenthood would have continued pending an October trial on the group’s challenge to the new law, the Associated Press reported.

“We appreciate the court’s ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women’s Health Program as quickly as possible,” state Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood provides services such as cancer screenings, but not abortions, to about half of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in the Women’s Health Program in Texas, the AP reported.


Cigarette Sales Ban Proposed in Tasmania

A ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000 is being proposed by lawmakers in the Australian island state of Tasmania.

Under the plan, the age at which people can legally buy cigarettes — currently 18 — would be increased one year each year and lead to a “tobacco-free generation,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The proposal was unanimously approved by the state’s upper house on Tuesday and Tasmanian Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne said it “is worthy of serious consideration.”

“This would mean that we would have a generation of people not exposed to tobacco products,” Legislative Council member Ivan Dean told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, AFP reported.

Just a few days earlier, the Australian government won a legal battle to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging in an effort to reduce smoking rates.


Syphilis Causes Temporary Shut Down of U.S. Porn Industry

The U.S. porn industry has temporarily shut down after one performer tested positive for the sexually transmitted disease syphilis.

The voluntary moratorium was called for Monday by the Free Speech Coalition, the pornography trade group, CBS News and the Associated Press reported.

The moratorium is expected to shut down the multi-billion dollar porn industry “until the risk to performers in the industry has been properly assessed and all performers have been tested,” the trade association said in a statement.

Syphilis can be difficult to detect, so the trade group’s medical experts have ordered preventative shots of antibiotics for performers. After they receive the shots, the performers can return to work within 10 days, said coalition spokeswoman Joanne Cachapero, CBS/AP reported.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department said last Friday that it is investigating at least five possible cases of syphilis that were reported last week.