Health Highlights: Jan. 20, 2012

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

One of World’s Smallest Babies Leaving L.A. Hospital

A Los Angeles hospital has decided that one of the world’s smallest babies can go home.

When she was born premature at 24 weeks in August, Melinda Star Guido’s 9 1/2-ounce weight was less than a can of soda, the Associated Press reported. She was the second smallest baby to be born in the United States and the world’s third smallest baby.

Melinda spent her early months in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. She now weighs 4 1/2 pounds and has made enough progress to be discharged. A team of doctors and nurses will say farewell on Friday.

It’s unclear how Melinda will do physically and developmentally and doctors plan to monitor her for the next six years, the AP reported.


New Stem Cell-Based Drug Approved by South Korea

Commerical sales of what’s being called the world’s first approved medicine that uses stem cells gathered from other people have been OK’d by South Korea’s government drug agency.

The drug Cartistem is meant to help regenerate knee cartilage and uses stem cells developed from newborns’ umbilical cord blood, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Cartistem is … the world’s first approved allogeneic (taken from different individuals of the same species) stem cell drug, that can offer new opportunity for treatment of patients with degenerative arthritis,” the Korea Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

The agency said clinical trials of the drug, developed by Seoul-based Medipost, have been under way in the United States since last year, AFP reported.


Merck to Pay $36 Million to Settle Vioxx Lawsuits in Canada

Drug maker Merck will pay up to $36.3 million U.S. to resolve all Vioxx-related lawsuits in Canada, the company announced Thursday. The deal will have to be approved by the courts.

The popular anti-inflammatory painkiller medicine was taken off the market in 2004 after trials linked it to increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, Agence France-Presse reported.

Merck has faced numerous lawsuits over Vioxx.

In 2007, the company announced a $4.85 billion deal to settle more than 95 percent of the Vioxx-related lawsuits in the United States. Under the deal, Merck did not have to make any admission of liability, AFP reported.

Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Merck will pay nearly $1 billion to settle criminal and civil charges related to improper marketing of Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the news service said.