Health Highlights: March 15, 2011

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

Medicare Paid Millions for Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

Medicare spent $3.1 million in 2007 and 2008 to buy erectile dysfunction drugs for senior citizens, even though the drugs are not covered by the health program, say U.S. government investigators.

Of that amount, more than $3 million was paid for Viagra. Other erectile dysfunction drugs included Cialis, according to the report released Tuesday by George Reeb, acting director inspector general for audit services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bloomberg News reported.

A software error was to blame for the spending on erectile dysfunction drugs, said Medicare administrators. They added that they will try to recover payments to private drug insurers who administer Medicare’s drug plans.

Reeb also said that Medicare paid an undetermined amount for erectile dysfunction drugs in 2009 and 2010, Bloomberg reported.


Gay, Lesbian Families More Accepted Than Single Moms: Survey

Americans appear to be more accepting of gay and lesbian families than single mothers, suggests a new survey.

The Pew Research Center poll of 2,691 people found that one-third of respondents are comfortable with a wide range of family situations (acceptors), one-third consider non-traditional family structures a threat to the country’s moral fabric (rejectors), and another third have mixed views (skeptics), reported.

Most acceptors and skeptics believe gay and lesbian families are at least OK and may even offer something positive to society. But single mothers don’t have the same level of acceptance.

The survey found that 98 percent of acceptors believe there’s nothing wrong with women raising their children alone, but 99 percent of skeptics and 98 percent of rejectors believe this type of family unit is bad for society, reported. The poll only asked about single mothers, not single fathers.


White House Pushes to Slow Challenge to Health Care Law

The U.S. Supreme Court should not allow Virginia to bypass a federal appeals court in the state’s challenge to the new federal health care law, the Obama administration said in court papers filed with the justices Monday.

The federal government says there is no reason to take the rare step of “short-circuiting” review by appellate judges, a process that has already been accelerated, the Associated Press reported.

The health care law’s requirement that all citizens must buy health insurance or face a penalty was struck down by a federal judge in Virginia. The Obama administration says the requirement is within Congress’ powers and asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. to reverse that ruling.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli then petitioned the Supreme Court in an effort to sidestep the appeals court, the AP reported.


Plastic Pieces Found in Lean Cuisine Spaghetti With Meatballs

A recall of more than 10,000 packages of Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meatballs that may contain bits of hard plastic was announced Monday.

Pieces of plastic in the Nestle Prepared Foods products were found by customers in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The products were packaged Oct. 10, 2010 and distributed to several states east of the Rocky Mountains.

The recalled products have the establishment number “P-7991” and the case code “0298595519P” and a best before date of November 2011 printed on the side of the package, beneath the ingredient listing, the Times reported.


Surgery May Help Male Cancer Survivors Become Fathers

A special surgical technique can help male survivors of cancer to become fathers, say U.S. researchers.

Many cancer treatments can leave survivors infertile, meaning they have to use donor sperm or adopt if they want to be parents. In this procedure, surgeons conduct biopsies of testicular tissue to search for pockets of hidden sperm that can be used in standard in vitro fertilization to fertilize a partner’s eggs, the Associated Press reported.

In this study, surgeons were able to extract small amounts of sperm from 27 of 73 male childhood cancer survivors, resulting in the birth of 20 children. The findings were published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The surgery — which costs about $10,000 to $12,000, plus the costs of IVF — is offered at a number of medical centers across the U.S., the AP reported.


Guatemalan Victims of U.S. Syphilis Experiments File Lawsuit

A lawsuit against American health officials has been filed by Guatemalans who were subjected to U.S. syphilis experiments in the 1940s.

The experiments to study the effects of penicillin were conducted by the National Institutes of Health from 1946 to 1948. About 700 Guatemalan prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and orphans were deliberately infected with syphilis without their knowledge or consent, the Associated Press reported.

Details about the tests were made public in 2009.

Lawyers for the people subjected to the experiments said they asked the Obama administration to establish an out-of-court claims process but received no response by last Friday’s deadline. The lawsuit was filed Monday, the AP reported.