Health Highlights: March 16, 2012

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

Use of Meds That Conflict With Cancer Drugs Common: Study

Many patients on targeted cancer drugs also take other medicines that may reduce the cancer treatment’s effectiveness or cause toxic side effects, according to a new study.

Researchers found that 23 percent to 57 percent of patients who received one of nine targeted cancer pills were also prescribed medicines that may limit the effects of the cancer treatment, and 24 percent to 74 percent were given drugs that could cause toxic side effects when used at the same time as the cancer drugs, Bloomberg news reported.

The study was conducted by a team at Medco Healthy Solutions Inc. and presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

“Oncologists are not always aware of other medications prescribed by other doctors and vice-versa, which can pose a real hazard for their patients on oral cancer therapies,” Steven Bowlin, one of the study authors and senior director at Medco’s research division, said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.


Schools’ Use of ‘Pink Slime’ Beef to Become Optional: USDA

Starting in the fall, schools in the national school lunch program will be able to refuse ammonia-treated ground beef filler that some refer to as “pink slime.”

The announcement Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes amid growing social media outrage over the so-called “lean finely textured beef,” the Associated Press reported.

The product is made from fatty pieces of meat left over from other cuts. The pieces are heated and spun to remove most of the fat, and compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.

The change is USDA policy means that schools will be allowed to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the low-cost lean beef product or less lean bulk ground beef without it, the AP reported.


No More Federal Funding for Texas Women’s Health Program

The U.S. government says all funding for the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program will be stopped due to the state’s ban on funding for clinics affiliated with abortion providers.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regrets the move but had no other option, according to director Cindy Mann.

“We had hoped not to be at this point. But, unfortunately, as we’ve made clear to the state at all points in this process, we don’t have a choice,” Mann said during a conference call with reporters, the Associated Press reported.

“Medicaid law is clear,” she noted. “Patients, not state government officials, are able to choose the doctor and health care providers that are best for them and their family.”

The Texas program covers about 130,000 low-income women, ages 18-44. Federal funds cover 90 percent of the cost and the state pays the rest, the AP reported.

Federal support continues for similar programs in about 29 other states, Mann said.