Health Highlights: Nov. 26, 2012

By on November 26, 2012

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

Appeals Court Must Re-Examine Key Part of Health Care Law: Supreme Court

A U.S. federal appeals court must take another look at whether a key requirement in the health care reform law violates religious freedoms, the Supreme Court says.

In June, the Supreme Court upheld the overall law but left room for legal challenges to certain aspects of the law’s application, CNN reported. On Monday, the high court told a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to revisit its unanimous 2011 decision that a lawsuit by Liberty University in Virginia should be blocked on jurisdictional grounds.

The lawsuit by the private Christian evangelical college claimed that the new federal law would lead to taxpayer dollars funding abortions and contraception. The Obama administration says that’s not true.

The school, which re-filed its lawsuit after the Supreme Court’s June ruling, says people shouldn’t be required to buy health insurance, and employers shouldn’t be forced to provide it, if they have legitimate moral and religious objections to some parts of the health care law.

There is no indication when the appeals court will revisit the matter, CNN reported.


Generic Lipitor Recalled by Ranbaxy Laboratories

More than 40 lots of Ranbaxy Laboratories’ generic version of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor are being recalled in the United States after small glass particles were found in some batches.

The company said the voluntary recall will cause a temporary supply disruption but expects to complete its investigation of the problem within two weeks and resume shipments thereafter, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The recall could lead to a shortage of atorvastatin (the generic name for Lipitor), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

“We are doing everything we can to mitigate a shortage, including reaching out to other manufacturers,” FDA spokeswoman Sarah Clark-Lynn told WSJ. “We’re monitoring the situation.”

Ranbaxy is the Indian unit of Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co.


Smoking Harms Brain: Study

Smoking harms the brain by damaging learning, memory and reasoning, a new study says.

U.K. researchers looked at 8,800 people over age 50 and found a “consistent association” between smoking and lower scores on mental skills’ tests. Having high blood pressure and being overweight also seemed to have a harmful effect on the brain, but to a less degree than smoking, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Age and Ageing.

The findings show that people need to be aware that lifestyle habits could damage the brain as well as the body, the King’s College London researchers said.

“Research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and this study adds further weight to that evidence,” Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, told the BBC.


New SARS-Related Virus Confirmed in Qatar Patient

German doctors have confirmed that a patient from Qatar was infected with a new virus related to SARS.

The patient fell ill in October with severe respiratory problems and was brought to Germany for treatment in a specialty clinic. The patient recovered after a month and was released this week, the Associated Press reported.

In related news, health officials are investigating whether the new coronavirus may have spread between members of a family in the same household. A father and son both fell ill with symptoms including pneumonia, fever and respiratory problems and later died. Two other people in the household got sick by both recovered.

Tests showed that the son was infected with the new coronavirus. The father’s test results are pending, the AP reported.

Any patients with unexplained pneumonias should be tested for the new coronavirus, the World Health Organization advised medical authorities around the world.


Bed Rail Deaths Under Scrutiny

A study into deaths caused by bed rails is being conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could be completed by the end of the month. The findings may lead to new regulations to reduce the number of bed rail deaths.

From 2003 through May 2012, 150 mostly older adults in the U.S. died after they became trapped in bed rails, according to death certificate and emergency room data collected by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

During roughly the same time period, 36,000 mostly older adults were treated in emergency departments for bed rail injuries, The New York Times reported.

It’s likely that the data doesn’t give a full picture of the scope of the problem since bed rails are not always listed as a cause of death by nursing homes and coroners, FDA and CPSC officials said.

The FDA issued safety warnings about bed rails in 1995 but did not take any stronger regulatory action, such as requiring manufacturers to put safety labels on the devices. Instead, the FDA introduced voluntary guidelines in 2006, The Times reported.

Since the FDA’s first safety warnings in 1995, there have been about 550 deaths related to bed rails, according to a Times review of FDA data, lawsuits, state nursing home inspection reports and interviews. In 2011 alone, there were 27 bed rail-related deaths, FDA data shows.

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