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Health Highlights: Jan. 11, 2012

Last Updated: January 11, 2012.

 

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

J&J Unit Warned Over Faulty Insulin Pump: FDA

A unit of Johnson & Johnson could face fines and other penalties for selling faulty insulin pumps and failing or delaying to disclose serious injuries suffered by patients who used the devices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

An FDA warning letter sent to J&J's Animas Corp. and posted on the agency's website says the West Chester Pa. company never reported one case of serious patient injury caused by a defective insulin pump and delayed reporting two other cases, the Associated Press reported.

All three patients were hospitalized with dangerously high blood sugar, respiratory failure and coma, and a potentially deadly complication called diabetic ketoacidosis, which occurs when there's a lack of insulin to break down sugar.

The FDA ordered Animas to immediately provide a plan to correct its failure to report within the required 30 days cases where a device may have caused or contributed to serious injury or death, the AP reported.

If the company does not immediately correct the violations, it could face fines, injunction, seizure, and lose contract awards from federal agencies, the FDA said.

Animas' spokeswoman told the AP that the company is "dedicated to quickly resolving the FDA's outstanding concerns."

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Americans' Stress Levels Take a Dip: Survey

Stress among Americans appears to be down for the first time in five years and at its lowest point since 2007, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.

The poll of 1,226 adults 18 and older found that the nation's average self-reported stress level in 2011 was 5.2 on a 10-point scale, compared with 6.2 in 2007, USA Today reported.

The percentage of people reporting extreme stress dropped from 32 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2011, and 27 percent of those who took part in the new survey said their stress had decreased in the past five years.

However, 39 percent of respondents said their stress rose in 2011, 44 percent said it stayed the same, and only 17 percent said it dropped. About 75 percent said money is a concern, two-thirds said they have work issues, and more than half have relationship or health problems.

Experts say the decline in reported stress is likely due to the fact that stress has become a normal part of life for Americans and they've adapted to it, USA Today reported.

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Small Group of Patients Account for Large Chunk of U.S. Health Care Costs: Report

Only 10 percent of the population accounted for nearly two-thirds of all health care costs in the United States in 2008, a federal government report says.

The average annual cost for each patient in that group totaled nearly $24,000, which included costs covered by insurance and paid out of pocket, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

About 45 percent of those patients remained in that 10 percent of the population in 2009.

Among the 10 percent of patients with the highest health costs in both 2008 and 2009: nearly 60 percent were women; more than 40 percent were 65 or older; only 3 percent were ages 18 to 29; more than 80 percent were white; only 2 percent were Asian.

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Appeals Court Ruling Supports Texas Abortion Law

A federal appeals court panel ruling Tuesday potentially clears the way for enforcement of a Texas law requiring doctors to show sonograms to pregnant women before they have an abortion.

The three-judge panel overturned a lower court's order last August that blocked key parts of the law just before it was to take effect. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas said the law violated the First Amendment by forcing doctors and patients to engage in government-mandated speech, CNN reported.

In Tuesday's ruling, the three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said opponents of the law did not prove it violated the Constitution. The panel sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The legal action against the Texas law was launched by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. Center President and CEO Nancy Northrup said the appeals court panel decision was "extreme."

"This clears the way for the enforcement of an insulting and intrusive law whose sole purpose is to harass women and dissuade them from exercising their constitutionally protected reproductive rights," Northrup said in a statement, CNN reported. "Until today, every court that has reviewed similarly intrusive laws have ruled the laws unconstitutional."

The center is evaluating "all available means" to challenge the Texas law, Northrup said.

"Today's ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement, CNN reported.

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Michelle Obama Announcing Med School Efforts to Help Injured Veterans

More than 100 medical schools have promised to increase training and research for the treatment of U.S. veterans with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, Michelle Obama is scheduled to announce Wednesday during an appearance at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The commitment from the medical schools is part of the first lady's Joining Forces campaign, which highlights issues that affect veterans and their families, the Associated Press reported.

The participating medical schools will improve training in how to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injury, boost research into the conditions, and share new information and best practices.

Nearly 213,000 U.S. military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000, according to the Defense Department. Nearly 300,000 veterans of both wars have suffered PTSD or major depression, according to the Rand. Corp, the AP reported.

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Fungicide Detected in Orange Juice: FDA

Testing for the fungicide carbendazim in orange juice will be increased after a juice company said it found low levels of the fungicide in its orange juice and the juice of other companies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency said the unnamed company found levels of carbendazim of up to 35 parts per billion, which is significantly lower than the European Union's maximum level of 200 ppb, the Associated Press and ABC News reported.

The fungicide is not approved for use on oranges in the U.S., but is approved and used in Brazil. The FDA does not believe the fungicide poses a health risk.

"Not all of the orange juice that us consumers drink comes from oranges that were grown here in the U.S.," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, AP/ABC News reported. "Just because a chemical is illegal here doesn't mean that other countries don't allow it to be used or that farmers aren't using it there."

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Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


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