Health Highlights: April 21, 2009Last Updated: April 21, 2009.
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Pharmacy Chains to Translate Drug Data in NYS Stores: Report
Five major pharmacy chains with 700 stores in New York state have agreed to print drug instructions in five languages other than English and to expand this option to other states their outlets do business in, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Duane Reade and A&P have agreed with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to also provide oral assistance in more than 150 languages. The written drug instructions will be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian and French. Some other pharmacies have already agreed to Polish translations, but the big five have yet to sign on, the AP reported.
Cuomo had been investigating charges from immigrant groups that some pharmacies failed to advise non-English speaking customers in their own language about doses and side effects of their medications. Under law, New York pharmacists must personally provide information about prescription drugs to all patients, orally and in writing, and are prohibited from discriminating against non-English speakers, the AP said.
Cuomo reached similar agreements last year with Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies, the AP reported. More than one million New Yorkers do not speak English "well or at all," according to Census data cited by the wire service.
States Filing Fewer Disciplinary Actions Against Doctors, Group Says
The rate of state medical boards' disciplinary actions against doctors declined 21.5 percent between 2004 and 2008, from 3.72 serious discipline actions per 1,000 physicians to 2.92 actions, says a study by U.S. consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.
"The overall national downward trend of serious disciplinary actions against physicians is troubling, because it indicates many states are not living up to their obligations to protect patients from bad doctors," said Sidney Wolfe, a physician and director of Public Citizen's health research group, the Associated Press reported.
The top states when it comes to doctor discipline are Alaska, Kentucky, Ohio, Arizona, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Louisiana, Iowa, Colorado and Maine. Minnesota is the worst state. Other bottom-ranked states include California, Florida, Maryland, South Carolina and Wisconsin, Public Citizen said.
License revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations are among the actions that can be taken against doctors by state medical boards, the AP reported.
Softball Windmill Pitch Linked to Shoulder Pain: Study
The high incidence of anterior shoulder pain in female softball pitchers appears to be the result of the "windmill" pitching motion, say U.S. researchers who studied seven players.
"The conventional belief has been that the underhand throwing motion of softball places little stress on the arm. But that is not the case," lead author Dr. Nikhil Verma, of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a Rush news release, United Press International reported.
The researchers found that muscle force used during the softball windmill pitch is much higher than the upper arm pitch used in baseball. The study also found that the biceps, not the elbow, take the majority of stress in the windmill pitch.
The study was published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Stephen Hawking Expected to Make Full Recovery: Family
The family of famous mathematician and physicist Stephen Hawking expects him to make a full recovery from a chest infection that forced him into the hospital, officials at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom said Tuesday.
Hawking, 67, was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital Monday and is being kept under observation.
"He is comfortable, and his family is looking forward to him making a full recovery," said a Cambridge University statement, the Associated Press reported. But there's no word on whether Hawking's condition had improved or whether the family was simply expressing its hopes for improvement.
The hospital declined to comment on Hawking's condition and referred all calls to the university, the AP reported.
Hawking, who's been suffering a chest infection for several weeks, was 21 when he was diagnosed with the incurable degenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He's been almost entirely paralyzed for years and uses a finger-activated electronic voice synthesizer to communicate.
Study Looks at College Students' Mental Health
Suicide is a major threat among U.S. college students who report high levels of binge drinking, suggests a new study that examined questionnaires filled out by more than 28,000 college students who received mental health services in fall 2008.
The study found that one percent of students who answered a question about binge drinking said they had gone binge drinking 10 or more times in the previous two weeks. Of those respondents, nearly half said they'd seriously considered suicide in the past, the Associated Press reported.
The researchers at Penn State University's Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health also found that 93 percent of respondents who answered a question about campus violence said they had little or no fear of losing control and acting violently.
Males accounted for the majority of the 7 percent who said they did have strong fears about violence. In addition, this group of students said they'd had previously harmed another person and often had a number of other symptoms, such as fear of suffering a panic attack or suicidal thoughts, the AP reported.
The pilot study was designed to identify current mental health trends among students so that colleges and universities can be better prepared to help students.
"Mental health affects every aspect of a college student's functioning. The earlier you intervene in mental health issues, the more likely you are to be successful in treating it," said Ben Locke, executive director of the center, the AP reported.
U.S. Waters Hold Millions of Pounds of Drug Ingredients: Analysis
At least 271 million pounds of pharmaceutical ingredients have been legally released into U.S. lakes, rivers and streams, many of which are sources of drinking water, says the Associated Press.
These ingredients are used to make drugs and various other products. For example, nitroglycerin is used in explosives and in a heart drug, while lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder and to make ceramics.
The federal government and industry officials say the amount of such compounds released into waterways isn't known because they're not tracked, at least not as drug ingredients. But the AP analysis of 20 years of federal records identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitors these ingredients as active pharmaceutical agents, while the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as industrial chemicals.
The AP analysis didn't determine how much drug makers and other manufacturers each contribute to the 271 million pounds. The news agency also said limited federal monitoring means that figure is well below what's actually released into U.S. waterways.
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