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Health Highlights: Sept. 11, 2008

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

    FDA Warns on Infant Formula Suspected in China Illnesses

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning American consumers not to use any infant formula made in China. The warning comes on the heels of an investigation in China of substandard formula following nationwide reports of infants being hospitalized with kidney stones.

    The FDA said late Thursday that the China formulas are apparently suspected of being contaminated with melamine, the same chemical involved in the massive pet food recall last year, according to the Associated Press./

    But Janice Oliver, deputy director of the FDA's food safety program, added that no U.S. formula manufacturer has received any ingredients from China, so "there is no threat of contamination to the domestic supply."

    However, she said, "We're concerned that there may be some infant formula that may have gotten into the United States illegally and may be on the ethnic market." FDA officials are particularly concerned about places like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, which have large populations of Chinese immigrants, the AP reported.

    Agence France Presse reported earlier in the day that China's state news agency Xinhua said reports of seriously ill babies first emerged in the northwestern province of Gansu and have now appeared in six other provinces. In Gansu, there were at least 59 cases of babies with kidney stones, including one who died, AFP reported.

    "An unknown number of infants in at least seven provinces and regions across China have suffered from kidney stones," Xinhua reported. "Doctors and parents suspected it could be the result of drinking fake milk powder of the same brand."

    The news agency said the suspect formula bore the label of the Sanlu Group, a leading dairy products company, AFP reported. The company says that the product was produced by counterfeiters and that it has sent investigators to Gansu.


    Botox May Relieve Migraines

    The anti-wrinkle injection Botox may help relieve migraine headaches, according to preliminary findings of two new studies released Thursday by Allergan, Inc.

    The phase III clinical trials compared Botox to a placebo and included patients who generally suffered from migraines at least 15 days a month, MarketWatch reported. One study showed that Botox didn't reduce the number of migraines, but did reduce the number of days that patients had migraines. The second study showed that Botox decreased both headache episodes and headache days.

    Full study results are expected to be released in mid-2009. Allergan plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for use of Botox in the treatment of migraines next year.

    Up to 3.6 million Americans suffer from chronic migraines, according to Allergen.

    Botox -- which is made from the toxin that causes botulism -- is currently used to treat wrinkles, excessive sweating under the armpits, and certain head and neck pain conditions, MarketWatch reported.


    FDA Hires 1,317 New Staff

    More than 1,300 professionals have recently been hired by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a staffing drive mean to better protect the public, the Associated Press reported.

    The push for new staff will result in an estimated 10 percent boost in the agency's workforce and give the FDA much-needed medical and scientific expertise after years of losing valuable people in those areas, said Kimberly Holden, the senior manager directing the recruitment initiative.

    About 1,000 of the new hires have already started, including biologists, chemists, statisticians, medical officers, pharmacologists, microbiologists and field inspectors.

    While a staffing increase is a good first step, much more needs to be done to improve the FDA's ability to ensure food and drug safety, say independent observers.

    "This is really just bringing them back to where they were in earlier years. It restores losses that they have incurred, but they still have a long way to go to where they can make improvements," former FDA associate commissioner William Hubbard, who now leads a lobbying effort for sustained increases in the agency's budget, told the AP.


    Written Tables Help Older Adults Prevent Medication Errors

    Having older adults fill out simple tables that track their medications may help prevent medication mix-ups, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported.

    Their study found an improvement in medication-related problems when older adults filled out a written "medtable" listing medications and instructions by days and times to take them, United Press International reported. The better results were especially evident among participants who had complex medication schedules.

    The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

    Many older adults have to take a number of prescription medications. The researchers said about half of older adults take medicines incorrectly and up to a third of their hospital admissions are caused by incorrect medicine use, UPI reported.


    Women Have More Nightmares Than Men

    Women have many more nightmares than men and also have more emotional dreams, according to a new U.K. study.

    In research that included 170 people who were asked to record their dreams, there was no difference in the overall number of dreams reported by males and females, but 30 percent of women reported a nightmare, compared to 19 percent of men, said BBC News. The study also found that women were much more likely to have dreams about very emotionally traumatic events, such as the loss of a loved one.

    These results add to previous findings that pre-menstrual women report more vivid and disturbing dreams than men, said researcher Dr. Jennifer Parker, a lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England.

    "In terms of processing emotional information, women may be more prone to taking unresolved concerns into their sleep life," she told BBC News.

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