Health Highlights: Feb. 1, 2009

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

Driving While Having a Cold or the Flu Can Be Hazardous

It's long been established that drinking and driving don't mix, but a study by a British insurance company shows that it's almost as bad to drive if you have a severe cold or the flu.

According to BBC News, Lloyds TBS Insurance conducted a study, using 50 healthy adults and 50 with colds, stress and headaches. The subjects were put through a driving hazard simulator. BBC News reports, and the results showed that drivers with colds were 11 percent slower in their reaction time, about the same as drinking a double shot of hard liquor.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Driving While Having a Cold or the Flu Can Be Hazardous
    • FDA Experts Recommend Banning Darvon
    • Most Patients Can't Name Hospital Doctors Who treat Them, Survey Says
    • Octuplets' Mom has 6 Other Children, Family Says
    • U.S. Senate Passes Children's Health Insurance Bill
    • New Blood Thinner Appears Closer to FDA Approval

An additional study indicated that those with colds and flu had to add 3.3 feet to their stopping distance if traveling at 30 MPH.

Duncan Vernon, road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, told BBC News, "People need to be honest with themselves about their ability to drive safely.

"A heavy cold, for example, can have symptoms that include a headache, blocked sinuses, sneezing and tiredness, and these can impair a driver's mood, concentration, reactions and judgment."

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FDA Experts Recommend Banning Darvon

Darvon, a decades-old painkiller chiefly marketed as Darvocet, should be banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an expert panel advising the agency recommended Friday.

The advisory panel voted 14-12 to recommend withdrawing Darvon, first approved in 1957. Earlier Friday, the agency said it was reviewing the drug after critics charged it provided little relief and posed a risk for overdose and suicide, the Associated Press reported. The full FDA usually follows the recommendations of its expert panels, but isn't bound to do so.

Darvon, which includes a dose of acetaminophen, is among the top prescribed medications. More than 20 million prescriptions were written in 2007, the wire service said. Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals and Qualitest/Vintage Pharmaceuticals, two firms that market Darvocet, called the medication safe and effective when used as directed.

But critics complained that the government review was too long in coming. "[The drug] has unique risks and no unique advantages," Dr. Sidney Wolfe, a drug safety expert with the consumer group Public Citizen, told the AP. "It has been a big drug of abuse for quite a long time." Public Citizen first sought a ban on Darvon in the 1970s, and the United Kingdom banned its version in 2005, the AP said.

Besides an outright ban, the FDA's other options include requiring stiffer warnings, additional studies or education efforts to alert doctors and patients of potential misuses, the AP reported.

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Most Patients Can't Name Hospital Doctors Who treat Them, Survey Says

You may know the name of your family doctor, but if you've had hospital care, can you name any of the physicians who treated you?

Most likely you can't, the New York Times reports.

The Times cites a recent University of Chicago study that surveyed almost 3,000 patients admitted to that school's hospital during a 15-month period.

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