Health Highlights: Jan. 31, 2009

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

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.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • 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

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.

The study group was asked a series of questions about the various professionals who treated them, including names and medical specialties. Only 25 percent were able to come up with a name, and only 40 percent of those got the name right, the newspaper reports.

With all the hustle and bustle of hospital life, the results weren't all that surprising, the Times says. But Carol Levine, director of the families and health care project of the United Hospital Fund in New York, told the newspaper that sometimes, family members and caregivers are the people who keep track of the hospital professionals.

"In a way, the patient is in the worst position possible to make notes and jot down names," Levine is quoted as saying, "but family members are often involved, and theyre the ones running down the hallway to track down a doctor."

The survey is published in the current edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Octuplets' Mom has 6 Other Children, Family Says

The woman who gave birth to octuplets this week in Southern California already has six other young children at home, her family told the Associated Press on Friday.

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