Health Highlights: Sept. 11, 2009

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

World's Oldest Person Dies at 115 in Los Angeles

Gertrude Baines, the world's oldest person at 115 years of age, died Friday in a Los Angeles hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Her physician, Dr. Charles Witt, said Baines probably died of a heart attack but an autopsy will be conducted to confirm the cause of death.

Baines was born in Shellman, Ga., in 1894 and received a letter from President Obama when she turned 115 on April 6, the wire service said. She held the title of world's oldest person after 115-year-old Maria de Jesus of Portugal died in January.

    • World's Oldest Person Dies at 115 in Los Angeles
    • Battery Warning Issued on Implanted Defibrillators
    • Ghostwriting Rampant in Medical Journals: Study
    • Prescription Drug Abuse Declines, Survey Finds
    • U.S. Uninsured Reaches 46.3 Million: Census

The newest oldest person is now 114-year-old Kama Chinen, of Japan, according to Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group at UCLA Medical Center, which assesses claims of extreme old age.


Battery Warning Issued on Implanted Defibrillators

The batteries in about 6,300 Medtronic implanted defibrillators may fail before their scheduled depletion time, but not without warning users well in advance, the company said on Friday.

Medtronic spokesman Chris Garland told Dow Jones that the defect affects "Concerto" cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators, as well as "Virtuoso" defibrillators.

Medtronic already guarantees users a 90-day advance warning from such devices, letting patients know that the battery is running down. And although the battery in the devices in question may have a shorter life than was expected, patients will still receive this advance warning, and they should not change their regular check-up/device monitoring schedule.

"There's no safety concern at all, there's been no reports of injury," said Garland, who noted that Medtronic had sent doctors notification of the matter earlier this week.


Ghostwriting Rampant in Medical Journals: Study

Leading medical journals contained a significant number of articles in 2008 that were written by "ghost" reporters paid by pharmaceutical companies, a new study finds.

The findings, published Thursday by editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported by The New York Times, cite a ghostwriting rate of 10.9 percent in the New England Journal of Medicine, the highest reported; 7.9 percent in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 7.6 percent in The Lancet, 7.6 percent in PLoS Medicine, 4.9 percent in The Annals of Internal Medicine and 2 percent in Nature Medicine.

Responding anonymously to an online questionnaire created for the study, 7.8 percent of authors of 630 articles admitted other people had made contributions to their papers that qualified them to be named as authors but who were not listed.

Bias on the part of industry-funded writers has the potential to influence doctors' treatment decisions and patient care, the researchers noted.

"These journals are the top of the medical field," Joseph S. Wislar, lead author of the study, told the Times. All contributors should at least be listed in acknowledgments if they are not named as authors, he said.

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