Health Highlights: Sept. 11, 2008

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.

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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.

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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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