Health Highlights: May 5, 2009

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

No Higher Premiums for Women: Health Insurers

American health insurers say they'll stop charging women higher premiums, a move seen as part of the industry's attempts to prevent creation of a government insurance plan that would compete against them.

Currently, many American women are charged more than men in the individual market, but that shouldn't be done any more if all Americans are required to get health coverage, say officials from America's Health Insurance Plans, the Associated Press reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • No Higher Premiums for Women: Health Insurers
    • Patient Stable After First U.S. Double Hand Transplant
    • Once-Weekly Diabetes Drug Submitted for FDA Approval
    • Zinc/Copper Supplements May Not Curb Diarrhea: Study
    • Secondhand Smoke Lowers Kids' Antioxidant Levels: Study
    • Ranbaxy Announces U.S. Recall of Antibiotic

The insurance industry's latest concession offer was announced as Congress convened a round-table discussion on covering the uninsured as part of its efforts to overhaul the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system.

Previously, the insurance industry offered to stop charging sick people higher premiums, the AP reported.

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Patient Stable After First U.S. Double Hand Transplant

A 57-year-old Georgia man is recovering after undergoing the United States' first double hand transplant.

Jeff Kepner was stable after a day of surgery that ended Monday night, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

Kepner lost his hands and feet to a bacterial infection. He's a native of Lancaster, Pa., who now lives in Augusta, Ga.

Eight double hand transplants have been performed in other countries, the AP reported. Last month, French surgeons performed the world's first simultaneous partial face and double hand transplant.

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Once-Weekly Diabetes Drug Submitted for FDA Approval

The once-weekly injectable diabetes drug exenatide LAR has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval, Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Tuesday.

The drug is an extended version of the twice-daily injectable drug Byetta, the Associated Press reported.

Another new diabetes drug, Novo Nordisk's once-daily injection liraglutide, is currently under FDA review.

Both exenatide LAR and liraglutide are in a class of treatments called GLP-1 analogues, which help increase insulin production.

Last year, the FDA issued new safety guidelines for diabetes treatments after concerns were raised about heightened heart attack risk associated with GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia, the AP reported.

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Zinc/Copper Supplements May Not Curb Diarrhea: Study

Even thought they're widely used, zinc and copper supplements may not be an effective way to treat diarrhea, suggest Indian researchers who studied 808 children.

The zinc and copper supplements were no more effective at treating diarrhea in the children than a placebo pill, found the team from the Lata Medical Research Foundation, BBC News reported.

"The expected beneficial effects of zinc supplementation for acute diarrhea were not observed," said lead researcher Dr. Archana Patel. "Therapeutic zinc or zinc and copper supplementation may not have a universal beneficial impact on the duration of acute diarrhea in children."

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