Health Highlights: Aug. 19, 2009

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

More Patients Leaving Hospitals Against Medical Advice

An increasing number of patients are leaving U.S. hospitals against the advice of medical staff, according to a federal government report released Wednesday.

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of such cases increased by about 39 percent, from 264,000 to 368,000, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • More Patients Leaving Hospitals Against Medical Advice
    • FDA Launches New Tobacco Control Center
    • Grassley Wants Tougher Stance Against Medical Ghostwriting
    • Drug Abuse Up Among Those in Their 50s
    • Embryonic Stem Cell Trial On Hold
    • Nestle Starts Shipping New Cookie Dough Products

An analysis of cases in which patients left the hospital against medical advice in 2007 found that:

  • The top five reasons patients were in hospital were: chest pain with no determined cause (25,600); alcohol-related disorders (25,300); substance-related disorders (21,000); depression or other mood disorders (13,900); and diabetes with complications (12,500).
  • Medicaid and Medicare patients each accounted for about 27 percent of cases, uninsured patients accounted for 22 percent, and 19 percent of cases involved patients with private insurance.
  • Men were about 1.5 times more likely than women to leave the hospital against medical advice.
  • Patients in the Northeast had the highest rate of leaving hospitals against medical advice -- 2 per 1,000 population vs. a nationwide average of 1 per 1,000 population.

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FDA Launches New Tobacco Control Center

In an effort to reduce the hundreds of thousands of tobacco-related deaths in the United States each year, the new Center for Tobacco Products was launched this week by the Food and Drug Administration.

The center was created to oversee the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, including establishment and enforcement of advertising and promotion restrictions, and reviewing premarket applications for new and modified-risk tobacco products.

It will use "the best available science to guide the development and implementation of effective public health strategies to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products," according to an FDA news release.

The first director will be Dr. Lawrence Deyton, a clinical professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Deyton is an expert on veterans' health issues, public health and tobacco use.

"I am eager for the challenge of leading the tobacco team at FDA," Deyton said in the news release. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us at FDA to work hand-in-hand with the CDC, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, and public health leaders in the states to make progress in combating tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death in the United States."

Each year, cigarette smoking causes an estimated 438,000 deaths, or about 1 of every 5 deaths, in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.

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Grassley Wants Tougher Stance Against Medical Ghostwriting

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