Health Highlights: Jan. 15, 2010

Jan. 16, 2010 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Doctor Accused of Faking Painkiller Studies

A U.S. doctor has agreed to plead guilty to health care fraud in connection with faked research on painkillers that was published in medical journals.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Scott Reuben, the former chief of acute pain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence that includes up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and forfeiture of assets worth at least $50,000 that he received for the research, according to court documents, the Associated Press reported.

It's alleged that Reuben applied for and received research grants from drug makers but never performed the studies. Instead, he made up some or all patient data contained in 21 studies published in anesthesiology journals between 1996 and 2008.

The ruse was discovered after the hospital launched a routine review last year. Baystate Medical Center has asked the journals to retract the studies, the AP reported.


FDA Can't Block E-Cigarette Imports: Judge

The importation of electronic cigarettes into the United States can't be blocked by the Food and Drug Administration, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The FDA considers electronic cigarettes -- battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine without tobacco or combustion -- to be unapproved drug devices and has told manufacturers they need FDA approval to sell them in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

Two U.S.-based e-cigarette distributors went to court to fight the FDA's policy of blocking and confiscating e-cigarettes when they reach U.S. ports. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a temporary injunction halting the FDA's actions.

Leon ruled that e-cigarettes are essentially a modern-day tobacco product and said the FDA had overstepped its authority in blocking their importation, the Post reported.


Gay Marriage Ban Adds to Social Stigma: Expert

California's ban on same-sex marriages contributes to the social stigma that puts gay men and lesbian women at increased risk for substance abuse, depression and suicide, says a Columbia University social scientist.

Ilan Meyer was testifying Thursday in the federal trial to determine whether voter-enacted Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. It's the first federal trial to consider the constitutionality of state gay marriage bans, the Associated Press reported.

"People in our society have goals that are cherished by all people, that are part of the social convention," Meyer said. "We are all raised to think there are certain things we want to achieve in life, and this Proposition 8 says if you are gay or lesbian, you cannot achieve this particular goal."

In other testimony Thursday, a city of San Francisco economist said the gay marriage ban costs the city millions of dollars a year in lost revenue and increased services, the AP reported.


Recalled Dog Treats May Contain Salmonella: FDA

Some Merrick Pet Care beef dog treats may be contaminated with salmonella that could infect people if they handle the treats and don't thoroughly wash their hands, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Merrick Beef Filet Squares were sold across the U.S. through retail stores and the Internet. The recalled products were packaged in 10-ounce green, red and tan resealable plastic bags that are labeled "best by 111911," the Associated Press reported.

There have been no reports of illnesses linked to the recalled dog treats.

The FDA said routine testing of the treats revealed evidence of salmonella and another inspection uncovered manufacturing and packaging problems, the AP reported.