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Health Briefs published July 07, 2012

FDA approves first rapid, take-home test for HIV

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first over-the-counter HIV test, allowing Americans to test themselves for the virus that causes AIDS in the privacy of their homes.

The OraQuick test detects the presence of HIV in saliva collected using a mouth swab. The test is designed to return a result within 20 to 40 minutes.


 

Government officials estimate one-fifth, or about 240,000 people, of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the U.S. are not aware they are infected. Testing is one of the chief means of slowing new infections, which have held steady at about 50,000 per year for two decades.

FDA officials said the test is aimed at people who might not otherwise get tested.

FDA stressed in its approval announcement that the test is not 100 percent accurate.

 

Doctors sue Aetna for out-of-network denials

 Thousands of California doctors are suing Aetna, alleging the health insurer denies patients access to out-of-network physicians.

In a release Tuesday, the California Medical Association said it has teamed with the Los Angeles County Medical association and health care organizations to file the suit.

The lawsuit alleges false advertising, breach of contract, unfair business practices and intentional, negligent interference with health care providers.

The suit seeks an end to the practices and compensation for patients and physicians.

 

Early full-term babies may face school woes

Even for infants born full-term, a little more time in the womb may matter.

The extra time results in more brain development, and a study suggests perhaps better scores on academic tests, too.

Full-term is generally between 37 weeks and 41 weeks; newborns born before 37 weeks are called premature and are known to face increased chances for health and developmental problems.

The children in the study were all full-term, and the vast majority did fine on third-grade math and reading tests. The differences were small, but the study found that more kids born at 37 or 38 weeks did poorly than did kids born even a week or two later.

The researchers and other experts said the results suggest that the definition of prematurity should be reconsidered.

The findings also raise questions about hastening childbirth by scheduling cesarean deliveries for convenience — because women are tired of being pregnant or doctors are busy — rather than for medical reasons, the researchers say.

 

Concussion lawsuits are next big U.S. litigation

Smokers and pro football players have something in common: They engage in risky behavior that can be potentially harmful to their health over time.

And to hear some lawyers tell it, the National Football League is the equivalent of Big Tobacco.

The recent wave of lawsuits filed on behalf of retired players uses similar arguments to those made by attorneys representing smokers who sued tobacco companies more than 15 years ago — in this case, that the National Football League knew repeated concussions could lead to brain damage and yet hid the information.

More than 2,400 retired players are now plaintiffs, looking for the kind of success smokers had against the tobacco companies. The result then was a landmark, $206-billion settlement shared among 46 states. But the ex-players face a huge challenge as they take on a multibillion dollar industry that is the most popular sport in the United States.

 

GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3 billion for health fraud

GlaxoSmithKline LLC will pay $3 billion and plead guilty to promoting two popular drugs for unapproved uses and to failing to disclose important safety information on a third in the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history, the Justice Department said Monday.

Accompanying the criminal case was a civil settlement in which the government said the company's improper marketing included providing doctors with expensive resort vacations, European hunting trips, high-paid speaking tours and even tickets to a Madonna concert.

The $3 billion combined criminal-civil fine will be the largest penalty ever paid by a drug company, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said. The corporation also agreed to be monitored by government officials for five years to attempt to ensure the company's compliance, Cole said.

 

Oregon allows for medical marijuana deduction

Under a little-known practice, Oregon social service officials are allowing certain food stamp applicants to deduct medical marijuana costs from their income when qualifying for benefits.

Only elderly or permanently disabled Oregonians who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance may file for the deduction, according to the Oregonian.

The Oregon deduction puts the state at odds with the federal government. California and Washington defer to federal guidelines, which say the deduction is not allowed. Food stamps, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are federally funded.

Gene Evans, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, said the deduction is so limited that it's seldom been used. But any government nod to pot's legitimacy is welcomed by Oregon medical marijuana patients.

 


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