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Health Highlights: Feb. 21, 2013

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

German Bishops OK Emergency Contraceptives for Rape Victims

Emergency contraceptives can be given to rape victims being treated in Roman Catholic-run hospitals, German bishops said Thursday.

The announcement came in response to criticism about a recent case in which two Catholic hospitals in Cologne refused to treat a rape victim due to concerns about the emergency contraceptive pill, the Associated Press reported.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Cologne's archbishop, later said that the church "was deeply ashamed by this incident because it goes against our Christian mission."

The statement released Thursday by the German Bishops Conference said Catholic hospitals still can't provide drugs that would cause the death of an embryo, the AP reported.

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Four Indicted in Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

Four former employees of a Virginia-based peanut company linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak in the United States have been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The outbreak -- traced to a peanut processing plant in Georgia -- killed nine people and sickened hundreds and led to one of the largest recalls in the nation's history.

The 76-count indictment charges the former employees of Peanut Corp. of America with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and other offenses related to contaminated or misbranded food, the Associated Press reported.

Those facing the charges are company owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and company vice president Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.

FDA inspectors found numerous problems at the plant in Blakely, Ga., including mold and roaches. The company went bankrupt after the recall, the AP reported.

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Medical Groups Warn About Unnecessary Tests and Treatments

Dozens of types of tests and treatments are too often recommended by doctors when patients don't need them, according to a warning issued Thursday by a coalition of leading medical groups in the United States.

This unnecessary care wastes time and money and sometimes causes harm to patients, according to the organizations that represent more than 350,000 doctors, the Associated Press reported.

The Choosing Wisely Coalition said patients need to ask their doctors, "Do I really need that?". The coalition was formed by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation.

Too many people "think that more is better, that more treatment, more testing somehow results in better health care," Dr. Glen Stream, former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the AP. "That really is not true."

The academy contributed to this year's list of 90 examples of potentially needless care, which adds to 45 examples included on last year's list. Among the newly-added warnings:

  • Don't screen for a clogged neck artery in healthy people with no stroke signs. It could lead to risky surgery for a blockage that would cause no harm.
  • Don't try feeding tubes in people with advanced dementia. Helping them eat is a better approach.
  • Don't routinely give heartburn medicine to infants with reflux. This treatment hasn't been proven effective in babies and could cause side effects.
  • Don't prescribe opioid painkillers for migraines except as a last resort. Opioids can carry the risk of addiction and can actually worsen migraines. Instead, use more migraine-specific drugs.
  • Don't induce labor if a pregnant woman misses her due date and both mother and baby are doing fine.

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New Silicone-Gel Breast Implant Approved by FDA

A new silicone-gel breast implant for women 22 years and older has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said that Allergan's Natrelle 410 implant contains silicone gel that is firmer than the company's older Natrelle models, the Associated Press reported.

The approval was based on data from 941 women collected over seven years. Allergan's studies did not compare the safety of the new implant with that of the older models.

"The data we reviewed showed a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness," said Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the FDA's medical device director, the AP reported. "We will be looking at the results from post-approval studies that will focus on their long-term safety and effectiveness."

Silicone-gel implants were banned by the FDA in 1992 due to fears they could cause illnesses such as cancer and lupus. But the ban was lifted in 2006 after research ruled out most of the health concerns.

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