Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Marlboro Man Actor Dies From Lung Disease
An actor who portrayed the Marlboro Man in cigarette ads more
than 30 years ago died earlier this month from respiratory failure
due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Eric Lawson, 72, died Jan. 10 at his California home, his wife
Susan announced Sunday, the
The actor, who posed as the smoking cowboy in Marlboro print ads
from 1978 to 1981, was a smoker since age 14. Later in life, Lawson
took part in an anti-smoking commercial that mocked the Marlboro
Man, and appeared on "Entertainment Tonight" to talk about the
harmful impact of smoking.
Lawson also had small roles on TV shows such as "Charlie's
Angels" and "Baretta" before his acting career was ended by
injuries he suffered on the set of a Western film, the
Government Cracking Down on Doctors Who Abuse Medicare
Fines and being excluded from Medicare and other federal health
programs are among the penalties that could be imposed on doctors
who repeatedly overcharge Medicare patients, White House officials
New measures to identify and punish such doctors were ordered in
a directive released Jan. 15. And for the first time in more than
30 years, the federal government may reveal how much is paid to
individual doctors who treat Medicare patients,
The New York Timesreported.
The directive defined a habitual offender as one who is "abusing
the program and not changing inappropriate behavior even after
extensive education to address these behaviors."
Officials will refer cases to the inspector general at the
Department of Health and Human Services, who has the power to levy
civil fines and ban physicians from Medicare, Medicaid and other
About 10 percent ($6 billion a year) of payments in the
traditional fee-for-service Medicare program are improper, federal
officials estimate. But some experts believe the losses could be
Hold on Part of Health Care Law's Birth Control Requirement
Extended by U.S. Supreme Court
A hold on part of the new health law's birth control requirement
that applies to groups with religious links was extended Friday by
the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the ruling, employers who inform the government in writing
that they are non-profit, religious organizations with religious
objections to providing coverage for birth control services do not
have to fill out a form stating that providing such coverage
violates their religious beliefs and do not have to provide the
Friday's decision extends a ruling made New Year's Eve by
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a case involving the
Little Sisters of the Poor. They are Catholic nuns who operate
nursing homes in Baltimore and Denver and launched a lawsuit over
the health care law's requirement that employers provide coverage
for birth control.
The Supreme Court's order issued Friday will apply while the
case in on appeal in the lower courts,
Don't Rely on Quick Flu Tests: CDC
Doctors should not rely entirely on quick flu tests when
determining if patients have the flu, U.S. health officials
For unknown reasons, the rapid flu tests used in many clinics
are showing that patients do not have the flu when in fact they do
(false negative), according to Dr. Angela Campbell, a medical
officer in the respiratory diseases branch of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention,
Flu is now widespread in 41 states and the H1N1 swine flu is
causing 99 percent of the cases that are being tested, the CDC said
in its weekly flu report. The false negative results from quick flu
tests are cause for concern because H1N1 often targets younger
adults, who don't usually get the sickest with the flu.
The CDC said health care workers need to be ready to treat
patients for the flu even if the first test is negative,
U.S. Health Officials Investigate Possible Norovirus Outbreak on
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship will be inspected Sunday by U.S.
health officials as they investigate a possible norovirus outbreak
that has sickened about 300 of the more than 3,000 passengers and
Known as the Explorer of the Seas, the ship was on a 10-day
cruise that had departed from Cape Liberty, N.J., the cruise line
and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told
The ship will be inspected by officials in St. Thomas, U.S.
Virgin Islands. The ship had stopped earlier in San Juan, Puerto
Rico, for a sanitizing regimen following reports of vomiting and
diarrhea by both passengers and crew members,
"During its sailing, Explorer of the Seas has experienced an elevated number of persons with a gastrointestinal illness," cruise line officials said in a statement, NBC Newsreported. "Those affected by the short-lived illness have responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered on board the ship."
Typically spread very easily by infected people or contaminated
food or water, norovirus is the most common cause of acute
gastrointestinal illness in the United States, according to the
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