Health Highlights: March 30, 2012

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

New York Bans Sale of Synthetic Marijuana Products

The sale of synthetic marijuana products has been banned in New York state.

The products -- which are sold in locations such as convenience stores and smoke shops -- have been linked to severe health problems and death, the Associated Press reported.

The state order issued Thursday called for an immediate halt to the sale and distribution of the products. Local health officials will check stores to ensure they're complying with the order.

Synthetic marijuana products contain chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and produce a high when smoked, the AP reported.


U.S. Announces New Policy for Potentially Dangerous Research

The U.S. government is tightening its oversight of scientific research involving dangerous germs that could pose a biosecurity threat if the research is ever misused.

The new policy announced Thursday comes in the wake of a controversy over recent experiments in the United States and the Netherlands that created easier-to-spread versions of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, the Associated Press reported.

The policy -- posted on the National Institutes of Health biosecurity website -- outlines how scientists and government agencies can determine which projects raise particular concerns about biosecurity and how to carefully manage risks from the research.

In related news, biosecurity advisers to the federal government began a two-day meeting Thursday to discuss whether the public should ever be given the full details of the H5N1 bird flu virus experiments, the AP reported.


Transplant Organ Storage Fluid Recalled

A worldwide recall of fluid used to store organs for potential transplants was announced Thursday by U.S. pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers-Squibb.

There are concerns the fluid, called Viaspan, could be contaminated with bacteria. The problem was detected March 19 at a third-party manufacturing facility in Austria, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We are urgently investigating the cause of this issue," the company said in a statement. "BMS has notified all health authorities in countries where the product is distributed and will provide further updates as the investigation progresses."

There is no evidence of actual contamination and the recall was announced as a precautionary measure, company spokesman Ken Dominski told AFP.


Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements Focus of FDA Meeting

The risks and benefits of metal-on-metal hip replacements will be discussed at a two-day meeting of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration expert advisory panel meeting.

The June 27-28 meeting is being held to gather input from experts and patients. The FDA is currently considering whether to require more rigorous testing and pre-market review requirements for this type of hip replacement.

In May 2011, the FDA told manufacturers of metal-on-metal hip systems to conduct post-market surveillance studies to collect more safety data on the systems, including data related to metal ion concentrations in the bloodstream.

The FDA's concerns about the safety of the hip systems were heightened by a recent study that found an increasing failure rate in models with large-diameter femoral heads.

"We are asking outside scientific and medical experts to discuss recent information on these devices so that the agency can continue to make reliable safety recommendations to patients and their health care providers," Dr. William Maisel, deputy director of science at FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an agency news release.


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