Health Highlights: April 9, 2015

Health Highlights: April 9, 2015

Health Highlights: April 9, 2015

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

Vitamin Shoppe Pulls Dietary Supplements Containing Speed-Like Drug

Dietary supplements with a speed-like substance have been pulled from its shelves, Vitamin Shoppe said Wednesday.

The national vitamin store chain took the action after a new study found that the supplements labeled as containing a shrub called Acacia rigidula actually contained a compound called BMPEA, ABC News reported.

BMPEA -- stimulant originally created in the 1930s as a replacement for amphetamines -- is not a regulated drug and has never been studied in humans.

The study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis found that 11 of 21 dietary supplement brands labeled as containing Acacia rigidula actually contained BMPEA. The supplements claimed to help with weight loss, cognitive function and athletic performance, ABC News reported.

"If these findings are confirmed by the FDA, these products should not be sold as dietary supplements," Vitamin Shoppe said in a news release.

"There's an unbelievably potent stimulant, a close relative, a brother of amphetamines -- that's found in multiple different brands of supplements," study author Dr. Pieter Cohen, a professor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News.

"But much more alarming than this is that even though the FDA has known about this for the last two years, they have done absolutely nothing to remove these supplements from the market," he added.


Ninth Minnesota Turkey Farm Hit by Bird Flu

A form of bird flu that's deadly to poultry has struck a ninth Minnesota turkey farm.

Tests confirmed the presence of the H5N2 strain of bird flu on the Jennie-O-Turkey Store facility that has 310,000 turkeys, company and federal officials said Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

It's the same strain that has infected eight other turkey farms in Minnesota, which is the top turkey-producing state in the country. About 373,000 turkeys on those farms either died from the disease or were killed to prevent the virus from spreading.

Officials say there is no danger to the food supply and the risk to the public is low, the AP reported.


Veterans Still Face Long Waits at VA Facilities

The number of veterans facing long waits for health care at Veterans Affairs facilities has not decreased in the year since the problem first became public, even though the VA introduced major reforms months ago.

Since the summer, the number of veterans' medical appointments delayed 30 to 90 days has stayed about the same, while the number of appointments delayed more than 90 days has nearly doubled, according to the Associated Press.

Between Aug. 1 and Feb. 28, nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities did not meet the VA's goal of patients being seen within 30 days, which means that about one in 36 patient visits involved a delay of at least a month.

There were delays of more than 60 days in nearly 232,000 of the 894,000 appointments, the AP reported.

VA officials noted that new facilities are being built and more staff are being hired, with 8,000 new employees added between April and December. They also noted that the number of appointments at VA facilities rose 4.5 percent between May and February compared to the same period a year earlier, and referrals to private sector doctors are increasing, the AP reported.

However, total enrollees in the VA system have climbed from 6.8 million in 2002 to 8.9 million in 2013.

"I think what we are seeing is that as we improve access, more veterans are coming," Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson told the AP.

"We are doing a whole series of things -- the right things, I believe -- to deal with the immediate issue," he said. "But we need an intermediate term plan that moves us ahead a quantum leap, so that we don't continue over the next three or four years just trying to stay up. We've got to get ahead of demand."


Gay 'Conversion' Therapy Should be Banned: Obama

So-called conversion therapy meant to change the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender youth is wrong and should be banned, President Barack Obama says.

He outlined his views in a statement posted Wednesday evening alongside a petition launched in honor of 17-year-old transgender youth Leelah Alcorn, The New York Times reported.

Last December, Alcorn stepped in front of tractor-trailer after writing an online suicide note saying that religious therapists had tried to convert her back to being a boy.

Conversion or reparative therapy is supported by some socially conservative groups and religious doctors. The petition against it has received more than 120,000 signatures in three months, The Times reported.

"We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth," says Obama's statement, written by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

"As part of our dedication to protecting America's youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors," the statement continues.

Obama will not seek a federal law banning conversion therapy. Instead, he will support efforts to ban the therapy at the state level, The Times reported.

California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia do not allow therapists to offer the treatment to minors. Similar laws were introduced in 18 states this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group that monitors legislation on the issue.

The group said legal challenges to the New Jersey and California laws were rejected by federal appeals court judges in 2013 and 2014, The Times reported.

"So-called 'conversion therapy' is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement.


Lawsuit Alleges HIV/AIDS Foundation Cheated Medicare

A lawsuit accuses a leading care provider for HIV/AIDS patients of cheating Medicare and Medicaid out of $20 million in a 12-state scam.

The legal action against Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation was filed last week by three former managers. They allege that the company paid staff and patients kickbacks for patient referrals in an effort to get more funding from federal health programs, the Associated Press reported.

The kickbacks allegedly began in 2010 in California and then spread to Florida and several other locations.

The company, which cares for more than 400,000 patients in 36 countries, is leading a mass HIV testing program to identify and treat about 25 million people who don't know they are infected, the AP reported.

Small incentives for connecting people to services and keeping them there are "mainstays of public health interventions," according to AHF President Michael Weinstein.

"Not only has AIDS Healthcare Foundation done nothing wrong, our pro-active approach to finding and linking HIV-positive individuals to lifesaving care and treatment is critical to stopping HIV in this country," Weinstein said in a statement, the AP reported.

The federal government and state of Florida did not get involved in the lawsuit, which "speaks volumes about the merits of the case," he said.


Sabra Hummus Products Recalled

About 30,000 cases of hummus products are being recalled by Sabra Dipping Co. due to possible listeria contamination.

The company said the recall includes five SKUs of Classic Hummus sold nationwide, ABC News reported.

The potential contamination was discovered March 30 in a random sample of a Sabra hummus product bought at a store in Michigan. No illnesses linked with the recalled products have been reported, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers can return the recalled products to the place of purchase for a full refund, ABC News reported.
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