Health Highlights: Aug. 29, 2013

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

Tylenol to Come With New Warning

Caps on bottles of the popular pain reliever Tylenol that are sold in the United States will soon come with warnings alerting consumers to the potential for liver failure and even death, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The warning will state that Tylenol's active ingredient is acetaminophen, the nation's leading cause of sudden liver failure. The new cap is designed to alert consumers who may not read similar warnings that already appear in small print on the product's label, the AP said.

In addition to Tylenol, acetaminophen is contained in more than 600 over-the-counter products used by nearly one in four American adults every week. Those other products include such popular brands as Nyquil cold formula, Excedrin pain tablets and Sudafed sinus pills, the AP reported.

Tylenol's maker, Johnson & Johnson, said the warning will appear on the cap of each new bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol sold in the United States starting in October, and on most other Tylenol bottles in coming months, the news service said.

Overdoses from acetaminophen send an estimated 55,000 to 80,000 people to U.S. emergency rooms every year and kill at least 500 people, according to the federal health officials.


NFL, Former Players Agree to Settle Concussion Lawsuit

The National Football League has agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 former players with dementia and other health problems. The recipients will also include families of ex-players who died from what the families claimed were the effects of head injuries, The New York Times reported Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said Thursday that she was told by Layn Phillips, a court-appointed mediator, that the money would be used for medical exams, concussion-related compensation and medical research for retired players and their families, the Times reported.

Brody still must approve the settlement, which has yet to be filed.

The Times said the money, which may not be dispersed for months, will be available to all eligible retired players, not just those who filed the lawsuit. The players will have an opportunity to opt out of the deal.

The plaintiffs include Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowler Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.

Individual awards would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer's disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain; and $3 million for players with dementia, The Associated Press reported.


Gay Couples Under Medicare Should Have Equal Access to Nursing Home: HHS

In what U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius calls her department's first response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian Medicare recipients will now have equal coverage for and access to the nursing home where their spouse already resides.

"Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation," Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in an agency news release.

"Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose," Tavenner explained.

In the past, a senior covered by Medicare Advantage who had a same-sex spouse often had to face difficult choices when it came time for nursing home care. According to the HHS news release, some may have had to accept care at a separate nursing home facility from where their loved one was receiving care. Or, if they wanted to reside at the same facility, they might have to drop out of Medicare and pay the cost out-of-pocket.

"HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court's decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs," Sebelius said. "Today's announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court's decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law."


Men Just as Likely to Suffer Depression as Women: Study

A new study counters the common wisdom that women are more likely to experience depression compared to men. The research finds that when differences in symptoms are factored in, males may suffer from depression even more often than females.

Reporting in the Aug. 28 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, a team from the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University tested the usefulness of a symptom "checklist" tailored to both men and women. On top of established symptoms of depression such as sadness, insomnia and feelings of guilt or unworthiness, the team added symptoms more typically seen in men, such as outbursts of anger, substance abuse and "risk-taking behavior."

They used the new diagnostic criteria to assess rates of depression in nearly 5,700 adults who had taken part in a long-term study of mental health.

The researchers found that 30.6 percent of men and 33.3 percent of women had experienced depression at some point in their lives, the Los Angeles Times reported. The researchers then assessed people using the "male symptoms scale" and found that the number of depressed men exceeded that of women, at 26.3 percent and 21.9 percent, respectively.

"These findings could lead to important changes in the way depression is conceptualized and measured," the study authors said.

"When it comes to depression in men, to some extent we have blinders on," Dr. Andrew Leuchter, a psychiatrist who studies depression at UCLA, told the Times. "We have not been asking about and taking into account a range of symptoms that may be gender-specific."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

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