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Health Highlights: Feb. 26, 2013

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Health Highlights: Feb. 26, 2013

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

All Pediatric Trials of Sensipar Shut Down Following Patient Death

U.S. health officials said Tuesday that they have halted all clinical trials testing the use of the drug Sensipar in children following the death of a teen patient in one of the trials.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that it has not concluded whether the drug, made by Amgen Inc., played a role in the 14-year-old's death.

The agency has approved the use of Sensipar to treat an overactive parathyroid gland, which can lead to brittle bones, kidney stones and abdominal pain. It has been used since 2004 to treat symptoms of chronic kidney disease and parathyroid cancer.

Amgen Inc. had been studying the drug to see if it might work in children, according to the Associated Press.

In a statement, the company said that it "is working as rapidly as possible to understand the circumstances of what happened."

The drug is known to lower calcium levels, sometimes to dangerous levels, the AP reported.

The FDA said in its statement that patients' calcium levels should be monitored monthly, checking for symptoms of calcium deficiency, including cramping, convulsions and burning or prickling sensations. Calcium supplementation should be given if levels drop too low, the agency added.

The most common side effects of the drug in adults include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Ex-Surgeon General Koop Dead at 96

Dr. C. Everett Koop, the influential U.S. Surgeon General who was a vigorous opponent of smoking but was best known for his unvarnished talk about AIDS during the early days of the epidemic, died Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H.

He was 96, officials at Dartmouth University's Geisel School of Medicine in New Hampshire said.

Koop was a pediatric surgeon with a conservative bent who sported an Amish-like beard. He was surgeon general from 1981 to 1989, serving during the Reagan administration and the early months of the administration of George H.W. Bush, USA Today reported.

"Dr. Koop will be remembered for his colossal contributions to the health and well-being of patients and communities in the U.S. and around the world," Chip Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine, and Joseph O'Donnell, senior scholar at the C. Everett Koop Institute, said in a statement. "As one of our country's greatest surgeons general, he effectively promoted health and the prevention of disease, thereby improving millions of lives in our nation and across the globe."

Koop's tenure was marked by a headline-grabbing 1986 report on AIDS. The blunt 36-page report discussed the ways that AIDS spread (through sex, needles and blood), the ways it didn't spread (through casual contact in homes, schools and workplaces) and how people could protect themselves, USA Today reported.

The report was highly controversial among conservatives because it called for condom use for the sexually active and sex education for schoolchildren as early as third grade. An eight-page version of the report was mailed to every U.S. home in 1988. It arrived in a sealed packet with the warning that "some of the issues involved in this brochure may not be things you are used to discussing openly," USA Today reported.

Koop insisted that sexual abstinence and monogamy were the best ways to fight the spread of AIDS. But he also said health experts were obligated to inform the public on proven scientific methods to ward off the disease, the newspaper said.

An evangelical Christian, he dismayed his conservative supporters with his endorsement of condoms and sex education in elementary school to combat AIDS.

"My position on AIDS was dictated by scientific integrity and Christian compassion," Koop wrote in his 1991 biography, Koop: The Memoirs of America's Family Doctor.

Koop, a one-time pipe smoker, also spearheaded a crusade to end smoking in the United States. He said cigarettes were as addictive as heroin and cocaine, the Associated Press reported.

After leaving office, he continued to promote public health causes, from preventing childhood accidents to better training for doctors, the AP reported.

Michelle Obama Highlights Healthy Recipes Initiative

Five media companies and a social media website are collaborating to make it easier for people to find nutritious recipes, Michelle Obama says.

The effort is in support of the first lady's anti-childhood obesity initiative "Let's Move," which marked its third anniversary this month, the Associated Press reported.

Conde Nast, Hearst Magazines, Meredith Corp., the Food Network and Time Inc., have pinpointed more than 3,000 recipes that meet federal nutrition guidelines and are promoting the recipes on their most popular cooking websites. Nearly 1,000 of the recipes have been posted on a new page on the social networking site Pinterest.

Michelle Obama said this new partnership will take the "guess work" out of finding healthy recipes, the AP reported.

Teen Driver Deaths Rose in First Half of 2012: Report

The number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed in the United States was 19 percent higher in the first six months of 2012 than in the first half of 2011, according to a new Governors Highway Safety Association report.

That percentage rise in young teen driver deaths was more than double the 8 percent increase in overall traffic deaths during the same period, USA Today reported.

During the first half of 2012, 240 16- and 17-year-old drivers died, up from 202 deaths a year earlier. Deaths of 16-year-old drivers rose 24 percent to 107 while deaths of 17-year-old drivers increased 15 percent to 133.

In 2011, there was a 3 percent rise in the number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers who died, ending 8 straight years of declines, USA Today reported.

More Men Going Into Nursing: Study

A growing number of American men are going into the nursing profession, a new study says.

It found that the proportion of male registered nurses more than tripled between 1970 and 2011, increasing from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent, USA Today reported.

Over the same period, the proportion of male licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses rose from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent. This group of nurses works under the direction of doctors and registered nurses.

While women account for 91 percent of the nursing workforce, male nurses make more money, the study found. In 2011, male nurses had an average annual income of $60,700 a year, compared with $51,100 for female nurses, USA Today reported.

"A predicted shortage has led to recruiting and retraining efforts to increase the pool of nurses," study author Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau's Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch, said in a news release. "These efforts have included recruiting men into nursing."

Sports Whistles a Threat to Hearing: Study

Whistles may damage referees' hearing, a new study says.

Researchers surveyed 321 sports officials with the Michigan High School Athletic Association and found that nearly half of them reported ringing in the ears (tinnitus) after officiating, The New York Times reported.

Ringing in the ears often goes away but can become permanent if there is repeated exposure to loud noises. Tinnitus can also be a sign of hearing loss.

"Sports officiating cannot be ruled out as a promoter of early hearing impairment," wrote the authors of the study published in the January issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

Whistle volumes range from 104 to 116 decibels at the ear, which means that referees exceed the safe daily noise dose in just 5 to 90 seconds of overall time blowing their whistles during a game, The Times reported.