Sep 8, 2011, 6:15 p.m.

Court tosses Virginia challenge to healthcare law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An appeals court handed President Barack Obama another victory for his signature healthcare law on Thursday, rejecting challenges by the state of Virginia and others seeking to invalidate the law as unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned a lower court judge who had ruled the federal government could not compel people to buy health insurance or face paying a penalty, known as the individual mandate and a critical part of Obama's avowed effort to cut healthcare costs.

Scientists find gene that controls chronic pain

LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have identified a gene responsible for regulating chronic pain, called HCN2, and say their discovery should help drug researchers in their search for more effective, targeted pain-killing medicines. Scientists from Cambridge University said that if drugs could be designed to block the protein produced by the gene, they could treat a type of pain known as neuropathic pain, which is linked to nerve damage and often very difficult to control with currently available drugs.

Kids who live with smokers have more ear infections

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids whose parents smoke are more likely to get ear infections and have hearing problems, according to a new review paper. When moms lit up, kids were also almost twice as likely to need surgery for recurrent ear infections or similar problems, researchers reported.

FDA panel gives nod to Bayer/J&J anti-clot drug

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (Reuters) - A new stroke preventer from Bayer and Johnson & Johnson moved one step closer to U.S. approval, but questions remained about restrictions on labeling and the need for more studies. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 9-2 on Thursday to recommend approval of the once-a-day anti-clotting pill, called Xarelto.

Marijuana use rising in U.S., national survey shows

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Marijuana is increasingly becoming the drug of choice among young adults in the United States, while use of methamphetamines is waning, according to a national survey of drug use released on Thursday. Overall, 8.9 percent of the U.S. population or 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 8.7 percent in 2009 and 8 percent in 2008, according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Mutant genes found for asthma, point to possible therapy

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could help asthma patients, scientists said on Friday, as they identified two mutant genes that may predispose a person to asthma. Over 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and it is the most common chronic disease among children, according to the World Health Organization.

Fewer screening colonoscopies OK for some: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who've had a colonoscopy with no signs of cancer may be able to delay the next one or not have it at all, German researchers suggest. Guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally supported expert panel, currently recommend that people at average risk of colon cancer start screening for the disease at age 50, using one of a number of tests that have all been found to cut the risk of dying from colon cancer.

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