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Health Highlights: Oct. 23, 2013

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

Ob/Gyns Change Pregnancy Length Definitions

New definitions of preterm and full term pregnancies have been released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Until now, a baby was considered preterm if born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and full term if born anytime from 37 to 42 weeks, the Associated Press reported.

The new definitions are: early term, between 37 weeks and 38 weeks 6 days; full term, between 39 weeks and 40 weeks 6 days; late term, the 41st week; post term, after 42 weeks. On average, a pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.

The updated classifications were published Tuesday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The new definition of a full term pregnancy is meant to reflect the fact that even at the end of the last trimester, a bit more time in the womb can benefit a baby's development and health.

"Weeks matter," Dr. Jeffrey Ecker of Massachusetts General Hospital, chair of the ACOG committee that came up with the more specific labels, told the AP. Since babies' outcomes can differ, "let's not call it all the same," he said.

In recent years, experts have emphasized that that elective deliveries -- inductions and cesarean sections scheduled without a medical reason -- shouldn't be performed before the 39th week of pregnancy. Studies show that infants born at 37 weeks have a higher risk of complications, such as difficulty breathing, than those born just two weeks later.

The new definitions were welcomed by the March of Dimes, which said they will eliminate "confusion about how long an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy should last," the AP reported.

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Sterile Products From Michigan Compounding Pharmacy Recalled

Certain sterile human and veterinary products are being recalled by a compounding pharmacy in Michigan after unidentified particulate matter was found in one of the products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The recalled products were produced by Specialty Medicine Compounding Pharmacy and distributed to hospitals and patients in Michigan between July 1 and Oct. 19, 2013. None of the recalled products were distributed outside of the state.

The FDA said that any sterile product from the company should not be used or given to patients or animals. Hospitals, health care providers, veterinarians and patients who have received any sterile products produced by Specialty Medicine should immediately stop using the products, quarantine them, and return them to the company.

For more information, contact Specialty Medicine Compounding Pharmacy at 248-446-2643.

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Experimental Hepatitis C Drug More Effective Than Current Treatments: FDA

An experimental hepatitis C drug appears to be slightly more effective than current treatments, but can cause rash and sunburn in some patients, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.

It was posted online ahead of a public meeting Thursday where an FDA panel of outside experts will decide whether to recommend approval of the Johnson & Johnson drug simeprevir, the Associated Press reported.

The drug cured 80 percent of hepatitis C patients who had not previously been treated for the disease, according to the FDA review. Drugs currently used to treat the blood-borne virus cure 65 to 75 percent of patients after a year of treatment.

More than 3 million people in the United States have hepatitis C, which is linked to 15,000 deaths a year, the AP reported.


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