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Harvard Reviews of Health News


Harvard News ReviewsA team of Harvard physicians reviews health news headlines 24/7/365, and creates commentary and provides advice on how a consumer should react to the news. For urgent breaking health news, articles are written within 6-18 hours of the news story’s first appearance. If desired, they can be delivered immediately upon completion. Over 200 new articles are written annually.

Acetaminophen Link to Liver Failure Varies by Country

In 7 European countries, overdoses of a common painkiller cause one-fifth of all cases of liver failure that require a transplant, a study finds. But this is much more common in some countries than others. Researchers found 600 cases of short-term (acute) liver failure that led to liver transplants in a 3-year period in these countries. Of these, 111 were caused by an overdose of paracetamol. This is the drug known as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics) in the United States. It is safe to use in recommended doses. But it can cause liver failure in large doses, especially when combined with alcohol. In this study, two-thirds of the overdoses were suicide attempts. Overdose rates varied widely from country to country. Paracetamol overdose caused 52% of the cases of liver failure leading to transplant in Ireland, but only 1% in Italy.

Fewer Hospitals Give Formula to New Moms

About one-third of U.S. hospitals still send formula home with new mothers even if they are breastfeeding, a new study shows. But the practice has become much less common in the last few years, the study found. The study was based on a national survey of hospitals and birth centers. In 2007, 73% of hospitals reported that they sent breastfeeding mothers home with formula for their babies. That fell to 32% in 2013. The study author said this is an encouraging trend. Doctors recommend that babies receive only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. But this happens for only 19% of babies born in the United States. Women who give their babies some formula are less likely to stick with breastfeeding. The journal Pediatrics published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it May 26.  

Hospice May Aid Some Depressed Survivors

Hospice programs may help some surviving spouses deal with depression, a new study suggests. The study was based on a national survey of 1,016 older adults whose spouses died after a serious illness. Researchers also used Medicare records. About 30% of those who died had received hospice care for at least 3 days. Overall, 52% of surviving spouses had an increase in depression symptoms over time. This was true whether they had been involved with hospice or not. Depression symptoms improved for about 28% of hospice users' survivors and 22% of those not involved with hospice. Researchers also looked just at survivors who had been primary caregivers. Results were similar. These differences were small enough that they could have been the result of chance. Then researchers adjusted the numbers based on other information.

Harvard Reviews of Health News

In 7 European countries, overdoses of a common painkiller cause one-fifth of all cases of liver failure that require a transplant, a study finds. But this is much more common in some countries than others. Researchers found 600 cases of short-term (acute) liv...

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