Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

EU agency recommends Sanofi, Merck pediatric vaccine

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Medicines Agency recommended approval of Hexyon, a new 6-in-1 pediatric vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a joint venture between Merck <MRK.N> and Sanofi <SASY.PA>, the companies said on Friday. The new vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and invasive infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b.

In U.S., flu vaccine worked in just over half of those who got it

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. government analysis of this season's flu vaccine suggests it was effective in only 56 percent of people who got the shot, and it largely failed to protect the elderly against an especially deadly strain circulating during flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings underscore the need for more effective weapons in the fight against influenza, which kills between 3,000 and 50,000 people in the United States each year depending on the severity of the flu season.

Medicare drug costs to fall in 2014, but donut hole widens

CHICAGO (Reuters) - There will be good and bad news next year for seniors using Medicare's prescription drug program. Overall, enrollees can expect a year of flat or decreasing Medicare prescription drug costs, according to data released last week by the federal government. The government said Medicare's per-beneficiary drug costs fell 4 percent last year. As a result, some of the most important numbers in the program's 2014 Part D will drop by roughly the same amounts.

Most women misunderstand IUD birth control

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a new survey, most women had inaccurate perceptions about the safety and effectiveness of intrauterine devices (IUDs) in preventing pregnancy, say U.S. researchers, who urge doctors to talk more about the benefits of the devices. In particular, many of the study participants didn't know that IUDs are more effective contraceptives than the birth control pill and that the devices don't increase the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease.

Male soccer players more prone to hamstring strains

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men are more likely to strain a hamstring playing college soccer than women, according to a new analysis of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) injury records. The findings also suggest that games - as compared to practices - and preseason training are the riskiest times for hamstring tears.

Birds Eye recalls UK products after horse DNA find in Belgium

LONDON (Reuters) - Frozen food maker Birds Eye on Friday said it would withdraw some products in Britain and Ireland after it found traces of horse DNA in one of its ready meals sold in Belgium. "Regrettably, we have found one product, chilli con carne, produced for us by Frigilunch N.V. and sold in Belgium, that has tested positive for horse DNA at 2 percent," Birds Eye said in a statement.

Arkansas House approves bill banning abortions at 20 weeks

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to ban abortions at 20 weeks into a pregnancy and a separate measure that, if it becomes law, would be the stiffest abortion restriction in the country. Lawmakers voted 80-10 to pass the 20-week legislation that would only allow exceptions in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.

Elan to return $1 billion to shareholders from multiple sclerosis drug sale

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish drugmaker Elan <ELN.I> will return $1 billion to shareholders, giving them an immediate boost from the sale of its stake in multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment Tysabri to partner Biogen Idec <BIIB.O>. Elan shares climbed over 4 percent following the announcement on Friday, which also reiterated the company's intention to make acquisitions with the rest of the $3.25 billion raised from the deal.

U.S. funds 25 states to test new Medicaid models

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday that it would provide 25 of the 50 states with funding to test new ways to lower costs and improve care within the national Medicaid program for the poor. The first states to receive State Innovation Model awards are Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont, which will implement plans to transform their healthcare delivery system under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, which sets aside $300 million for the overall venture.

Experts issue guidelines for gene tests in kids

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Groups representing pediatricians and geneticists issued new recommendations on Thursday to provide doctors with guidance about when to test a child's DNA for genetic conditions. The recommendations are the first collaboration between the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. Neither organization has issued guidelines for genetic testing of kids in over a decade, according to one of the study's lead authors.