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Study Finds Hormone Useful In Preventing Premature Births


Obstetricians have identified the first medical treatment that can prevent pre-term births in many high-risk pregnant women, a discovery that could halt the spiraling increase in early deliveries in the United States.

A nationwide team of researchers has found that administering a form of the hormone progesterone weekly during the later stages of pregnancy can reduce pre-term births by a third.

The drug proved so effective that the clinical trial was halted early to provide the treatment to all participants, Dr. Paul J. Meis of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center told a San Francisco meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Thursday. He and his associates have already begun using the drug for high-risk women in their regular practice, Meis said.

Doctors were particularly excited because the treatment worked as well for blacks, who are 50 percent more likely to suffer pre-term births, as for whites.

One in every eight babies in the United States, or about 476,000 per year, is now born prematurely -- before the 37th week of gestation -- a proportion that has grown 27 percent over the past two decades. The increasing age of mothers and use of in vitro fertilization, which often leads to multiple births, is a major risk factor for premature births.

Justice Department Revises Guidelines for Corporate Crime


The Justice Department has issued new guidelines for bringing criminal charges against corporations, emphasizing that it wants “genuine” cooperation from businesses in high-profile investigations.

“Too often business organizations, while purporting to cooperate with a Department investigation, in fact take steps to impede the quick and effective exposure of the complete scope of wrongdoing,” Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson wrote in a Jan. 20 memo to federal prosecutors nationwide.

Some defense lawyers and business groups fear the policy will force companies to waive attorney-client confidentiality in exchange for leniency from prosecutors, leading businesses to release documents that could expose them to shareholder lawsuits.

“This is the most critical issue in the relationship between corporations and government today,” said George Terwilliger III, who was deputy attorney general in the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Terwilliger said that even when companies want to help the government and turn over the results of internal investigations, courts have found that legal advice and other related materials can later be made available to plaintiffs’ lawyers, leaving a company open to potentially serious civil liability.