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Health Headlines - April 1

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Brain Scans Predict Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Brain scans can predict which patients suffering from depression will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, a new study says.

Results of the study, by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"We found that people with depression who have increased activity in one area of the brain and decreased activity in another in response to emotional stimuli are more likely to respond to a specific treatment -- cognitive therapy," said Greg J. Siegle, assistant professor of psychiatry at the university.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the brain areas that were active or inactive when exposed to a negative stimulus. While undergoing fMRI, 14 unmedicated participants with depression and 21 control subjects who had never reported symptoms of depression were presented with emotional words and asked if those words applied to them. The participants with depression then completed 16 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy over 12 weeks as part of a larger clinical trial.

The researchers found that compared to the control participants, nine of the people with depression had decreased activity in a region of the brain called the subgenual cingulate cortex after they read negative words. Of those nine, seven recovered from their depressive symptoms after cognitive behavioral therapy, the researchers said.

FDA Approves Generic Capsule Form of HIV/AIDS Drug

The first generic HIV/AIDS drug in capsule form for the U.S. market has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The same drug, zidovudine, already had approval in tablet and oral dosage forms.

The approval of the capsule form of the drug, made by Aurobindo Pharma in India, follows the expiration of GlaxoSmithKline's patent on Retrovir, its brand name form of zidovudine, the FDA said.

"This is a significant generic approval," Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, acting commissioner of the FDA, said in a prepared statement.

"Retrovir, which was initially approved in March, 1987, was the first of a group of breakthrough medications that have transformed what was then a disease with a very dismal prognosis into one with a much more hopeful prognosis. Approval of this additional dosage form of zidovudine should help reduce the cost of this therapy for American patients," von Eschenbach said.

Group Wants Most Consumer Warnings Removed From Drug Ads

A coalition of advertising and public relations groups wants U.S. federal regulators to remove most of the consumer warnings contained in prescription drug ads.

In a petition submitted Friday to the Food and Drug Administration, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication said current prescription drug ads directed at consumers "overwarn and underinform," which results in, "more confusion than communication," the Associated Press reported.

The coalition, which receives some funding from drug companies, represents trade associations that specialize in medical advertising, communications, marketing and publishing.

"Our goal is simpler, clear messages that communicate both the risks and benefits of prescription medicines, more informed doctor-patient dialogue and improved patient compliance," John Kamp, executive director of the coalition, told the AP.

However, a consumer advocate said the coalition is off the mark. Consumer drug ads should contain clearer, not less, information.

"To pull away or remove those fine details, we are against that. I guess we are saying, 'more is better,'" Bill Vaughn, a senior policy analyst at Consumers Union, told the AP.

Companies Sued Over Sun Lotions' Effectiveness

A class action lawsuit launched in Los Angeles against the five leading U.S. makers of sun protection lotions alleges that the companies lied about the effectiveness of their products in blocking harmful sun rays and protecting skin.

The lawsuit names the following brands: Coppertone (Schering-Plough); Banana Boat (Sun Pharmaceuticals and Playtex Products); Hawaiian Tropic (Tanning Research Laboratories); Neutrogena (Neutrogena Corp. and Johnson & Johnson); and Bullfrog (Chattem Inc.).

Combined, they account for 70 percent of U.S. sales of such products, Agence France Presse reported.

Mitchell Twersky, one of the lawyers involved in the legal action, said claims by these brands are "clearly misleading" insofar as they claim that "their products block all the harmful sun rays."

The lawsuit seeks to have words such as "sunblock" and "waterproof" taken off the labels of these products. It also wants the companies that make them to direct "the money that they wrongfully obtained" into a skin cancer research foundation, AFP reported.

Child's Death, Injuries Prompt Recall of Toy Building Kits

A recall of 3.8 million Magnetix toy building kits was announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) after one child died and four others suffered serious injuries from swallowing or inhaling tiny magnets used in the kits.

Overall, the CPSC has received reports of 34 incidents involving the tiny magnets in the Magnetic kits, including the X-treme Combo, Micro and Extreme versions, the Associated Press reported.

The magnets are fitted inside the toy's plastic building pieces and rods but can fall out.

The CPSC said a 20-month-old boy died after he swallowed magnets from a Magnetix kit. The magnets twisted his small intestine and caused a blockage. Three other children who swallowed magnets suffered intestinal perforations, had to have surgery and were hospitalized in intensive care.

Another case involved a five-year-old boy who inhaled two magnets that had to be surgically removed from his lungs, the AP reported.

The toys were sold across the United States at a number of stores, including Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us. The toys were made in China and imported by RoseArt Industries Inc.

Consumers should immediately take the toys away from children and return them to RoseArt for a full refund, the CPSC said. Contact RoseArt at 1-800-272-9667 or go to the company's Web site at

Gene Mutation Linked to Epilepsy

A genetic cause of epilepsy has been identified by U.S. researchers and the discovery could lead to the development of new medicines to treat both epilepsy and autism.

The researchers found a mutation that causes a gene to abnormally produce a protein called CASPR2, which they determined plays an important role in early human brain development, the Associated Press reported.

The genetic mutation was found in Amish children in Pennsylvania who have an epileptic disorder. All the children developed relatively normally until they started to experience frequent seizures in early childhood.

These children later experienced language regression and other characteristics of autism. This suggests that the gene mutation plays a role in autism as well, the AP reported.

The findings appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Food Fact:
Spice up your lunch.

Low-fat doesn't mean low flavor, if you know how to accessorize. Go all out to garnish sandwiches, leftovers, salads and soups with foods that add flavor and nutrition: Dark green lettuces, tomatoes, bell pepper strips, sprouts, shredded cabbage, mandarin oranges, diced mango and more.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Tai chic.

Secrets from the far east can speed healing after a heart attack and help prevent future ones. The ancient Chinese exercise regimen tai chi combines movement, breathing and meditation. It can improve balance, muscular strength and agility; increase energy and range of motion in arthritic joints; reduce stress; promote serenity and lower your blood pressure.

FAQ of the day:
Do I have to give up carbs if my triglycerides are high?

A high level of triglycerides, or blood fats, can contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Weight loss brings down triglyceride levels, so your top priority should be controlling calories. Cutting excess refined carbs is a quick way to cut calories; if you eat lots of sweets, white bread and oversized portions of pasta, cut way back and replace them with fruit, whole-wheat bread and smaller portions of pasta. Then eat lots and lots of vegetables, which help protect you against heart disease. Cut back on artery-clogging saturated fats from meat and dairy or hydrogenated fats from processed foods, and make sure you get some "good" fats. Eating more fatty fish and cooking with a little olive or canola oil will also lower your triglycerides -- as long as you limit overall calories.
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