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Health Headlines - August 4

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Drug Companies Adopting New Ad Guidelines

Commercials for prescription medications should clearly reveal a medication's risks and encourage patients to talk with their doctor about drugs they are taking, according to new guidelines introduced Tuesday by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

The guidelines, unveiled at a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America in Dallas, say drug companies should have time to properly educate health professionals about new medications before direct-to-consumer ad campaigns are introduced, according to the Associated Press.

The new rules also suggest that the companies expeditiously clear ads with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are broadcast. Critics have complained that by the time drug ads are deemed misleading by the FDA, the offending ads often have stopped running, the wire service said.

But the new code doesn't contain specific measures suggested by critics, including limits on when "sensitive" medications such as those to treat erectile dysfunction could be advertised, the AP reported.

Last year, the U.S. drug industry spent $4.02 billion on ads, a jump of 23 percent from 2003, the AP said. Critics say these expensive campaigns encourage people to take medications that they don't need.

The director of the consumer group Public Citizen issued a statement saying the new guidelines don't go nearly far enough. Dr. Sydney Wolfe said the FDA should step up its regulation of misleading ads, that Congress should levy large fines on companies that violate drug advertising laws, and that the FDA should have the legal authority to approve all TV ads before they air.

Faulty Insulin Pump Adapters Could Cause Overdose

Disetronic Medical Systems says it is voluntarily recalling adapters used with its D-TRONplus insulin pumps, because the adapters could over-deliver the maximum amount of up to 1.8 I.U. of insulin, according to a statement posted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its Web site.

Use of these adapters "may pose a potential life-threatening situation to certain children using the pump," the statement said. The part number is REF 3000803, and affected lots are 4013674 through 4022628. Other adapter lots aren't affected, Disetronic said.

The problem is caused by the sporadic failure of a valve inside the D-TRON adapter to close completely, the company said. This may occur within 15 minutes of replacing the adapter, and may cause the pump to sound an "A-4" alarm as it continues to deliver insulin.

Signs of excessive insulin dosing may include: sweating, thirst, confusion, nausea, and loss of consciousness, the company said. There have been no reports of injury or death associated with these adapters, the Disetronic statement added.

To learn more about the recall, contact Disetronic at 1-800-688-4578.

Too Little Known About Women and Heart Drugs: Report

Heart drugs affect women differently than men and too little is known about the potential risks for women taking such drugs, German researchers write in the latest issue of the European Heart Journal.

Because too few women take part in heart disease studies, there is insufficient information available about potential side effects for women taking heart drugs, BBC News reported of the researchers' conclusions.

For many years, heart disease was incorrectly regarded as a male condition, even though heart disease actually kills more women than breast cancer, the researchers said.

Their analysis of previous studies identified several ways in which women respond differently to heart drugs than men. They said more heart drug studies with women are needed.

"Because too few women participate in heart disease trials we are not sure whether they really benefit from some therapeutic strategies that have shown clinical benefits in trials conducted predominately in men," said research leader Verena Stangl, professor of cardiology at Humboldt University in Berlin.

"So, we prescribe drugs to women adapted from evidence-based data obtained from studies conducted mainly in men and we do not really know whether we help or harm the female patients," Stangl said.

False Food Memories May Encourage Healthier Eating

Planting false unpleasant childhood memories about food may help people lose weight, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

The scientists found that they were able to make strawberry ice cream unappealing to people by manipulating their memories to make them believe that the ice cream made them sick when they were children. The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In previous studies, the researchers used false memories to turn people off pickles and hard-boiled eggs. They also successfully made people feel positive about asparagus by convincing them that they once loved the vegetable, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If this method can be perfected, it may provide a way to get people to eat more fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods and fewer low-nutrient, high- calorie foods, the researchers said.

In this latest study, they gave 47 students false computer analyses that indicated that strawberry ice cream had made them sick when they were children. Of the 47 students, about 20 percent later agreed on a questionnaire that they had, in fact, been made sick by strawberry ice cream and would not eat it anymore, the Times reported.

Beijing Bans Pork Products from Sichuan

Health officials in Beijing have banned the sale of pork products from China's Sichuan province in an attempt to prevent the spread of a deadly pig-borne disease from entering the capital city.

To date, officials have blocked the sale of about 4,000 tons of frozen pork and pork products from Sichuan. Officials in the capital have also taken steps to improve detection and prevention of the disease, believed caused by streptococcus suis bacteria, Agence France-Presse reported.

The efforts include establishment of a notification system on the epidemic between agriculture and health officials, closer surveillance of suspected cases of the disease, and more thorough inspections of pork products.

The pig-borne disease was first identified in June. So far, the epidemic has affected 155 villages and seven cities in the Sichuan province. There have been about 200 confirmed or suspected cases and 36 deaths.

Authorities in Sichuan have ordered an initial batch of between 700,000 to 800,000 does of vaccine to protect pigs. No vaccine has yet been developed for people, AFP reported.

Brain-Dead Woman in Va. Gives Birth

A cancer-ravaged woman robbed of consciousness by a stroke has given birth after being kept on life support for three months to give her fetus extra time to develop.

Susan Torres, whose plight has attracted support from around the world, gave birth to a daughter Tuesday by Caesarean section. The delivery went smoothly and the baby "is doing well," her brother-in-law, Justin Torres, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. Susan Anne Catherine Torres weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces and is 13 1/2 inches long, he said.

Torres, a 26-year-old researcher at the National Institutes of Health, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

The infant is being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, about 100 miles north of Richmond.

A hospital spokeswoman would not comment on whether Susan Torres' life support was still in place.

Jason Torres quit his job to be by his wife's side, spending each night sleeping in a reclining chair next to her bed. Last month, the fetus passed the 24th week of development -— the earliest point at which doctors felt the baby would have a reasonable chance to survive, the brother-in-law said.

Torres was about seven months' pregnant when the child was delivered. Doctors had hoped to hold off on delivering the child until 32 weeks' gestation. A full-term pregnancy is about 40 weeks.

A Web site was set up to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills, and as of two weeks ago, people from around the world had donated around $400,000. The family said it must pay tens of thousands of dollars each week that insurance does not cover.

The couple have one other child -— 2-year-old Peter, who has been staying with his grandparents.

"The entire staff and administration of Virginia Hospital Center, especially the physicians and nurses caring for Susan Torres and Baby Girl Torres, are delighted with the successful delivery," the hospital said in a statement. A spokeswoman declined to release additional details.

Since 1979, there have been at least a dozen similar cases published in English medical literature, said Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, which conducted research on the topic.

Health Tip: Keep Good Posture

Correct sitting and standing posture can help prevent back strain, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

When it comes to sitting:

Sit in chairs with straight backs or low-back support.
Keep your knees a little higher than your hips. Adjust the seat or use a low stool to prop your feet on.
While driving, sit straight and move the seat forward.

And here are some standing suggestions:

When standing for a long period, rest one foot on a low stool to relieve pressure on your lower back.
Switch the foot you're resting on the stool every five to 15 minutes.
Keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line, with your head up and your stomach pulled in.

Health Tip: If You've Got Something in Your Eye

When a particle of dust or other foreign object gets stuck in your eye, don't rub your eye, advises the British Columbia Ministry of Health. This could scratch the cornea.

Here's what you should do:

If you wear contact lenses, take them out before trying to remove the object.
If the particle is over the dark center or colored part of your eye, try gently flushing it out with water. If it doesn't come out, put on dark glasses and get medical help.
If the object is on the white part of your eye or inside the lower lid, use a moistened tissue to gently remove it.
If it is stuck or embedded in the eyeball, cover your eye lightly with a clean dressing and get immediate medical help.

Food Fact:
"Bell" epoque.

Here's a trick for bringing out the rich sweetness in bell peppers. Blacken the peppers under the broiler or on the grill. After broiling or grilling, peel off the pepper skins with a paring knife and use the pepper in sandwiches, pasta sauces, or as an accompaniment to chicken or fish. Whether they're red, green or yellow, bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C -- and a great source of fat-free culinary excitement. Sliced fresh peppers add crunch and color to salads.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Bring the kids!

Your children will pick up your attitudes about exercise -- make it a positive one! If you see exercise as a chore, your children will, too. Think of activities that you can do with your kids. Get them off to a good start -- and off the fast food -- with fun activities that make the whole family more active.

FAQ of the day:
If I have diabetes, should I avoid sugar?

The Nutrition Guidelines of the American Diabetes Association say that reasonable amounts of sugar are OK for people with diabetes, and are no different than any other type of carbohydrate for regulating blood sugar levels. The rise in blood sugar after eating bread, potatoes or rice is actually very similar to what happens after eating an equal amount of carbohydrate as sugar. The presence of protein, fat and soluble fiber will slow the rise in blood sugar from carbohydrates; that's why a mixed meal, say peanut butter on oat-bran bread, is better for regulating blood sugar than jelly on white bread. Keeping a handle on total calories is even more important.
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