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Health Headlines - February 17

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Bogus Internet Drugs Contained Powerful Antipsychotic: FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reiterating warnings about buying drugs over the Internet after the agency learned that a number of Americans who ordered certain drugs online (Ambien, Ativan, Lexapro, and Xanax) instead received products that initial tests indicate contain a powerful antipsychotic drug called haloperidol.

Haloperidol can cause agitation, sedation and muscle spasms and stiffness. There have been several reports of people in the United States who've sought emergency medical treatment for symptoms such as breathing problems, muscle spasms and stiffness after using the suspect medications they bought over the Internet, the FDA said.

The origin of these potentially dangerous drugs is unknown, but the packages were postmarked in Greece. The consumers in these cases identified a number of Web sites where the drugs were purchased and the FDA said it has launched an investigation.

However, due to the deceptive practices used by these outfits, it may be difficult to identify the vendors of the bogus drugs, the agency said.

Consumers should review information on the FDA Web site before they buy any drugs over the Internet, the agency said.

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Roche Seeks Approval of Child-Sized Tamiflu Capsules

Drug maker Roche Holding AG is seeking European and U.S. approval for smaller child-sized capsules of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, considered a front-line defense against a bird flu-triggered pandemic.

The Swiss drug company has filed an application with the European Medicines Agency for approval of two smaller capsules (30 mg and 45 mg) and said it will soon seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the Associated Press reported.

Currently approved Tamiflu capsules are 75 mg. There is a liquid Tamiflu available for children, but Roche said the smaller capsules will be easier to use and have a longer shelf life than the liquid.

The lower-dose capsules were designed primarily for children, but Roche said they will also be useful in the elderly and other adults who have trouble swallowing the 75 mg capsule, the AP reported.

Experts believe that if patients infected with the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus are given Tamiflu within two days of the onset of symptoms, they have a much better chance of survival. Many countries are stockpiling Tamiflu in preparation for a possible pandemic.

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FDA Approves Laser Treatment for Hair Loss

A handheld laser device designed to treat hair loss has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Florida company that makes the Hairmax Lasercomb said 26-week trials found that the device does increase the numbers of thick hairs on the scalp, the Associated Press reported.

Lexington International LLC said its device combines a low-level laser with a comb. When it's drawn through the hair, the laser affects the scalp in way that promotes hair growth.

According to the company, the Hairmax Lasercomb is the only FDA-approved drug-free product for home use in fighting hair loss. The device sells for $54 on the Web, the AP reported.

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New Human Bird-Flu Cases in Egypt and Turkey

Egypt has reported that another person has died from H5N1 bird flu, the 13th death in that country.

The latest victim was a 37-year-old woman from Fayyum province, south of Cairo, who was admitted to a hospital Monday complaining of a high fever and bronchitis, Agence France Presse reported. The woman was treated with Tamiflu before she died.

Before this case, the last person to die in Egypt from bird flu was a teenage girl who was also from Fayyum.

Egyptian health ministry officials also reported that a 5-year-old child from the Sharqiya governorate north of Cairo had been diagnosed with bird flu. That's the 22nd case of bird flu in humans in Egypt, the hardest-hit country outside of Asia, AFP reported.

In related news, the second person this week with suspected bird flu has been hospitalized in Turkey, and bird flu has hit poultry in four new areas of the country. This latest case involves a man who became sick after contact with wild ducks.

On Wednesday, a woman with suspected bird flu was hospitalized. The woman is from the southeast province of Diyarbakir, where the H5N1 virus reappeared last week in poultry, AFP reported.

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Many Workers Hide Depression From Employers: Survey

Many American and Canadian workers feel they must hide their depression because they fear their careers would suffer if employers found out about their illness, suggests a poll released Thursday at an international seminar on mental health in Washington, D.C.

The Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,000 adult Americans and 1,000 adult Canadians found that about 80 percent of workers diagnosed with depression said they believed their careers would be damaged if their bosses knew about it, CBC News reported.

The survey also found that 15 percent of American workers and 11 percent of Canadian workers said they'd been diagnosed with depression, and about 22 percent in Canada and 21 percent in the U.S. said they believe they have depression but haven't been properly diagnosed with the condition.

About 84 percent of the respondents said companies should make helping workers with depression a priority, CBC News reported.

In Canada and the U.S., mental illness is estimated to cost businesses more than $300 billion a year in lost productivity and disability.

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Many Black Breast Cancer Survivors Underestimate Recurrence Risk

Many black breast cancer survivors at increased risk for hereditary breast cancer don't believe that they have a heightened risk of recurrence, says a University of Pennsylvania study in the February issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Researchers interviewed 95 black women with a personal and family history of breast cancer and found that 53 percent of them believed they had the same or lower risk of developing breast cancer again compared to other women, while 47 percent said they felt they had a higher or much higher risk.

Women with higher levels of education were more likely to believe that they had a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence, the study found.

"Having a personal and family history of breast cancer are known risk factors for breast cancer, and it is surprising and worrisome that most of these women with such a history don't recognize that risk," study lead author Dr. Chanita Hughes Halbert, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Community and Minority Cancer Control Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, said in a prepared statement.

The findings suggest that it's important to ensure that black women understand their risk of developing cancer. Genetic counseling that addresses cultural beliefs and values may be one way to achieve that, the researchers said.

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