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Health Headlines - February 27

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:22pm

Drug-Resistant TB Cases at Record High

Cases of multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis around the world have reached a new high, according to a World Health Organization survey of more than 90,000 TB patients in 81 countries.

Patients with MDR-TB don't respond to the standard six months of treatment and must take more expensive and toxic drugs for up to two years, BBC News reported. The survey also found that virtually untreatable MDR-TB is present in 45 countries.

The findings surprised the WHO, which called for a major boost in efforts to fight drug-resistant TB.

"TB drug resistance needs a frontal assault," said Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department, BBC News reported. "If countries and the international community fail to address it aggressively now, we will lose this battle."

Along with specifically targeting drug-resistant TB, "programs worldwide must immediately improve their performance in diagnosing all TB cases rapidly and treating them until cured, which is the best way to prevent the development of drug resistance," Raviglione said.

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FDA Warns About Allergic Reactions Caused by Denture Cleansers

Allergic reactions to denture cleansers have killed one person and sickened 72 others, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday. In some of those cases, consumers misused the products.

InformatIon posted on the agency's Web site said a bleach called persulfate -- an ingredient in the cleansers -- caused the allergic reactions. The FDA said doctors and patients need to know the symptoms of an allergic reaction and to use the cleansers as directed, Bloomberg News reported.

The FDA said the person who died and some of those who became sick misused the denture cleansers.

"Some patients have gargled or swallowed it, resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting, seizure, hypotension and difficulty breathing," the agency noted. But it added that some people who suffered allergic reactions did use the cleansers as directed, Bloomberg News reported.

All makers of denture cleansers should add a warning about the risk of allergic reactions and include better patient instructions on package labeling, the FDA said.

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Canada Confirms Another Case of Mad Cow Disease

Another case of mad cow disease has been confirmed in a six-year-old diary cow from Alberta, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). No part of the cow's carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems, the agency said.

Officials didn't reveal exactly where the cow came from in Alberta but said its age and location are consistent with previous cases, the Canadian Press reported.

This is the 12th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) confirmed in Canada since the first one was discovered in a cow from Alberta in May 2003.

The CFIA said this latest case won't affect the country's surveillance and eradication program for BSE, the CP reported.

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Heart Disease Kills Millions of Europeans a Year

More than two million people in Europe die of heart disease each year and more needs to be done to improve prevention and reduce death rates, according to a study presented Tuesday to deputies in the European Parliament Heart Group.

The statistical study by the European Society of Cardiology and the European Heart Network found huge variations across Europe in death rates for coronary artery disease and stroke, Agence France-Presse reported. The death rates in eastern and northern Europe are five to seven times higher than in western Europe.

The study also found that heart disease cost the European Union $285 million in 2006. This included direct health care expenses, lost productivity, and informal patient care provided by family and friends. The researchers estimated that heart disease resulted in a per capita cost of $581.

"Premature death and suffering from CVD (cardiovascular disease) is largely avoidable," and successful strategies used by western European countries to reduce heart disease death rates should be extended through Europe, said Susanne Longstrup of the European Heart Network, AFP reported.

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Pfizer Halts Lipitor Ads Featuring Dr. Jarvik

The ad campaign for the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor that features artificial heart pioneer Dr. Robert Jarvik has been halted by drug maker Pfizer. A U.S. Congressional committee examining consumer drug advertising has been looking into whether the ads misrepresented Jarvik and his credentials.

Jarvik has a medical degree, but isn't a cardiologist and isn't licensed to practice medicine, The New York Times reported. In addition, former colleagues of Jarvik complained that the ads erroneously identified Jarvik as the "inventor of the artificial heart." Pfizer subsequently changed the ads to identify him as inventor of the Jarvik heart, the newspaper said.

One of the ads depicted Jarvik as a skilled rower skimming across a mountain lake. But the ad featured a body double for Jarvik, who doesn't row, the Times reported.

"The way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world -- cardiovascular disease," Ian Read, Pfizer's president of worldwide operations, said in a prepared statement.

Read said Pfizer would be committed to "greater clarity" in its advertising in the future, the Times reported.

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NOAA Launches Seafood Web Site for Consumers

A new U.S. government Web site called FishWatch provides consumers with information about sustainable, safe and healthy seafood.

"Consumers are rightfully confused given all the misleading and conflicting information available to them, but FishWatch will help them become better educated and prepared seafood consumers," Conrad C. Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a prepared statement.

The site (FishWatch.noaa.gov) provides information on about 50 of the most commonly harvested and farmed seafood species available in the United States. There's also information about seafood and human health, including facts about mercury and tips on selecting, buying, storing and preparing seafood to ensure quality and safety.

Information on FishWatch comes from a variety of NOAA sources, including stock assessments, fisheries surveys, environmental analyses and cooperative research. The site was launched at the International Seafood Show in Boston.

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