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Health Headlines - January 5

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Diabetes Drug Reactions Reported

Patients taking two widely used diabetes drugs have reported blurry vision and swelling of the legs and feet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday.

In a letter to doctors, the company said it has received "very rare" reports of new or worsening diabetic macular edema in diabetic patients who have taken Avandia or Avandamet. The swelling of the portion of the retina most important for sight can cause blurry or distorted vision, the Associated Press reported.

Most of those patients also reported peripheral edema, or swelling of the legs, ankles and feet, the company said in a letter sent last month to doctors.

"In some cases, the macular edema resolved or improved following discontinuation of therapy and in one case, macular edema resolved after dose reduction," the FDA said in its own letter.

Avandia and Avandamet both contain the drug rosiglitazone. More than 6 million people worldwide have taken the drugs.

U.S. Chicken Flocks to be Tested for Bird Flu

Nearly all chicken flocks in the United States will be tested for avian flu before slaughter, the National Chicken Council said Thursday.

The testing has been agreed to by companies that produce more than 90 percent of U.S. poultry, and more companies are expected to sign on to the program, the Associated Press reported.

The program, which will be paid for by the industry, will test 11 birds from each flock or farm. Samples from the birds will be tested at state or industry-certified laboratories.

If a test indicates the presence of avian flu, and that's confirmed by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the flock will be destroyed on the farm and none of the birds from the farm will enter the food chain, the AP reported.

About 150,000 chicken flocks are produced in the United States each year, and tests for bird flu will be conducted on about 1.6 million chickens a year.

CDC Releases New Birth Defect Estimates

Cleft lip and cleft palate (orofacial clefts) are the most common kind of birth defect in the United States, affecting about 6,800 babies a year, according to new government statistics.

Down syndrome is the second most common birth defect, affecting about 5,500 infants a year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national population-based estimates for 18 major birth defects, which are published in the Jan. 6 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Among the 18 kinds of birth defects, each of 10 of those birth defects affected more than 1,000 babies each year.

"Birth defects are a leading cause of death in the first year of life. With more accurate estimates of how often and where birth defects are occurring, we can better plan for and address the health and education needs of children with birth defects," Jose Cordero, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a prepared statement.

The new national estimates are based on data from the 11 states that review hospital records and identify babies with the 18 major birth defects. The 11 states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. Overall, birth defects affect an estimated 3 percent of babies born in the United States.

More Americans Have Living Wills: Poll

The number of Americans who have a living will has more than doubled since 1990, says a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The poll of 1,500 adults conducted in early November 2005 found that 29 percent of people had wills that specified what kind of end-of-life medical treatment they wanted if they weren't able to communicate their wishes. That number was 12 percent in 1990, the Associated Press reported.

The poll also found that 69 percent of married people had talked with their spouses about their wishes for end-of-life care, compared with about 50 percent in 1990. Seventy percent of the respondents said patients should sometimes be allowed to die, and 22 percent said doctors should always try to save a patient's life.

While the respondents were evenly split over the issue of doctor-assisted suicide, a large majority of them said they supported laws that allowed people to make their own decisions about whether they should be kept alive through artificial measures, the AP reported.

The increase in living wills is likely due to an aging population and the fact that more people are having to deal with end-of-life situations, said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

Roche Increases Tamiflu Shipments to U.S. Regions Hard Hit by Flu

Parts of several U.S. Western and Midwestern states that have been hard hit by the flu started receiving increased shipments of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The boost in shipments of Tamiflu to wholesalers in these areas will continue as long as there is demand for the drug, said Hoffman-La Roche, the U.S. subsidiary of Tamiflu manufacturer Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Tamiflu is designed to treat the most common strains of influenza types A and B and is approved in the United States for flu treatment and prevention in adults and children aged one year and older.

Last fall, stockpiling and increased demand for Tamiflu prompted Roche to temporarily stop some shipments. The rush to get the drug was prompted by fears about a potential avian flu pandemic, the AP reported.

While Tamiflu is not approved to treat avian flu, it has shown to be effective in some people infected with the bird flu virus.

FDA Orders Closer Look at ADHD Drug Risks

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants more research into the cardiovascular risks posed by drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The action was prompted by reports of sudden deaths, heart attacks, strokes and hypertension in children and adults taking the drugs.

The FDA has requested its Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory committee to consider how to further study the potential cardiovascular risks of ADHD drugs, the Associated Press reported. The advisory committee will meet Feb. 9 and 10.

Previous research into long-term use of ADHD drugs don't offer enough information about such risks, the FDA said. It says it has received reports of "serious adverse events" (including deaths) associated with the use of the drugs. The FDA didn't identify any specific ADHD drugs. Adderall XR and Ritalin are the most commonly used ADHD drugs in the U.S.

"The issue of drug treatment of attention deficit disorder in children has been a controversial one without this issue of cardiovascular risk too. It adds another concern to what will certainly be an interesting conversation," Arthur Levin, the FDA committee's consumer representative, told the AP.

Food Fact:
Buy local produce.

It's not only a matter of hometown pride -- it's a way to maximize nutritional benefit. When produce in the grocery store has traveled a great distance, nutrients break down due to exposure to light, time, etc. Your next best bet is frozen fruit and vegetables; freezing preserves the nutrients.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Prime exercise time.

You can burn a lot of calories watching sports on TV. Or a movie, or a game show or anything else -- just park a high-quality exercise bike, treadmill or stair climber in front of the tube and exercise away. You'll never even notice how hard you worked, and whatever you spend on the equipment can be more cost-effective than a gym membership you never use.

FAQ of the day:
Is cheese a good source of protein?

Cheese is a good source of protein, but so what? Most Americans get more than enough protein. A much larger problem is that we get too much saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol and contributes to heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer. A grilled cheese sandwich made with 1 1/2 oz. of cheddar cheese provides 10 grams of protein (about 20% of a 150-lb. person's daily needs) but also 9 grams of saturated fat (about 40% of the upper limit for a person who consumes 2,000 calories a day). Low-fat and fat-free dairy is a better bet.
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