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Health Headlines - June 28

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
Cervical Cancer Vaccine Should be Standard for Young Girls: Panel

The newly approved vaccine to prevent cervical cancer should be a routine shot given to all girls 11 and 12 years old, a panel of experts advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended.

Merck's Gardasil, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 8, prevents infection with the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) that's responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. The cancer can emerge later in life from exposure during the teenage years, the Bloomberg news service reported.

The CDC's advisory panel has submitted a proposal to the agency's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommending the shot for all 11- and 12-year-olds. The committee is set to decide on Thursday whether the CDC should add Gardasil to the list of standard inoculations for teen girls, Bloomberg said. The full agency usually adopts the recommendations of its expert committees.

Girls at that age now typically get a combination vaccine that protects them against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and another against meningitis, Bloomberg said.

Heart Patients Often Become Depressed: Study

Almost half of those who are hospitalized for cardiovascular problems go on to develop depression, new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes.

On the other hand, 80 percent of the heart patients who are treated for depression eventually respond to treatment, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found.

But they warned in Wednesday's issue of the journal that depression among heart patients is underdiagnosed, noting that the problem is far more common than among the 1-in-20 people in the general population who has depression.

Depression may have been present before heart problems surfaced or been caused by the mental stress of having cardiovascular issues, the researchers said. But the physical effects of surgery can also spark depression, they said, noting prior scientific findings that tiny clots can travel to the patient's brain after cardiovascular surgery, triggering problems including depression, experts told the Associated Press.

A positive side effect of taking depression medication after heart surgery is that most antidepressants help make the blood less likely to clot, possibly preventing future cardiovascular problems, the wire service reported.

Exelon Approved for Parkinson's Dementia

The first drug to treat dementia associated with Parkinson's disease has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Novartis Pharmaceutical's Exelon (rivastigmine tartrate) is already sanctioned to treat mild-to-moderate dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease, the agency said in a statement.

Almost 0.5 percent of people older than 65 have Parkinson's dementia, including such symptoms as impaired memory and attention. Exelon's effectiveness was established in 24-week clinical trials involving 541 people with mild-to-moderate dementia associated with Parkinson's, the FDA said.

Common adverse reactions to the drug included nausea, weight loss, anorexia, and loss of strength, the agency said.

Fewer Teens Becoming Mothers: Report

Fewer U.S. teenagers are having babies, according to a new report on child and teen health from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Teen birth rates fell to 42 per 100,000 females in 2003 -- the most recent year for which statistics are available -- from 48 per 100,000 females in 2000, according to the report released Tuesday. The foundation said it considered statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

The percentage of high school dropouts also declined, to 8 percent in 2004 from 11 percent in 2000, and the death rates for both children and teens fell slightly over the period, according to an Associated Press account of the report.

But about 18 percent (some 13 million children) lived in poverty in 2004, up from 17 percent in 2000. And one-third of children lived in homes where no parent had a full-time job, up slightly from 32 percent in 2000.

Overall, children and teens fared best in the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Iowa. They fared worst in Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Tennessee, the foundation said.

Avastin Trial for Pancreatic Cancer Halted

Roche Holding AG said Tuesday that it was stopping clinical trials of its cancer drug Avastin for pancreatic cancer because the drug failed to extend patients' lives, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The Swiss drugmaker said the decision wouldn't affect existing filings and approvals of the drug's use for colorectal, lung and breast cancers, Dow Jones said.

The pancreatic trials were comparing use of Avastin combined with chemotherapy, versus chemotherapy alone. Roche said the trials weren't ended because of safety reasons, and no safety issues were uncovered during the trials.

Avastin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for advanced colorectal cancer in 2004, and approval petitions have been filed for cancers of the lung and breast, Dow Jones said.

Dry Eye Rules in Vegas

Las Vegas sits atop a new list of the 100 hotspots for dry eye, a condition caused when the tear glands fail to keep the eye sufficiently moist. Left untreated, dry eye can boost a person's risk of infection and impaired vision, according to the list's sponsor, the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC).

The non-profit group considered six factors, including temperature, humidity, wind, altitude, pollutants, and eye allergens.

After Las Vegas, rounding out the top 10 U.S. dry eye spots were the Texas cities of Lubbock, El Paso, Midland, and Dallas; followed by Atlanta; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Amarillo, Texas; and Honolulu.

Dry eye is among the most common complaints brought to eye doctors, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all office visits, the NWHRC said.
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