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Health Headlines - March 20

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Funding Woes Undermine U.S. Biomedical Research: Report

Scientific and medical progress in the United States is being threatened by stagnated funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says a report released Monday by nine leading American universities.

A lack of adequate funding has halted promising research and threatens the future of young scientists trying to establish careers in academic research. If the problem is not resolved, the United States could fall behind a number of countries in terms of biomedical research, the report warned.

"When scientists have to spend most of their time trying to get funded, caution wins out over cutting-edge ideas, creativity sacrifices to convention, and scientific progress gives way to meetings and grant applications," contributing author Dr. Robert Siliciano, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Right now, very, very productive scientists are doing too little research. Instead, they are spending their time trying to get their labs funded again," Siliciano said.

The NIH budget has been virtually frozen since 2003 and has actually shrunk between 8 and 13 percent after inflation is factored in, the report said. Certain NIH institutes, such as the National Cancer Institute, can fund only 11 percent of research project grant applications. Many of the rejected applications are of exceptional quality, the report said.

Due to the funding problems, a number of scientists are leaving the United States for countries in Europe and Asia that are investing in biomedical science research, according to the report.

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Vitamin C May Reduce Oral Cancer Risk in Men

High levels of vitamin C from food may help lower men's risk of oral cancer, says a Harvard School of Public Health-led study in the March issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

Researchers tracked 42,340 male health professionals from 1986 to 2002 and found that those with the highest intake of vitamin C from food were 52 percent less likely to develop oral premalignant lesions than those with the lowest intake, CBC News reported.

However, the study found that vitamin C from supplements did not reduce the risk of oral premalignant lesions.

The researchers said that other parts of the foods, or the interactions between foods in the diet, may explain why vitamin C from foods cut the risk while vitamin C from supplements did not, CBC News reported.

The study also found that vitamin E and beta carotene increased the risk for lesions in smokers, a finding that should be the subject of further research, the study authors said.

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Common Painkillers, Antibiotics Leading Causes of Drug Problems

Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and a number of common antibiotics are among the top 10 drugs that cause bad reactions and other adverse drug events, according to a new report released Monday.

The report, compiled by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, also found that taking incorrect doses, taking herbal products that interfere with prescription medications, and getting confused about drug names are the most common kinds of problems that lead to adverse drug events.

"Patients need to be more involved in the medicines they're taking," Matthew Grissinger, medication safety analyst at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said in a prepared statement. "Before leaving the doctor's office with a prescription, patients should know what the medicine is, why they are taking it and what the prescription says" so they can double-check the prescription at the pharmacy.

The report said the top 10 drugs most commonly implicated in adverse drug events treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments are: Insulin; anticoagulants; the antibiotic amoxicillin; aspirin; the antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole; the generic pain drug hydrocodone/APAP; ibuprofen; acetaminophen; the antibiotic cephalexin; and penicillin.

Some of the most common adverse drug events involve alternative medicines, according to the report, released at the annual meeting of the American Pharmacists Association, in Atlanta.

"People think herbal medications are safe because they don't require prescriptions," Grissinger noted. "They don't realize that using alternative medications increase the risk of adverse drug events because they can cause life-threatening interactions with prescription drugs."

People need to tell their doctors about any alternative medicines they are taking, Grissinger said.

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Drug-Interaction Risk Prompts Recall of Rhino Max Products

Cosmos Trading Inc. of Los Angeles is recalling the supplement product Rhino Max (Rhino V Max) sold in five-tablet and 15-tablet boxes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

The results of FDA lab analyses found that the product contains aminotadalafil, an analogue of Tadalafil, an FDA-approved drug to treat erectile dysfunction. The presence of aminotadalafil poses a threat to consumers because it may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs (such as nitroglycerin) and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease often take drugs that contain nitrates, the FDA said.

Anyone who has Rhino Max (Rhino V Max) should immediately stop using it and contact their doctor if they've experienced any problems that may be related to the product. Any unused Rhino Max (Rhino V Max) should be returned to the place of purchase for a refund, Cosmos Trading said.

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Indonesia Confirms 4th Bird Flu Outbreak This Year

The fourth outbreak this year of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in Thailand was confirmed Monday by the government.

The virus was detected in chickens on a farm in the northeastern province of Mukdahan, Agence France Presse reported.

The outbreak was discovered about two weeks ago and laboratory tests confirmed Sunday that it was caused by the H5N1 virus, a government official said. All chickens, turkeys and ducks on the farm were destroyed, as well as about 30 domestic birds on a nearby farm, AFP reported.

So far, the H5N1 bird flu virus has killed 169 people worldwide. Most of the victims were in Southeast Asia, including 65 in Indonesia. Experts fear that H5N1 could mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between humans and cause a global pandemic.

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60 Million Units of Pet Food Recalled After Kidney Failure Reports

A Canadian manufacturer of pet foods marketed under a number of popular brand names in North America is recalling 60 million containers of its "wet" cat and dog food because of unexplained kidney failure and some reported deaths.

The Associated Press reported that Menu Foods, headquartered in Streetsville, Ontario, has announced the recall of 37 cat food brands and 46 dog food brands, some of which are high end and others that are sold in giant retailers such as Wal-Mart and Krogers.

The wire service quoted company spokeswoman Sarah Tuite as saying the problem may have occurred when Menu changed suppliers of wheat gluten, a protein used in pet food preparation. An undisclosed number of kidney failures have been reported, and at least 10 deaths have also been confirmed, the company said.

Procter and Gamble, which markets the high-end Iams and Eukanuba brands made by Menu Foods, already announced its own recall Saturday. According to the AP, specific 3 oz., 5.5 oz., 6 oz. and 13.2 oz. canned and 3 oz. and 5.3 oz. foil pouch cat and dog wet food with products made by Menu Foods but sold under the Iams and Eukanuba brands with the code dates of 6339 through 7073 followed by the plant code 4197, have been pulled off store shelves nationwide.

Menu Foods has recall information on its Web site: www.menufoods.com/recall. And it also has a phone number for consumer questions: 866-895-2708. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Saturday announced it was going to join in the investigation. Its Web site for consumers to report any bad reactions from their pets is: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html

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