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Health Headlines - March 29

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

FDA Launches Web Site Warning of Online Accutane Sales

People conducting Web searches to buy the acne drug Accutane (isotretinoin) online will now be confronted with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration site warning of the dangers of this type of online purchase, the agency announced Wednesday.

"Isotretinoin is a drug approved for the treatment of severe acne that does not respond to other forms of treatment," the FDA said in a statement. "If the drug is improperly used, it can cause severe side effects, including birth defects. Serious mental health problems have also been reported with isotretinoin use."

The new Web page should pop up whenever someone searches for Accutane, or any other generic form of isotretinoin, such as Amnesteem, Claravis or Sotret. The page -- http://www.fda.gov/buyonline/accutane -- warns against using the drug without a doctor's or pharmacist's supervision.

Because the use of isotretinoin is strongly linked to birth defects, the FDA and manufacturers have previously collaborated on the iPLEDGE program, aimed at ensuring that women who use the drug do not become pregnant, while curbing the use of isotretonoin in women who are pregnant.

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Bacteria Contamination Spurs Wrinkle Cream Recall

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced the recall of DermaFreeze365 commercial skin care lotions because of contamination with the Psuedomonas aeruginosa bacterium. The bacterium can cause a wide variety of serious illness, including eye infections and even blindness.

According the products' maker, Woodridge Labs. Inc., of Panorama City, Calif., the recalled products include DermaFreeze365 Instant Line Relaxing Formula (UPC Codes 6-05923-36501-6, 6-05923-36502-3 and 6-05923-10563-6) and DermaFreeze365 Neck & Chest (UPC Code 6-05923-36503-0).

"Because the DermaFreeze365 Instant Line Relaxing Formula may be applied to the area of the eye, there is a possibility that inadvertent introduction of the tainted product could result in serious eye infections and, in rare circumstances, blindness," the company said in a statement.

Contamination with P. aeruginosa was noticed during routine testing and affected products may appear discolored, the company said. "Consumers that have the product should discontinue use of the product and destroy it immediately, or return it to their place of purchase for further processing," Woodridge Labs said.

No cases of illness have yet been reported, but patients with any product-linked health concerns should contact their physician.

Further information on the recall can be obtained at 818-902-5537 or via email at recall@woodridgelab.com.

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Food Dominates TV Ads for Children

Food is the most common product in televisions ads that target American children and teens, and many of those commercials are for junk food, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released Thursday.

In this study, the largest ever to look at television food marketing to young people, researchers analyzed more than 1,600 hours of U.S. television programming broadcast in 2005, the Washington Post reported.

Children ages 8 to 12 watch the most food commercials, an average of 21 a day. That adds up to 7,600 food commercials (about 51 hours worth) a year, the study said. Teens, ages 13 to 17, see an average of 17 food ads a day (more than 6,000 per year), and children ages 2 to 7 see 12 food ads per day (4,400 a year).

The study found that 34 percent of television commercials aimed at children and teens were for candy and snacks, 28 percent were for cereal, 10 percent for fast foods, and 4 percent for dairy products. There were no commercials for fruit or vegetables, the Post reported.

After food, the most common products in televisions ads aimed at children and teens were music, video games and movies.

"The study is really important. It's the first time in over a decade that anybody has looked at television advertising aimed at children. And it's the first time that anyone has looked at such a huge sample of ads," Margo Wootan, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, told the Post.

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Huge Rise in Spending on Psychotherapeutic Drugs

Between 1997 to 2004, spending by Americans on psychotherapeutic drugs to treat depression, anxiety, pain, schizophrenia and other conditions increased from $7.9 billion to $20 billion.

That's an increase of more than 150 percent, says the latest News and Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The report said:

  • Overall prescriptions for psychotherapeutic drugs increased from 141.9 million in 1997 to 244.3 million in 2004. The number of people prescribed at least one such drug went from 21 million to 32.6 million, and the average price per purchase rose from $55.80 to $82.
  • The largest increase was for antipsychotic medications used to manage schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychoses. Sales of these drugs increased from $1.3 billion to $4.1 billion from 1997 to 2004.
  • Over that same period, spending for central nervous system stimulants to treat pain and control seizures nearly tripled, from $0.6 billion to $1.7 billion.
  • Spending on antidepressants more than doubled, from $5.1 billion to $12.1 billion. Spending on anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics for anxiety and sleep disorders increased from $0.9 billion to $2.1 billion.

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Heterosexual Men Should be Circumcised to Reduce HIV Infection Risk: U.N. Agencies

Heterosexual men should be circumcised because there is "compelling" evidence that it's linked to a 60 percent reduction in their risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommended Wednesday.

However, experts with the two U.N health agencies noted that men need to understand that circumcision does not provide full protection against HIV infection and that they must use other protective measures as well, the Associated Press reported.

Those other measures include condoms, abstinence, delaying the start of sexual activity and limiting the number of sexual partners. The experts said that if circumcised men develop a false sense of security and don't take these added measures, they could undermine the partial protection offered by circumcision.

The agencies also said men must be cautioned that they're at higher risk for HIV infection if they have sex before they've healed after being circumcised. And men with HIV are more likely to infect their partner if they have sex before the wound is healed, the AP reported.

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Pollen Blankets U.S. Southeast

The U.S. Southeast has been blanketed in pollen during the past week and people are suffering through one of the worst allergy seasons in years, the Associated Press reported.

In Atlanta, the pollen count reached 5,499 particles per cubic meter of air Monday, while in South Carolina it hit 4,862. In the Southeast, a pollen count of 120 is considered extremely high.

The high pollen counts are due to a lack of rain, which scrubs pollen from the air. Most of the pollen is coming from pine trees.

Allergy sufferers are being advised to limit their outdoor activities during the morning, when pollen is at its worst. Allergy specialist Dr. Lisa Hutto told the AP that wearing a mask when doing yard work and changing clothes and showering immediately after coming inside can help reduce allergy symptoms.

The heavy pollen is covering cars, outdoor furniture and porches but people shouldn't use a garden hose to remove it.

"Washing the pollen off could cause it to become airborne, and you could have more exposure. Even if you hose off your porch or car, it's just going to come back," Hutto told the AP.

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Patch Boosts Women's Sex Drive

A patch for women with low sex drive will be available from the U.K.'s National Health Service beginning in April.

The Intrinsa patch -- which is worn on the abdomen and delivers a low dose of testosterone -- will be available only to women with early menopause who have had their ovaries removed during hysterectomy, BBC News reported.

Testosterone plays an important role in female sexual desire.

Trials involving more than 500 women who had hysterectomies found that the Intrinsa patch was associated with a 74 percent increase in satisfying sex, BBC News reported.

The patch is made by Proctor and Gamble.

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