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Health Headlines - September 1

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
U.S. Alcohol Industry Lax on Ad Guidelines: Report

The American alcohol industry isn't living up to voluntary standards on radio alcohol advertising and youth, suggests a study in Thursday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from the CDC and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) analyzed a sample of 67,404 alcohol ads that aired on 104 U.S. radio stations from June 15 to Aug. 5, 2004.

They found that 14 percent of the ads aired in programming where people ages 12 to 20 represented more than 30 percent of the listening audience. This was an improvement over 2003, when a similar study found that 28 percent of alcohol ads appeared to violate the guidelines. The rules were adopted voluntarily by the alcohol industry in 2003.

"Young people spend more time listening to the radio than they do reading magazines or surfing the net, so reducing youth exposure to alcohol ads on radio is critical," Dr. David Jernigan, CAMY executive director, said in a prepared statement.

"In September 2003, the alcohol industry made modest revisions to its voluntary code in order to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising. While progress is being made, the industry still has a long way to go," he said.

Pool Toys Pose Impalement Hazard

About 273,000 Jet Streamers Water Blasters pool toys have been recalled because they pose an impalement hazard to children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

When partially filled with water, the straight squirt gun can stand upright on the pool floor with the rigid narrow end pointed upward. The company, Wild Planet Toys, Inc. of San Francisco, has received one report of an injury to an 8-year-old girl who landed seat first on one of the toys in a swimming pool. She suffered a puncture wound.

The toys were sold as a 2-pack set, in packages with other pool toys, and with boys' swim trunks.

Consumers should immediately stop using the Jet Streamers and contact Wild Planet for a redesigned product that can't stand upright, the CPSC said.

For more information, contact Wild Planet at 1-800-247-6570 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

China Seeks More Volunteers for Bird Flu Trials

As many as 500 volunteers are being recruited in China to take part in the second-phase trial of a vaccine to protect people against the H5N1 bird flu virus.

A first-phase trial with 120 people found the vaccine was safe. Chinese state media said the second trial will determine how long the vaccine protects people against the virus, Agence France Presse reported.

Volunteers for the new study will have to be healthy, not pregnant, and between the ages of 18 and 65.

The vaccine has to pass three phases of clinical testing before it's allowed on the market.

Earlier this week, Chinese state media said that vaccine manufacturer Sinovac Biotech Ltd. planned to produce 20 million vaccines a year within the next few years, AFP reported. The company jointly developed the vaccine with government scientists.

Some Drugs from Canadian Web Sites Fake: FDA

A number of prescription drugs ordered from 10 Web sites linked to a Canadian pharmacy were fake, according to tests by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumers should not use drugs bought from those Web sites because the medications may be unsafe, the agency warned Wednesday.

Drugs ordered from the 10 sites -- which include rxnorth.com, rxbyfax.com, and canadiandrugstore.com -- are filled by Mediplan Prescription Plus Pharmacy, also known as Mediplan Global Health, the Associated Press reported.

In recent months, the FDA has seized thousands of prescriptions filled by Mediplan. Tests revealed counterfeit versions of numerous drugs, including the painkiller Celebrex, the cholesterol drugs Lipitor and Crestor, the baldness treatment Propecia, the blood pressure medication Diovan, and five other prescription drugs.

Even though the drugs seized by the FDA were ordered from Canada-based Mediplan, the drugs were not shipped from Canada, the AP reported.

A Mediplan executive said the FDA allegations about the counterfeit drugs are false. The executive would not divulge from which countries the company ships its drugs.

The FDA said consumers who've ordered drugs from the Mediplan-linked Web sites should talk to their doctors and get their prescriptions refilled, the AP reported.

Fruit, Veggie Juices Cut Alzheimer's Risk

Fruit and vegetable juices may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by as much as 76 percent, concludes a U.S. study of about 1,800 Japanese-American seniors in the Seattle area.

The decade-long study found that seniors who drank fruit or vegetable juice three or more times a week were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who drank one serving or less every seven days, the Toronto Star reported.

High concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols found in fruit and vegetable juices may help reduce the risk for Alzheimer's, said study lead author Qi Dai of Vanderbilt University.

However, only juices made with whole, fresh fruits and vegetables offer a strong dose of polyphenols. Dai noted that 99 percent of polyphenols are found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, the Toronto Star reported.

The study appears in the American Journal of Medicine.

$50 Million Vioxx Award Excessive: U.S. Judge

A U.S. federal judge ruled Wednesday that a recent $50 million compensatory damage award against Merck in a trial over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx was "grossly excessive."

A jury decided Aug. 17 that Merck must pay the award to a retired FBI agent who suffered a heart attack in 2002 after taking Vioxx for 2 1/2 years.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon said that a new trial must be held to decide how much Merck must pay in compensatory damages. But Fallon upheld the verdict, finding Merck liable in the case, the Associated Press reported.

Legal experts had mixed opinions about the significance of Fallon's ruling.

The fact that the judge upheld the liability verdict against Merck is important, said lawyer Robert Gordon, who represented a man who was severely disabled after taking Vioxx and was awarded $13.5 million from Merck.

""What Merck has always said is that Vioxx doesn't cause heart attacks. This jury has found that it does. And the federal judge in charge of all the cases has found that the verdict was reasonable," Gordon told the AP.
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