Health Highlights: Dec. 22, 201012/22/10
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Drugmaker Recalls Millions of Diabetes Testing Strips
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that Abbott
Laboratories is recalling as many as 359 million diabetes testing
strips because they may give falsely low blood sugar results.
The testing strips are used to help diabetics check their blood
sugar levels. But the FDA said the falsely low blood glucose
results can lead patients to try to raise their blood sugar levels
when it isn't necessary, or to fail to treat elevated blood glucose
due to a falsely low reading. Both scenarios pose health risks.
The FDA said the problems are caused by a defect that limits the
amount of blood absorbed by each strip.
Abbott is recalling 359 lots marketed under these brand names:
Precision Xceed Pro, Precision Xtra, Medisense Optium, Optium,
OptiumEZ and ReliOn Ultima.
The test strips, which were manufactured between January and May
2010, are sold both in retail and online settings directly to
consumers, but are also used in health-care facilities, the FDA
Abbott said it will replace the test strips for free.
Oldest Americans Make Up One-Fifth of Hospitalizations:
Patients born in 1933 or earlier accounted for 22 percent of the
40 million admissions to U.S. hospitals in 2008, says a federal
Patients ages 75 to 84 accounted for almost 14 percent of
admissions and patients age 85 and older made up another eight
percent. Together, those two age groups accounted for 8.7 million
admissions, while seniors ages 65 to 74 accounted for 5.3 million
admissions, says the latest
News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and
The report also said that in 2008:
- Treatment of patients age 75 and older cost hospitals more than
$92 billion, compared with $65 billion for those ages 65 to
- Patients age 85 and older were more than twice as likely to be
hospitalized than those ages 65 to 74 (577 vs. 264 admissions per
1,000 people), and were nearly three times more likely to require
nursing home or other type of long-term care after leaving the
- The leading reason for hospitalizing people age 85 and older
was congestive heart failure (44 stays per 1,000 people), followed
by pneumonia (36), blood poisoning (27), urinary tract infections
(24) and heart rhythm disorders (23).
- Among people ages 75 to 84, the top causes of hospital stays
were: congestive heart failure (23 stays per 1,000 people),
pneumonia (20), heart rhythm disorders (17), blood poisoning (16),
and osteoarthritis (15).
FDA OK's Gardasil to Thwart Anal Cancer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the
vaccine Gardasil for the prevention of anal cancer and associated
precancerous lesions due to human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11,
16, and 18. The approval covers people ages 9 through 26 years
Gardasil already is approved for the same age group for the
prevention of cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancer and the
associated precancerous lesions caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and
18 in females. It's also approved for the prevention of genital
warts caused by types 6 and 11 in both males and females, the
agency said in a news release.
"Treatment for anal cancer is challenging; the use of Gardasil as a method of prevention is important as it may result in fewer diagnoses and the subsequent surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that individuals need to endure," said Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
While anal cancer is not common, the incidence is increasing.
HPV is associated with approximately 90 percent of anal cancer. The
American Cancer Society estimates that about 5,300 people are
diagnosed with anal cancer each year in the United States, with
more women diagnosed than men.
Gardasil's ability to prevent anal cancer and the associated
precancerous lesions [anal intraepithelial neoplasia (AIN) grades
1, 2, and 3] was studied in a randomized, controlled trial of gay
men. The vaccine was shown to be 78 percent effective in the
prevention of HPV 16- and 18-related AIN. Since anal cancer is the
same disease in both males and females, the effectiveness findings
were used to support the vaccine's use for females as well, the
news release said.
Gardasil won't prevent the development of anal precancerous
lesions associated with HPV infections already present at the time
of vaccination, the agency said.
Senators Want Tap Water Standard for Hexavalent Chromium
Two U.S. Senators plan to introduce legislation to set a
deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish an
enforceable tap water standard for a probable cancer-causing
chemical called hexavalent chromium.
Barbara Boxer and California colleague Dianne Feinstein outlined
their intentions in a letter to EPA chief Lisa Jackson, the
Associated Press reported.
Boxer chairs the Senate environment and public works committee,
which will hold a hearing on the issue in February.
The Senators' call for an EPA tap water standard for hexavalent
chromium (also called chromium 6) come after the release of an
Environmental Working Group study that found the chemical in the
drinking water of 31 of 35 cities across the country, the
Currently, there are no enforceable federal standards for
chromium 6, commonly discharged from leather tanning facilities,
steel and pulp mills, and metal-plating plants.
Combined Tests Reveal Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease:
A lumbar puncture test combined with an MRI brain scan can
detect signs of Alzheimer's disease years before a person develops
symptoms, say U.K. researchers.
This method, which checks for brain shrinkage and lower than
normal levels of amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF),
could be used to select patients to try new drugs that may slow or
stop the disease,
BBC News reported.
In Alzheimer's patients, there is an unusual accumulation of
amyloid in the brain and less amyloid in the CSF, explained the
team at the Institute of Neurology, University College of
They tested the lumbar puncture test/brain scan approach in 105
healthy volunteers. The brains of the 38 percent of those with low
levels of amyloid in their CSF shrank twice as quickly as those
with normal amyloid levels,
BBC News reported.
The participants with low amyloid levels were also five times
more likely to have the APOE4 gene, which increases the risk of
Alzheimer's, and had higher levels of another Alzheimer's-related
protein called tau.
The study appears in the journal
Annals of Neurology.
Healthy Eating Helps Older People Live Longer
Older adults who eat a healthy diet may live longer, according
to a new study.
Researchers compared the diets of 2,500 U.S. adults ages 70 to
79 over 10 years and found that those who ate a low-fat diet with
plenty of fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of death,
BBC News reported.
The risk of death was highest among those who ate a high-fat
diet with lots of whole milk, cheese and ice cream.
The study also found that people who ate healthy foods also had
healthier lifestyles. For example, they were more physically active
and smoked less,
BBC News reported.
The study appears in the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Health Insurance Premium Hikes May be Reviewed
Health insurance companies will have to disclose and justify any
premium increases of 10 percent or more next year, under
regulations proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration.
The increases would be reviewed by state or federal officials to
assess whether they are unreasonable,
The New York Times reported.
The review of premiums would "help rein in the kind of excessive
and unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance
unaffordable for so many families," said Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The new federal health care law calls for an annual review of
"unreasonable increases" in health insurance premiums but does not
define unreasonable, the
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