Health Highlights: Jan. 25, 201101/25/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Blood Thinner Plavix to Retain Patent for Extra 6 Months
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted the makers of
the widely used blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel) exclusive
marketing rights for an extra six months.
According to the
Associated Press the patent extension is set to end on May
17, 2012, after which cheaper generic forms of clopidogrel are
allowed to appear.
The FDA allowed Bristol-Myers Squibb and partner Sanofi-Aventis
the patent extension subsequent to their conducting extra research
into the drug's effect on infants, the
AP said. This type of extension is a kind of "reward" for
participating in these pediatric studies, the new agency noted. One
study looked at Plavix' effect on 900 infants born with a heart
defect that left them vulnerable to clots. The study failed to show
a benefit, however.
Food Industry Unveils Nutrition Labeling Plan
The U.S. food industry's new voluntary program to prominently
display important nutrition information on food labels is widely
seen as an attempt to influence the Food and Drug Administration's
ongoing efforts to develop labeling guidelines, according to
The New York Times.
Under the Nutrition Keys plan announced Monday, the front of
food packages will display icons that show four basic nutrients:
calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars. Industry executives say
they developed the program after Michele Obama challenged them to
help consumers make healthier food choices.
But the food industry decided to create its own nutrition
labeling program after the failure of talks with the White House
and the FDA. At least one expert said the labeling program falls
"What the food industry is proposing can make something look healthier than it really is," David A. Kessler, a former FDA commissioner, told The Times. He said the industry should wait for the federal government to establish labeling rules.
The program is a "significant first step," according to a White
House statement. But the administration also said it would "look
forward to future improvement" in the system and the FDA will
closely monitor whether the program meets the needs of American
Gene Promotes Spread of Cancer: Study
Scientists who discovered a gene that helps promote the spread
of cancer within the body say blocking the gene would keep cancer
confined to the original site.
The WWP2 gene is linked to the breakdown of an inhibitor (Smad7)
that normally keeps cells in check. Experiments with tissue
cultures showed that cancer progresses quickly and spreads when
Smad7 is not present, said the team at the University of East
Anglia in the U.K. They also found that blocking WWP2 prevented the
spread of cancer,
BBC News reported.
The study appears in in the journal
"I think we're really onto something important if we can put a wall around a cancer and lock it in place," said study leader Dr. Andrew Chantry, BBC News reported. "This discovery could lead to the
development of a new generation of drugs within the decade that
could be used to stop the aggressive spread of most forms of the
While the study does improve understanding of cancer, the
research is still in the laboratory stage, noted Cancer Research
U.S. Government Recovers $2.5 Billion in Health Fraud Cases
Thanks to whistle-blowers and a renewed U.S. government effort,
a record-breaking $2.5 billion from health care fraud cases was
recovered in the budget year that ended in September.
The amount of money won in cases under the False Claims Act was
announced Monday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius. It's expected that the increased efforts will save an
additional $4.9 billion in fraud and abuse over the next 10 years.
The money will be put back into Medicare,
USA Today reported.
More than half of the money recovered last year came from drug
companies, including settlements for illegal marketing of drugs.
The government also said that whistle-blowers received about $300
million in 2010 for alerting officials about fraud they witnessed
in the workplace.
"Our aggressive pursuit of health care fraud has resulted in the largest recovery of taxpayer dollars in the history of the Justice Department," Thomas Perrelli, associated attorney general, said in a statement to USA Today.
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