Health Highlights: Feb. 9, 201102/09/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Now Speaking
Less than a month after she was shot in the head in an
assassination attempt, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona started
speaking again by asking for toast.
The simple request represents another significant advance for
the 40-year-old Democratic congresswoman, the
New York Daily News reported.
The fact that Giffords has started speaking is proof that she is
displaying "encouraging signs everyday," her astronaut husband Mark
Kelly wrote in his wife's Facebook page. Kelly is back at work at
NASA and will command the April 19 launch of the space shuttle
"It is hard to believe that only one month has passed since Gabrielle was shot," Kelly wrote. "The doctors say she is recovering at lightning speed considering her injury but they aren't kidding when they say this is a marathon process."
He also noted that Giffords is eating three meals a day "even
though it's hospital food," the
Daily News reported.
Health Agencies Probe Possible H1N1 Flu Vaccine/Narcolepsy
A possible link between swine flu vaccine and the sleep disorder
narcolepsy is being investigated by the World Health Organization
and the European Medicines Agency.
Narcolepsy causes extreme fatigue and patients with the disorder
often fall asleep without warning, even in the middle of an
activity, according to
The WHO said Tuesday that 12 countries have reported suspected
cases of narcolepsy associated with the swine flu vaccine
Pandemrix, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline and was used in 47
countries during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic.
Children who received the vaccine were nine times more likely to
develop narcolepsy than those who were not given the vaccine,
according to a Finnish study that was reviewed last week by the WHO
Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety,
"The committee agrees that further investigation is warranted concerning narcolepsy and vaccination against influenza (H1N1) 2009 with Pandemrix and other pandemic H1N1 vaccines," the WHO said. "An increased risk of narcolepsy has not been observed in association with the use of any vaccines whether against influenza or other diseases in the past."
FDA Questions Companies on Follow-Up Drug Studies
Drug companies that failed to complete promised follow-up
studies in exchange for accelerated approval of six cancer drugs
were questioned Tuesday at a public meeting held by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration.
The companies -- which include Amgen Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC,
and Eli Lilly & Co. -- said they faced a number of challenges
in conducting the studies, including difficulty enrolling patients
in clinical trials for already-approved drugs, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
"These confirmatory trials are as important -- if not more important -- than the initial trials leading to the accelerated approval," noted Richard Pazdur, head of the FDA's cancer division.
While the FDA can levy fines of millions of dollars or revoke
approval of drugs if promised follow-up studies aren't completed,
agency officials did not make such threats at the meeting.
Pazdur suggested that companies should not apply for the
accelerated drug approval process if they aren't confident they can
complete the required follow-up studies on time, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
Shingles Vaccine Shortage May Continue Until Spring
The vaccine to prevent shingles may be in short supply in the
United States until April, according to the company that makes the
Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele told
USA Today that both the shingles vaccine Zostavax and the
chickenpox vaccine Varivax are made with varicella, the virus that
causes both diseases.
There is a limited supply of varicella and Merck must
"prioritize" which vaccine to make. The chickenpox vaccine gets
priority, Eisele said.
In early January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention recommended that most Americans over 60 get the one-time
USA Today reported.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.