Health Highlights: April 15, 201104/15/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
FDA Approves Electricity Treatment for Brain Cancer
A first-of-a-kind treatment that uses electrical energy fields
to fight brain cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
The NovoTTF device was approved for patients with aggressive
brain cancer that has returned after treatment with chemotherapy,
Associated Press reported.
The device, made by Novocure, disrupts the division of cancer
cells that allows tumors to grow. The electrical signals are
delivered through four electrodes attached to the patient's
The FDA approval was based on a study of 237 patients that found
those treated with the device lived as long as those receiving
chemotherapy and had far fewer side effects, the
Generic Heartburn Drug Recalled
A dissolvable generic heartburn drug may clump and cause
problems for patients using an oral syringe or feeding tube, warns
a U.S. Food and Drug Administration letter to doctors.
The drug, which is made by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
and is a generic version of Prevacid SoluTabs, reduces stomach acid
and is used to treat certain types of stomach ulcers and
gastrointestinal reflux disease,
Dow Jones Newswires reported.
The clumping problem has resulted in some patients requiring
emergency medical assistance and to have their feeding tubes
unclogged or replaced, the FDA letter said.
Teva has stopped distributing the product but patients and
pharmacies and other health facilities may still have supplies of
Dow Jones reported. The drug may carry the following labels:
Sharp Corporation, Cardinal Health and Quality Packaging Specialist
Woman Who Withheld Cancer Drugs From Son Sentenced to 8-10
A prison sentence of 8 to 10 years was given to a Massachusetts
woman who withheld chemotherapy drugs from her young autistic son
who had lymphoma.
Kristen LaBrie, 38, was found guilty Tuesday and sentenced
Friday by Judge Richard Welch, who said her actions "really do
chill one's soul,"
Her son, Jeremy Fraser, was 9 years old when he died in 2009. He
was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma shortly after he turned 7.
La Brie testified that she withheld the cancer drugs because she
thought the side effects would kill her son.
Before she was sentenced, LaBrie wept and apologized,
"I am remorseful for my actions and I wish I could have done things differently," she said.
FDA Should Ban Weight Loss Drugs Alli, Xenical: Public
The growing number of reported health problems associated with
the prescription weight loss drugs Alli and Xenical should prompt
their removal from the U.S. market, says Public Citizen.
On Thursday, the consumer watchdog group issued its second
petition in five years calling for the Food and Drug Administration
to ban the drugs due to side effects such as liver damage, kidney
stones and pancreatitis,
ABC News reported.
"These drugs have the potential to cause significant damage to multiple critical organs, yet they provide meager benefits in reducing weight loss in obese and overweight patients," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.
The FDA rejected the group's first petition and it's unclear
whether it will accept the new petition regarding Alli and Xenical,
ABC News reported.
Also on Thursday, GlaxosmithKline announced that it is trying to
sell its ownership of the two brands of weight loss drugs to other
Workers at Japanese Nuclear Plant Advised to Store Blood Stem
Workers at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan
are being advised to store blood stem cells now in case they
require them later to treat radiation overdose.
Experts say the years of clean-up work needed at the plant will
put workers at risk of accidental radiation exposure. High doses of
radiation can destroy the blood-making cells of the bone marrow, a
potentially deadly problem. But the condition can be treated with
blood stem cell transplants, the
Associated Press reported.
Banking blood stem cells involves receiving injections for
several days to get stem cells from the bone marrow to enter the
bloodstream. Blood is then drawn and processed to extract the stem
cells, which are then stored. Later, workers who are accidentally
exposed to a large radiation dose could receive infusions of their
own stem cells, the experts explained.
They outline their idea in a letter published online Thursday in
Stem cell transplants would only help workers exposed to
radiation does within a narrow range, Dr. Nelson Chao of Duke
University told the
AP. They could recover from a lower dose and would suffer untreatable damage at a higher dose, he explained.
Breast Radiation Shield Recall Most Serious Type: FDA
U.S. health officials say the recall of a radiation shield used
in breast cancer patients is now the most serious type of
The Food and Drug Administration recall of the Axxent
FlexiShield Mini is classified Class I, which means "there is a
reasonable probability that use of these products will cause
serious adverse health consequences or death,"
The New York Times reported.
The silicone rubber and tungsten devices were used to help
shield healthy tissue while women received radiation treatment for
breast cancer. But the products were flawed and left hundreds of
particles of tungsten in the breasts and chest muscles of 29 women
in the U.S.
There's little research about the long-term health effects of
tungsten, but it does show up on mammograms and may make them
difficult to read. This could be a serious issue for women who have
had breast cancer and worry about recurrences. On mammograms, the
tungsten particles resemble calcium deposits, which can indicate
The Times reported.
That's why the recall has been classified as the most serious
type, an FDA spokeswoman said.
Leukemia Drug Shortage Threatens Patients' Lives
A shortage of the leukemia drug cytarabine in the United States
is putting patients' lives at risk, doctors warn.
Shortages have been reported in 30 states and began last fall
due to manufacturing delays, according to the Food and Drug
ABC News reported.
For patients with acute lymphblastic leukemia (AML), the drug
offers cure rates of 40 to 50 percent. Without the drug, patients
have no chance of survival. There is no viable alternative
"If we can't get this drug, then the patients are going to die," Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, chairman of the department of leukemia, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told ABC News.
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