Health Highlights: May 17, 201105/17/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
FDA Panel to Discuss Cholesterol Drug Trilipix
A meeting to discuss whether a key indication should be removed
from the cholesterol drug Trilipix will be held Thursday by a panel
of expert advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Trilipix is approved for use with statins, the most widely-used
class of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Trilipix, a type of drug
called a fibrate, lowers blood fats called triclycerides and
increases levels of "good" cholesterol, the
Associated Press reported.
A large government study released in March found that taking
Trilipix plus a statin didn't reduce heart attacks among diabetic
patients, compared with taking a statin alone.
The FDA panel will consider a number of options for Trilipix,
including adding information about the study findings to the label
or revoking the drug's approval for use with statins, the
Security Problems Persist for Online Patient Records
Security gaps that put patients' information at risk are not
being addressed as the federal government pushes to computerize
medical records, according to the inspector general of the U.S.
Health and Human Services Department.
Investigators warn that the effort to connect hospitals and
doctors to enable them to share patient data electronically is
being built on a system that already has major privacy problems and
could provide hackers and snoopers with new pathways to get patient
Health care records can be used to create false identities or to
send bogus medical bills to Medicare.
Investigators found 151 security weaknesses in online patient
records at seven large hospitals in different states.
The findings "raise concern" about the effectiveness of security
measures for personal health information and these problems "need
to be addressed to ensure a secure environment for health data,"
the inspector general said,
U.S. Will Keep Smallpox Stockpiles at Least 5 Years
The world's last known stockpiles of smallpox virus in the
United States and Russia won't be destroyed for at least another
five years, U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said
The U.S. is "committed to the eventual destruction" of the
stockpiles, but there are concerns that smallpox could be released
unintentionally or be used as a bioweapon, Sibelius said at a press
conference at the United Nations' European headquarters, where a
World Health Organization assembly was discussing the issue, the
Associated Press reported.
In order to fight an outbreak, scientists would need the
smallpox virus to create a vaccine.
A number of countries want the remaining stockpiles of smallpox
virus destroyed. The WHO will review the situation in another five
The last known case of smallpox was in Britain in 1978. In
previous centuries, about one-third of the people who became
infected with the highly contagious disease died.
Experts Question Usefulness of Test to Gauge Life Span
Some experts are questioning the usefulness of a blood test that
may reveal whether people are biologically older or younger than
The test, set to be made available in Britain later this year,
measures the length of telomeres, which are short pieces of DNA at
the end of chromosomes. Telomeres become shorter over time and some
scientists believe their length reveals a person's biological age,
ABC News reported.
People who take the 500-euro ($700) test and find out that their
telomeres are shorter than expected may be motivated to adopt
healthier lifestyle habits, according to proponents.
But others are skeptical about the test's usefulness, noting
that many factors affect a person's longevity.
"Research has shown that lifespan is determined by both genetic and environmental factors and therefore a test examining one measurement, may not accurately predict this process," Heidi Tissenbaum, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told ABC News. "More research is needed to show the connections between telomere length and a person's life span."
Older Rural Americans More Likely to Have Certain Types of
Older Americans in rural areas are more likely than those in
cities to have any of nine common surgeries, including prostate
removal, back surgery, hip and knee replacements, and emergency and
elective surgeries, a new study finds.
The results of the analysis of 2006 Medicare data were published
Monday in the journal
Archives of Surgery and seem to challenge the common belief
that city dwellers have better access to medical care than rural
"When I first saw the result, I looked at it and said maybe I got it backwards," lead author Dr. Mark Francis, a researcher at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, told the Associated Press.
The reasons for the findings can't be found in the study, but
Francis and colleagues offered some possible explanations.
They said rural residents may be sicker, are receiving treatment
they don't need, are more likely to delay treatment until they
require surgery, or have less access to non-surgical treatments or
consider them less desirable, the
Obesity Linked to Worsening of Prostate Cancer
Obese men with prostate cancer appear to have a higher risk of
the cancer spreading, even after they've been treated with
tumor-suppressing hormone therapy, a new study finds.
Researchers from Duke University in Durham, N.C., focused on 287
men who had undergone prostate removal surgery at one of five
Veterans Affairs hospitals between 1988 and 2009. The tumors
reappeared, at which point the patients also got androgen
deprivation therapy, aimed at starving the tumor of testosterone,
which helps fuel prostate cancer's growth.
Reporting Sunday at the annual meeting of the American
Urological Association in Washington, D.C., the research team found
that men who were overweight had triple the odds of cancer
progressing compared to normal-weight men, and the risk jumped
five-fold in obese men. The weight-related increase in risk was
similar when the researchers looked at tumors spreading to the
It's not clear why overweight or obese men fare so much worse,
but "we think perhaps obese men may require additional androgen
deprivation therapy," study lead author Dr. Christopher J. Keto, a
urologic fellow at Duke University Medical Center, said in a
university news release. "The dose [for men with prostate cancer]
is the same regardless of weight, while most drugs are dosed
according to weight," he pointed out.
'Fat Control' Gene Inherited From Mothers: Study
A gene inherited from mothers may determine whether their
children will be fat, a new study suggests.
Scientists assessed 850 twins and concluded that the KLF14 gene
influences the behavior of other genes that play a role in insulin
and glucose levels, body mass index, and cholesterol, Britain's
Daily Mirror reported.
Controlling the gene may lead to new ways to treat obesity,
heart disease and diabetes, the researchers said.
"We are working hard right now to understand how we can use this information to improve treatment of these conditions," study co-leader Professor Mark McCarthy of Oxford University told the Mirror.
The study appears in the journal
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