Health Highlights: July 22, 201107/22/11
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
FDA Cites Death Risk With Heart Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, joined by drug regulators
in Europe, has issued safety warnings about the 2-year-old drug
Multaq, approved to treat an abnormal heartbeat.
A recently halted 3,000-patient study of Multaq among people
with atrial fibrillation showed twice as many deaths compared to
those who didn't take the drug,
The New York Times reported. The study had been sponsored by
the drug's maker, Sanofi-Aventis, which cited "a significant
increase in cardiovascular events," the newspaper said.
Multaq was approved in 2009 to treat short-term heart rhythm
abnormalities (arrhythmias) of less than six months. FDA records
show at least 241,000 prescriptions written since then, the
Sanofi issued a statement saying the "benefit-risk profile
remains positive" for the drug's currently approved use.
The European Medicines Agency said it was reviewing the data and
would offer additional direction in September, the newspaper
USDA Proposes Changes for Meat Additive Labeling
Meat producers would have to clearly specify which additives are
added to raw meats and poultry under a rule proposed by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
The department "wants consumers to know when there's less
chicken in their chicken," reported the
Additives such as chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, salt or water
would have to appear on the product's label. The department said
about 33 percent of raw poultry, 15 percent of raw beef and 90
percent of raw pork may contain additives. Ground beef would be
exempt from the new rule, the wire service reported.
Current labels aren't as visible or clear as the USDA would
hope. The new rule would require that additives be part of the
product's title, as in "Chicken Breast - 40 Percent Added Solution
of Water and Teriyaki Sauce," the
Reaction among manufacturers was mixed. A spokesman for the
National Chicken Council said his industry is divided on the issue.
The American Meat Institute called the proposal "wasteful," noting
it would lead to a rise in meat prices, the
FDA Evaluating Some Osteoporosis Drugs for Possible Cancer
Studies on oral bisphosphonate drugs used to treat osteoporosis
are being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which
is investigating whether there's a link between the bone-disease
medicines and an increased risk of esophageal cancer, the agency
The FDA, citing "conflicting findings" from past studies, said
it hasn't found proof of a link between the drugs and esophageal
cancer. But the agency said in a news release that it would
"continue to evaluate all available data supporting the safety and
effectiveness of bisphosphonate drugs and will update the public
when more information becomes available."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health says more than 40 million
women in the United States have osteoporosis "or are at high risk
due to low bone mass."
People taking a bisphosphonate who develop symptoms including
"swallowing difficulties, chest pain, new or worsening heartburn,
or have trouble or pain when swallowing" should contact a
physician, the FDA advised. Candidates for these drugs also should
speak with a doctor "about the benefits and risks of taking oral
bisphosphonates and how long they should expect to take them," the
Gay Men With HIV at Increased Risk of Hepatitis C
While it's considered rare to acquire the hepatitis C virus via
sexual intercourse, a new study finds that gay men infected with
HIV who have unprotected sex are at increased risk of transmitting
hepatitis C, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
said Thursday, citing a new study.
In the agency's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC researchers working with scientists from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine said they uncovered "substantial evidence" of hepatitis C transmission during unprotected gay sex. Hepatitis C primarily is transmitted through exposure to blood and by drug users who share needles.
The researchers said that between 2005 and 2010, they found 74
men infected with HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- who had
documented new infection with hepatitis C. These men reported no
other risk factor for hepatitis C infection.
But when compared with other gay men who were HIV-positive but
hadn't contracted hepatitis C, the men with recent hepatitis C
infection were 23 times more likely than the other group to have
had unprotected anal sex, the study found.
"The good news," wrote the researchers, "is that the cure rate for new [hepatitis C] infection is very high with early treatment, but without regular testing of the men at risk, these largely asymptomatic infections may be missed."
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