Health Highlights: Oct. 11, 201210/11/12
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Three Alzheimer's Drugs to Be Tested in Study
Three different types of Alzheimer's drugs will be tested in the
first large-scale international study to prevent the disease in
people with a variety of gene mutations known to cause the
condition that destroys memory and thought.
The study will start early next year and will involve 160 people
from the United States, Britain and Australia. Most of the
participants will not yet have symptoms of Alzheimer's, but they
would be expected to start showing declines in memory and thinking
within five years unless the drugs are effective,
The New York Timesreported.
The three drugs to be used in the study were selected from 15
submitted by pharmaceutical companies. The drugs were selected by a
committee based on the best evidence of effectiveness and the least
risk of dangerous side effects.
The three drugs chosen for the study are gantenerumab, made by
Roche, and two drugs made by Eli Lilly and Company, one called
LY2886721 and the other called solanezumab,
The drugs target beta amyloid, a protein that forms the brain
plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's.
Study results will come quickly, according to Maria Carrillo,
vice president of medical and scientific relations at the
Alzheimer's Association, which contributed $4.2 million to the
study. That's more than twice as much as the association has even
spent on a grant.
Within a few years, researchers should know which drug, if any,
is effective, Carrillo said.
"It's an exciting opportunity," Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, told The Times. He is not involved in the study.
After repeated failures in studies testing treatments in people
who already have Alzheimer's, researchers said studies need to be
conducted in people who do not yet have the disease. Proponents
argue that the time to tackle Alzheimer's is before the brain is
In related news, another study starting next year will look at
an extended family in Columbia that shares a gene mutation that
causes Alzheimer's. In a third study, researchers will look at
people in the U.S. age 70 and older who do not have any known gene
mutations linked to Alzheimer's and who seem perfectly healthy, but
have signs of the disease on brain scans,
Ensure Privacy of DNA Tests: Presidential Commission
New privacy protections are needed if they United States is to
realize the enormous medical potential of gene mapping, says a
presidential commission report being released Thursday.
In about half the states, it's legally possible for someone to
collect another person's DNA and send it to a laboratory in order
to have it analyzed and reveal what diseases the person may develop
in the future, according to the Presidential Commission for the
Study of Bioethical Issues, the
Currently, the high cost of DNA testing makes this type of
scenario highly unlikely. But the commission said the price is
falling so quickly that the technology could soon become common in
doctors' offices, which leads to ethical issues about how, when and
with whom the results of such tests may be shared.
The commission said if public trust is lacking, people may be
reluctant to allow scientists to study their genetic information,
which is crucial to finding better ways to fight disease, the
Mini-Wheats Recalled Over Possible Metal Fragments
Certain packages of Mini-Wheats Bite Size cereal are being
recalled due to the possible presence of metal fragments, Kellogg
There have been no reports of injures caused by fragments of
metal mesh from a faulty manufacturing part. The company said the
voluntary recall was announced as a precautionary measure,
The recall covers about 282,000 cases of Frosted Mini-Wheats
Bite Size Original and Mini-Wheats Unfrosted Bite Size cereal with
the letters KB, AP or FK before or after the best-before date. The
recalled products include cereal boxes and single-serving
The company said the odds of metal fragments making their way
into the food is low, as is the risk of anyone being injured,
U.S. Annual Death Rate Reaches Record High as Population
The number of Americans who died passed the 2.5 million mark for
the first time last year, mainly due to a population that is both
growing and aging.
Statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) found that U.S. deaths in 2011 rose by
45,000 over 2010, but the trend reflects a growing population, not
a decrease in Americans' health.
"If you have an older population, of course you have more deaths," Qian Cai, a demographer at the University of Virginia, told the Associated Press. "That doesn't mean the population is less healthy or less vital."
In fact, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people has fallen to a
record low, the CDC noted.
Also in the report:
- Life expectancy for a child born in 2011 is now 78 years, 8
months, unchanged from 2010.
- The gap in life expectancy between women and men is shrinking.
In 1979 women lived an average of 8 years longer than men, but that
shrank to 5 years by 2011.
- Half of Americans die from either heart disease or cancer, but
death rates from both illnesses have continued to decline, as have
death rates for stroke, Alzheimer's disease and kidney
- Infant mortality remains low, dropping slightly to just over 6
deaths per every 1,000 births.
- Deaths from pneumonitis are rising -- not surprising, experts
say, since it is often an illness of old age.
Even though the number of Americans who are dying is on the
rise, the population is continuing to grow due to the number of
births and influx of immigrants, the
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