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Statin label to carry diabetes warning

Drug AbuseFeb 29 12

All statin labels will now include a warning about a small increased risk for elevated blood glucose levels and possible problems with transient memory and cognition, the FDA announced today.

The agency will also remove existing recommendations to perform routine liver function tests on all patients taking the cholesterol-lowering medications, after concluding, “serious liver injury with statin use is rare and unpredicatable.”

“We want health care professionals and patients to have the most current information on the risks of statins, but also to assure them that these medications continue to provide an important health benefit of lowering cholesterol,” Mary Parks, MD, of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release.

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In-Your-Face Fitness: Keeping your lower back pain-free

Backache • • PainFeb 28 12

On a recent ski trip, my best friend handed me a flask of cinnamon schnapps. He called it “courage in 100-proof form,” and I needed it. I was perched at the edge of a cliff, looking at a 20-foot drop into thigh-deep powder.

Nearly a decade ago, when I was laid up in an emergency room with two bulging disks in my lower lumbar spine, there’s no way I could have imagined myself attempting such foolish feats of middle-aged manliness.

I’m hardly alone in my lower lumbar woes. A 2009 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that the prevalence of chronic, impairing low-back pain rose from 3.9% of adults in 1992 to 10.2% in 2006. And a 2006 study from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that lower-back pain is the No. 2 reason why Americans see a doctor, second only to the common cold.

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Bird flu may not be so deadly after all, new analysis claims

FluFeb 27 12

Bird flu may be far less lethal to people than the World Health Organization’s assessment of a death rate topping 50 percent, scientists said on Thursday in a finding that adds fuel to the heated controversy over publication of bird flu research.

Scientists led by virologist Peter Palese of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York argue in an analysis published in the online edition of the journal Science that the WHO, a U.N. agency, is calculating the death rate using an estimate of human bird flu cases that is simply too low.

Palese and his colleagues did not offer a specific death rate for people infected by bird flu. But based on figures cited in their analysis, the rate appears to be under 1 percent.

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U.S. appeals court finds DNA testing constitutional

Public HealthFeb 27 12

California law enforcement officers can continue collecting DNA samples from adults arrested for felonies, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2004 California law requiring officials to collect the DNA samples does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches.

“DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects,” Judge Milan Smith wrote for the 2-1 majority. The government’s interests in the genetic information outweigh any privacy concerns, the majority concluded.

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Prevnar trial results needed for CDC recommendation

Drug News • • Public HealthFeb 23 12

Advisors to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday will wait for results from a trial of Pfizer Inc’s Prevnar 13 pneumonia vaccine before deciding whether to recommend its use in all adults aged 50 and older.

The trial results, expected next year, along with data on whether use of the vaccine in children is affecting rates of disease in adults, will be assessed before a recommendation is made, said CDC spokeswoman Alison Patti.

The Food and Drug Administration in December approved use of Prevnar 13 in older adults and Pfizer said it still expects to begin a marketing campaign in March.

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Autism Affects Motor Skills, Study Indicates

Children's Health • • Psychiatry / PsychologyFeb 16 12

Children with autism often have problems developing motor skills, such as running, throwing a ball or even learning how to write. But scientists have not known whether those difficulties run in families or are linked to autism. New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis points to autism as the culprit.

Their findings were reported in the journal Autism.

“From our results, it looks like motor impairments may be part of the autism diagnosis, rather than a trait genetically carried in the family,” says lead author Claudia List Hilton, PhD, assistant professor in occupational therapy and an instructor in psychiatry. “That suggests that motor impairments are a core characteristic of the diagnosis.”

The researchers studied 144 children from 67 families in which at least one child had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as well as at least one biological sibling in the same age group. Of the children families, there were 29 in which two had an autism spectrum disorder, including six identical twins; and 48 in which only one child had an autism spectrum disorder.

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Mixed progress made by US government and schools to improve food marketing influencing children’s diets

Dieting • • Public HealthFeb 14 12

New research has found that the US government and schools have made mixed progress to comprehensively address food and beverage marketing practices that put young people’s health at risk. A comprehensive review published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that public sector stakeholders have failed to fully implement recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to support a healthful diet to children and adolescents.

“Evidence links the marketing of high-calorie, nutrient-poor branded food and beverage products to obesity rates. Our evaluation found that the prevailing marketing environment continues to threaten children’s health and the public sector has missed important opportunities to promote a healthful diet and create healthy eating environments,” says lead author Vivica Kraak, MS, RD, Research Fellow at Deakin University’s Population Health Strategic Research Center in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

In a study requested by Congress in 2004, the IOM determined that food marketing influences children and adolescents to prefer, request, and consume high-calorie and nutrient poor foods and beverages. In December 2005, an expert IOM committee issued a report with 10 recommendations to guide public- and private-sector stakeholders to promote healthy eating in children and adolescents. Kraak and colleagues Mary Story, PhD, RD, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Ellen A. Wartella, PhD, Northwestern University School of Communication, conducted a comprehensive literature review of the evidence to determine what progress had been made toward 5 of the report’s recommendations for the public sector. The other 5 recommendations directed at industry stakeholders, were examined in a separate publication released in September 2011. They evaluated 80 data sources, including published articles, enacted legislation, and media stories over 5 years (from late 2005 to early 2011). Their work was funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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10 rights and responsibilities of users of electronic health records

Public HealthFeb 14 12

Providing clinicians ten rights and responsibilities regarding their electronic health record use could serve as the foundation on which to build a new approach to health care in the electronic age, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Despite commitments to electronic health initiatives by governments in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States over the past decade, clinicians experience challenges in adoption and use. Clinicians may still be unsure that the benefits of these systems outweigh the time and resources required to maintain and update electronic records. To overcome these challenges, two US researchers identified 10 topics that they propose as professional “rights,” along with corresponding responsibilities that if addressed, may help overcome the electronic health record use challenges facing clinicians.

“The 10 key issues discussed here form a set of features, functions and user privileges that clinician users require to deliver high-quality, safe and effective care,” write Dr. Dean Sittig, University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston and Dr. Hardeep Singh, Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

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Stress in cells activates hepatitis viruses

InfectionsFeb 13 12

People who have received a donor organ need lifelong immunosuppressant drugs to keep their immune system from attacking the foreign tissue. However, with a suppressed immune system, many infectious agents turn into a threat. Infections such as with human cytomegalovirus and a certain type of human polyomavirus frequently cause complications in transplant recipients. For these patients it would therefore be particularly beneficial to have substances that suppress the immune system and exert an antiviral activity at the same time – thus killing two birds with one stone.

Jointly with colleges from Heidelberg University Hospital of Internal Medicine, researchers Professors Karin and Felix Hoppe-Seyler of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) have now tested a number of drugs with such an activity profile. They also tested the substances in liver cells infected with hepatitis B viruses (HBV) in the culture dish. The result: Liver cells that had been treated even produced considerably more viral offspring than untreated ones.

The substances under investigation inhibit the synthesis of nucleotides, which are the basic building blocks of DNA. This is how they exert their immunosuppressive effect: They slow down multiplication of immune cells because these lack building material for duplicating their genetic material. “The lack of DNA building blocks can cause a kind of stress in specific cells, which shows in the activation of a stress protein called p38”, says Felix Hoppe-Seyler. “In liver cells, p38 very effectively activates the replication of hepatitis B viruses. ”

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A mobile device for preventing and treating drug use

Drug AbuseFeb 09 12

Imagine a device combining sensors to measure physiological changes. Then imagine a smartphone with software applications designed to respond to your bodily changes in an attempt to change your behavior. That is the vision behind “iHeal,” currently being developed¹ by Edward Boyer from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the US, and his colleagues. The multimedia device is an innovative combination of ‘enabling technologies’ which can detect developing drug cravings and intervene as the cravings develop to prevent drug use. Boyer and team’s preliminary data and key findings² to date are published online in Springer’s Journal of Medical Toxicology.

So called ‘enabling technologies’ - artificial intelligence, continuous physiological monitoring, wireless connectivity, and smartphone computation - exist to make behavioral interventions more effective outside the clinic or office environments. In everyday, natural environments, they can detect changes in an individual’s biological and affective states, which could well be trigger points for risky health behaviors, such as substance use.

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Researchers Find Epidural Steroid Injections Do Not Benefit Spine Patients

Rheumatic Diseases • • TraumaFeb 08 12

Researchers at the Rothman Institute at Jefferson examined data on patients being treated for lumbar stenosis and the degenerative spine condition spondylolisthesis and found that patients who received epidural steroid injections (ESI) had a higher rate of crossover to surgery and fared worse in physical health and bodily pain versus those who did not receive ESI, dispelling their pre-study hypothesis.

Data for this study was gathered from the database of the prospective, multicenter NIH-funded SPORT (Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial) of surgical treatment versus nonoperative treatment for lumbar stenosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis. In the first three months of the trial, some patients were given ESI and some were not.

“At the onset of our study, we hypothesized that patients who received ESI would have improved outcomes and lower rates of surgery compared to patients who did not receive ESI,” said Kristen E. Radcliff, MD, of the Rothman Institute at Jefferson and an author on the study. “This was not supported by the data.”

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Brain mechanisms link foods to rising obesity rates

Brain • • DietingFeb 07 12

An editorial authored by University of Cincinnati (UC) diabetes researchers to be published in the Feb. 7, 2012, issue of the journal Cell Metabolism sheds light on the biological factors contributing to rising rates of obesity and discusses strategies to reduce body weight.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about one-third of U.S. adults are obese, a number that continues to climb.

“While we don’t usually think of it this way, body weight is regulated. How much we weigh is influenced by a number of biological systems, and this is part of what makes it so hard for people to lose weight and keep it off,” says Randy Seeley, PhD, Donald C. Harrison Endowed Chair, director of the Cincinnati Diabetes and Obesity Center and author on the paper along with Karen Ryan, PhD, an assistant professor in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at UC.

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White House open to compromise over contraception: adviser

Public HealthFeb 07 12

The Obama administration is willing to work with Catholic universities and hospitals in implementing new rules that require health insurance to cover birth control, a top adviser to the president’s re-election campaign said on Tuesday.

Signaling possible room for compromise on the issue, David Axelrod said such religious institutions have a grace period to find a way to include health insurance coverage for contraception as part of the U.S. healthcare overhaul without going against Catholic Church doctrine.

“We certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedom so we’re going to look for a way to move forward that both guarantees women that basic preventive care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,” Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s re-election team, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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Breast Cancer In Black Women Is A Different Disease

Cancer • • Breast CancerFeb 07 12

Black women have a higher risk of developing a certain type of breast cancer, one that is more aggressive and less amenable to targeted therapies such as anti-estrogen drugs (tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors) and monoclonal antibodies like Herceptin.  While the cause of this unfortunate epidemiologic disparity remains unclear, researchers have identified two risk factors that ought to be of interest to black women and the public health officials who help oversee their care.

First, some background information:

For white women, having several children at a young age protects against breast cancer, particularly if the pregnancies are completed before the age of twenty.  Also, for white women, breast-feeding lowers the risk for breast cancer, but only very slightly.

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Online dating research shows cupid’s arrow is turning digital

Gender: Female • • Gender: MaleFeb 06 12

Online dating has not only shed its stigma, it has surpassed all forms of matchmaking in the United States other than meeting through friends, according to a new analysis of research on the burgeoning relationship industry.

The digital revolution in romance is a boon to lonely-hearters, providing greater and more convenient access to potential partners, reports the team of psychological scientists who prepared the review. But the industry’s claims to offering a “science-based” approach with sophisticated algorithm-based matching have not been substantiated by independent researchers and, therefore, “should be given little credence,” they conclude.

“Online dating is definitely a new and much needed twist on relationships,” says Harry Reis, one of the five co-authors of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Behavioral economics has shown that the dating market for singles in Western society is grossly inefficient, especially once individuals exit high school or college, he explains. “The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health,” says Reis.

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