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Using control drugs “as needed” eases asthma

AsthmaAug 25 06

For people with asthma who are on a drug combo for regular maintenance therapy, taking the drugs “as needed” when they have symptoms appears to improve overall asthma control, according to a report from the Netherlands.

The role of inhaled corticosteroids, such as budesonide, and long-acting beta-2 agonists, such as formoterol, in controlling asthma have not been fully defined, Dr. Klaus F. Rabe, from the University Medical Centre in Leiden and colleagues point out in the Lancet medical journal. While taking these two types of drugs as maintenance therapy is well established, their benefits when used as needed are unclear.

The new findings are based on a study of 3394 patients with moderate to severe asthma who still had symptoms while taking budesonide/formoterol maintenance therapy during a 2-week trial period. For relief treatment during episodes of breathing difficulty, the subjects were randomly assigned to use the traditional rapid-acting beta-2 agonist terbutaline, or formoterol, or formoterol plus budesonide.

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Nicotine tablets help COPD patients quit smoking

Tobacco & MarijuanaAug 25 06

Nicotine replacement therapy enables a significant number of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to stop smoking, according to a report in the August issue of Chest.

“Nicotine replacement therapy works in COPD,” Dr. Philip Tønnesen from Gentofte Hospital, Hellerup, Denmark, told Reuters Health. “And nicotine replacement therapy works in smokers of fewer than 10 cigarettes per day. I believe this is the first study ever to show this.”

COPD is a group of serious lung diseases that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is primarily caused by smoking.

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Cheaper blood thinner just as effective, study says

Drug NewsAug 24 06

Injections of the blood thinner heparin treat blood clots just as effectively as a top-selling version that is many times more expensive, researchers said on Tuesday.

To treat deep vein thrombosis, which appears most often as blood clots in the legs, injections of low-molecular weight heparin such as Sanofi-Aventis’ blockbuster Lovenox and Pfizer’s Fragmin have been increasingly seen as more convenient and effective than original heparin.

The original blood thinner, called unfractionated heparin and derived from pig tissues, is given intravenously in the hospital and patients are closely monitored.

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Indonesia girl tests positive for bird flu - official

FluAug 24 06

A 6-year-old Indonesian girl tested positive for bird flu on Tuesday, a government official said, as the World Health Organisation ruled out human transmission in a village with a series of confirmed and suspected bird flu cases.

The girl from Bekasi, an eastern suburb of Jakarta, is the 60th case of avian influenza in Indonesia, 46 of which have been fatal.

“The girl is still alive and receiving treatment in hospital. She is getting better,” I Nyoman Kandun, director general of communicable disease control, told reporters.

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S. African AIDS activists in court for protests

AIDS/HIVAug 24 06

Zackie Achmat, one of South Africa’s top AIDS activists, appeared in court on Tuesday on trespassing charges after leading a protest against government policies to fight the disease.

Achmat and dozens of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists were arrested last week for demonstrating in a government building in Cape Town.

The court appearances came barely a week after the South African government’s AIDS policies came under renewed attack at a global conference in Canada, with campaigners venting their anger against the health minister.

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Computer-automated weight loss counseling works

Weight LossAug 24 06

An Internet-based weight loss program that provides users with automated and tailored behavioral counseling may be as effective in the short-term as an Internet program that incorporates human e-mail counseling, new study findings suggest.

“This study shows that an Internet behavioral weight loss program providing weekly feedback about weight, diet, and activity from either a computer-automated program or a human e-mail counselor produced significant weight loss,” Dr. Deborah F. Tate, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her colleagues write in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

What’s more, both types of programs appear to be more successful than a self-directed program that offers no additional counseling.

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Point-click-drink: It’s that easy for teens

Children's HealthAug 22 06

The Internet is providing a new avenue for underage drinking. Results of a new survey confirm that millions of teenagers either buy alcohol online or know an underage friend who does.

A related audit of states shows that many state legislators are easing restrictions on online alcohol sales with little monitoring or oversight.

“This is a dangerous situation,” said Stan Hastings chairman of the Wine and Spirits Wholesales of America, Inc. (WSWA), the trade group that commissioned the survey.

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British farmer dies from rabbit flu

FluAug 22 06

An apparently healthy young farmer in Britain has died from rabbit flu.

John Freeman, a 29-year-old farmer, died earlier this month from blood poisoning which he contracted from a rabbit he picked up on his farm after shooting it.

Mr. Freeman of Aspall near Stowmarket in Suffolk, is believed to be Britain’s first rabbit flu victim.

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State Health Department Web Sites Remain Unavailable to Many

Public HealthAug 22 06

State health department Web sites have become more user-friendly over the past five years, but too many sites are still hard to read, only available in English and inaccessible to people with disabilities, a new report concludes.

“People in particular need of up-to-date and accurate health care information appear least able to share in the benefits of online government resources,” say researchers Darrell West, Ph.D., and Edward Alan Miller, Ph.D., of Brown University.

Their study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

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New Approach Assesses Risk of Water-Borne Pathogen Disease

InfectionsAug 22 06

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, along with colleagues at the University Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru, have developed a novel approach for assessing the risk to humans of acquiring leptospirosis -  a severe, water-borne disease that is the common cause of severe jaundice, renal failure and lung hemorrhage in urban areas throughout the developing world -  from environmental water exposure.

The approach, which uses advanced molecular methods to measure risk for infection, may also be applicable to other water-borne bacterial diseases. The findings will be published on line August 21 in advance of the September issue of the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine.

“What we found supported our hypothesis that severe leptospirosis in the Peruvian Amazon is associated with higher concentrations of more virulent forms of the bacteria at sites of exposure and transmission,” said Joseph Vinetz, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine in UCSD’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

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Subsidy for breast cancer drug

Breast CancerAug 22 06

A LIFE-saving drug that has been costing breast cancer victims more than $50,000 a year is to be subsidised by the Federal Government.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said today Cabinet had agreed to place the breast cancer treatment Herceptin on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from October 1 for women suffering “positive early stage” cancer.

The move will cost the Government $470 million over the next four years and is expected to help about 2000 Australian women a year.

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TV may dull kids’ pain from needles

Children's HealthAug 22 06

Some consider TV mind-numbing, but pediatric researchers have found it may be pain-numbing as well.

In a study of 69 children undergoing blood tests, Italian researchers found that when they showed kids cartoons during the procedure, it distracted them enough to ease their pain.

The finding may not come as a surprise to parents who’ve seen their child entranced by the TV screen. What may surprise them is the finding that mothers couldn’t soothe their children nearly as well as television did.

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Diet changes may slow recurrent prostate cancer

Prostate CancerAug 22 06

When prostate cancer recurs, eating a plant-based diet and reducing stress may help slow progression of the disease, a new study shows.

Writing in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies, Dr. Gordon A. Saxe of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center in La Jolla, California and colleagues note that hormone treatment may be used to extend survival when prostate cancer returns. However, they add, the treatment reduces sex drive, causes hot flashes and weakens bones.

The researchers investigated whether a plant-based diet might be another way to slow the advance of recurrent prostate cancer, because the typical “Western” diet high in animal protein and low in plant foods has been seen to boost the progression of the disease.

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Glaxo adds strong heart risk warning to ADHD drug

Drug NewsAug 22 06

GlaxoSmithKline Plc has said it will add a strong warning about possible heart risk to its attention deficit hyperactivity drug Dexedrine, according to a letter posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Web site on Monday.

Packaging for the drug will also include information about possible psychiatric adverse events, like hallucinations and mania, linked to stimulants, according to the letter dated August 4.

Inclusion of the new warning comes after two FDA advisory panels offered conflicting opinions over how strong such warnings should be.

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China debates first anti-drug law

Public HealthAug 22 06

Chinese lawmakers on Tuesday began debating the country’s first bill specifically designed to crack down on drugs that flood across China’s borders.

“It is important to introduce such a law as China is now facing a grave situation in drug control,” Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of public security, as telling the standing committee of China’s rubber stamp parliament.

The country was estimated to have more than 700,000 heroin addicts, Xinhua said, with most the drugs coming from the Golden Triangle area that includes Myanmar and Laos, and the Golden Crescent along the Pakistan and Afghan frontiers.

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