Latest News

Vaccine Cleared as Autism Culprit

Yet another panel of scientists has found no evidence that a popular vaccine causes autism. But despite the scientists’ best efforts, their report is unlikely to have any impact on the frustrating debate about the safety of these crucial medicines.

“The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, assembled by the Institute of Medicine, said in an interview. She was referring to a combination against measles, mumps and rubella that has long been a focus of concern from some parents’ groups.

To read the entire NY Times article, CLICK HERE

Zocor is Dangerous

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced new safety restrictions on high-dose simvastatin, also known as Zocor, a cholesterol-lowering drug taken by an estimated 2.1 million Americans.

The agency said the 80-milligram dose caused a potentially severe muscle disease, called myopathy, especially in the first year of taking the medication.

No new patients should be put on the high dosage, the F.D.A. said, recommending that existing patients should continue only if they have used the drug for more than a year without experiencing muscle pains. Alternative statins may be safer, the agency said.

This surely will lead to a spate of product/medical liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of this drug.

The drug’s manufacturer, Merck, advised patients on Wednesday to talk to their doctors if they wanted to change their statin drug or dosage. The company said many patients would not be affected by the F.D.A. action because they were taking lower dosages or had not felt muscle pain.

The F.D.A. approved 80-milligram Zocor in 1998, seven years after it approved lower dosages of the drug. It was once Merck’s top-selling product. Since the patent expired in 2006, simvastatin has mostly been sold as a generic drug.

The new restriction also applies to Vytorin, a combination drug sold by Merck and Schering-Plough that has some formulations in the 80-milligram dose.

And the restriction applies to Simcor, a combination pill sold by Abbott Laboratories. Simcor has lower levels of simvastatin, but may cause higher levels in the body interacting with other drugs, like blood pressure medicines amlodipine and diltiazem.

Two other statins are more potent and can accomplish the same cholesterol targets at lower doses, he said, citing Pfizer’s Lipitor and AstraZeneca’sCrestor.

Some doctors have prescribed simvastatin because it is cheaper in generic form. Lipitor goes off patent in November.

Muscle aches have long been known as a possible side effect of statins. The F.D.A. issued a safety warning on high-dose simvastatin in March 2010. On Wednesday, it said a seven-year study and patient reports prove that patients taking the higher dosage have a higher risk of muscle injury than those taking a lower dose of the drug or taking other statins.

The high doses accounted for 11.7 percent of 94 million simvastatin prescriptions in the United States last year and 15.5 percent of 8.6 million Vytorin prescriptions, the industry research firm IMS Health said.

Cancer-causing chemical found in baby products

More than 30 years after chemical flame retardants were removed from children’s pajamas because they were suspected of being carcinogens, new research into flame retardants shows that one of the chemicals is prevalent in baby’s products made with polyurethane foam, including nursing pillows, car seats and highchairs.

The research does not determine if children absorbed the chemical, chlorinated Tris, from the products. But in an article to be published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers suggest that infants who use the products have higher exposure to the chemical than the government recommends.

Earlier research by one of the article’s authors, Arlene Blum, a biophysical chemist, contributed to the elimination of Tris flame retardants, including chlorinated Tris, in children’s pajamas in the 1970s. Although the chemical was not banned at that time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission now says that it “may pose a significant health risk to consumers.”

The new research found that foam samples from more than a third of the 101 baby products that were tested contained chlorinated Tris. Over all, 80 of the products contained chemical flame retardants of some kind, some of which are considered toxic, though legal to use. In one instance, flame retardants represented 12 percent of the weight of the foam in a changing pad; most products were closer to 3 to 5 percent.

Read the full NY Times article:  Click Here

Artificial Colorings in Food and Behavior

Years ago artificial colorings were thought to be a cause of adverse health and behavioral effects in children.  Organizations such as Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Sidney Wolf's Health Research Group provided much evidence in support of this contention.  In the end, pediatric organizations determined that any connection was at best, tenuous.

Now, it appears that the issue is on the table again.  The FDA has taken up the cause and is leaning towards issuing formal warnings against artificial food colorings.  Why the change of heart?  A growing list of studies has affirmatively linked these food dyes to hyperactivity (ADHD and ADD) in children.

To see the full NY Times article:  Click Here

Addressing the worsening Methamphetamine problem

Several states are considering new legislation that will make decongestants prescription medication requiring a doctor's signature.  The main ingredient of these medications is pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient in the production of Methamphetamine.  In one state alone, Tennessee, police shut down over 2000 Methamphetamine labs last year, about a 50% increase from the year before.

Methamphetamine is an extremely dangerous street drug.  Once an individual becomes habituated, studies show that their life expectancy is less than 10 years.  Once hooked, because of its effects on dopaminergic receptors of the brain, it is extremely difficult to stop use, and relapse is the rule rather than the exception.

To read the entire NY Times article:  Click Here


Anesthesiologist May be the Source of Operating Room Infections

January 4, 2011 — The contaminated hands of anesthesia providers are a significant source of patient environmental and stopcock set contamination in the operating room, according to the results of a study by Randy W. Loftus, MD, from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and colleagues, reported in the January 2011 issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.

"As anesthesiologists, we like to think that the surgical drapes protect the patient from tens of trillions of microorganisms that are in and on our bodies," said editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia Steven L. Shafer, from Columbia University in New York, NY, in a news release. "Nope! These studies provide evidence that our bacterial flora contribute to surgical site infections."

The hypothesis tested by this study was that bacterial contamination of anesthesia provider hands before patient contact is a risk factor for direct intraoperative bacterial transmission. At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a tertiary care and level 1 trauma center with 400 inpatient beds and 28 operating suites, the first and second operative cases in each of 92 operating rooms were randomly selected for analysis. 

The results of the study were that intraoperative bacterial transmission occurred in 11.5% (19/164) of cases, of which 47% (9/19) were of provider origin. Intraoperative bacterial transmission to the anesthesia environment occurred in 89% (146/164) of cases, 12% (17/146) of which were of provider origin.

The investigators were quoted as saying:  "Although we know that hand-washing is an important step, our compliance is poor, and there is little excuse for hospitals not implementing systems that facilitate compliance with hand-washing guidelines," Dr. Shafer said. "However, as [this report suggests], it is time to look at additional measures to protect our patients from the biofilm that we take into the operating room every day."

Senate Passes Overall of US Food Safety Regulations

The Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food-safety system, after recalls of tainted eggs, peanut butter and spinach that sickened thousands and led major food makers to join consumer advocates in demanding stronger government oversight.  Food poisoning is a major public health nuisance often resulting in large disease outbreaks.  This is an important step forward towards improving the safety of the U.S. food supply.  To read the full NY Times article:  Click Here

Lead in Shopping Bags???

Recent reports have linked so-called "green shopping bags" with lead contamination.  This is an important toxicologic issue because once these bags are discarded, the lead could find its way into our water supply.  Also, flaking paint and decals on those bags could conceivably contaminate food in people's homes.

To read the complete NY Times article:  Click here.

CT Scans Can Reduce Lung Cancer

At long last a large government-financed study, the National Lung Screening Trial, has definitely shown that annual CT scans of the chests of current and former heavy smokers reduced their risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent.  As a bonus, and quite surprising, is that these same scans reduce the risks of death from other causes as well including cardiovascular disease, emphysema, and other pulmonary conditions, suggesting that the scans could catch other diseases.

These findings represent an enormous advance in cancer detection that could save tens of thousands of lives annually.  Insurance companies and Medicare have yet to offer to pay for preventive CT scans so people wanting the preventive test will have to pay out of pocket about $300-$500 for each CT scan.  Additionally, it is unclear if the Obama administration will do an "about-face" here.  Obama argued during the debate on healthcare that patient's health was often harmed by getting too many tests and procedures that, if reduced, would improve health while reducing costs.  This study shows that, at least in lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary conditions, spending more on tests saves lives.

To read the NY Times article:  Click Here.

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