FDA Panel to Consider Lap Band Expansion

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee convening Friday will consider a request by manufacturers of the Lap Band to allow the popular weight-loss device to be used on those who are less obese.

The request by Allergan, the same company that manufactures Botox, will likely prove to be a controversial one, as some say such an approval could push the band further into the realm of cosmetic elective surgery. And the fact that the chairwoman of the FDA committee considering the request owns stock in Allergan will likely do little to quell this controversy.

While the heads of FDA advisory panels do not vote, in this case, Dr. Karen Woods, the chairwoman of the FDA advisory committee making the determination, could stand to gain financially from an affirmative decision, according to ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser.

"It is disturbing that the person who's heading the review committee has stock in that company," Besser told ABC News, "Allergan has a lot to benefit if this is approved."

Today, nearly 13 million Americans may qualify for Lap Band surgery, but if the FDA approves Allergan's request, the number eligible for the procedure could spike to nearly 32 million.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Man Doses Himself With a Parasite for Intestinal Problems

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Catching an intestinal parasite is not usually considered desirable, but for a California man with severe gastrointestinal problems, dosing himself with worms was the answer to his prayers.

After reading preliminary research that suggested a whipworm found in pigs could help those with ulcerative colitis, the 34-year-old patient tracked down and ingested eggs from Trichuris trichiura, a similar roundworm that infects humans, in hopes of easing his own colitis.

After a few months, the abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea associated with the patient's ulcerative colitis improved dramatically, and after a second "booster" dose of worm eggs, he remains in remission more than four years later.

In hopes of better understanding how certain parasitic worms can be used to heal, doctors at New York University Langone Medical Center ran extensive testing on this man, the results of which were published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

"Essentially this patient has been in remission for several years, with no other medication. For this individual, the goal is to remain infected for the rest of his life, but it's hard to know if that's a viable strategy for everyone. We don't have a good understanding of the risk," said P'ng Loke, assistant professor of medical parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center and lead author of the study.

Treating colitis with worms is not new. The first human trials using pig whipworm took place in 2005. and this worm is being developed as a possible colitis vaccine, said Dr. Joel Weinstock, who pioneered this research while at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. But Loke's case study may shed more light on how these worms protect and heal the colon.

Researchers found that the parasite works by inciting a specific type of immune response. In an attempt to rid the body of the worms, the immune system signals the body to produce more mucus, which in turn protects the lining of the gut from the ulcers and inflammation caused by the colitis. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Higher Body Mass Index Linked to Greater Mortality Risk

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) -- It may not be true after all that being overweight protects people against certain types of mortality -- other than cancer and cardiovascular disease -- as some recent research has suggested.

According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, being overweight or obese is associated with a higher rate of death from all causes.

Researchers, led by Amy Berrington de Gonzalez, an investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. analyzed data from more than 1.5 million white adults who participated in 19 past studies that evaluated risk for developing cardiovascular disease.  De Gonzalez said she and her team selected only subjects who were healthy non-smokers.

"We conducted the study to try and clarify the relationship between BMI [body mass index] and all-cause mortality, in part to answer two questions: what the optimal BMI range is and the risk associated with being overweight, or having a BMI of 25 to 30," said de Gonzalez. "There's particular uncertainty with regard to this second question."

De Gonzalez and her fellow researchers found that overweight participants had a 13 percent higher mortality risk than people in the lower BMI ranges, contrary to those previous findings.  The beneficial effect of being overweight that other researchers found could also be due to other factors in addition to smoking and poor health, said obesity experts.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Scientisits 'See' New Benefit in Fish Diets

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Eating fish may be the key to saving your eyesight.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore claim that the onset of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, might be minimized by a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fish have in abundance.

AMD is prevalent in seniors and is the major cause of blindness in Caucasians.

Lead study author Sheila K. West reported a study of 2,400 people between the ages of 65 and 84 revealed that those who ate less omega-3-rich fish and shellfish were more prone to contracting AMD and being in the advanced stages of the disease.

Seniors in the study group lived in Maryland's Eastern Shore region, where fish and shellfish are a dietary staple.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Students Get Tested on World AIDS Day

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio (PHOENIX) -- College campuses around the country offered free HIV testing for students Wednesday in observation of World AIDS Day.

At Arizona State University’s Phoenix campus, different vendors gave out condoms and educated students on the importance of safe sex. And in just two hours, 27 students got tested for HIV.

Alicia Delavuga, the management intern for ASU wellness, helped organize the event at ASU. She commented that there isn’t enough education about AIDS.

“Unfortunately at a high school level there isn’t a lot of education being done about being safe or being safer,” Delavuga said. “ I think that is why there is an opportunity at a college age to really educate our students.”

Delavuga also touched on common misconceptions about how HIV/AIDS is contracted. “I hope that people still don’t think you can get it from kissing but there are a ton of misconceptions out there and that’s why we’re doing this. There is so much misinformation and we want to make sure our students are educated and they are being as safe as possible.”

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a sexually transmitted infection that can be prevented by practicing safe sex. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS is a disease caused by HIV that weakens the immune system and can result in death.

At the University of Nebraska Multicultural Center they promoted HIV testing sponsored by the Students for Sexual Health, the University Health Center Student Advisory Board and the Afrikan People’s Union.

HIV testing is offered free throughout the entire year at UNL. The school's sexual health and clinic outreach coordinator Lee Heerten said World AIDS Day is a great way to emphasize the importance of getting tested.

Heerten said the university wanted to put an end to some of the common misconceptions of HIV/AIDS so they used a game centered around those myths.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Leapfrog Releases List of Top US Hospitals

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The Leapfrog Group on Wednesday released their annual list of the nation’s top hospitals.

Of the nation’s estimated 5,000 hospitals, 1,200 reported performance to Leapfrog. Among the best performing hospitals were 16 that belong to Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans.

A surprise is the exclusion of New York City’s Columbia Presbyterian, which routinely makes the U.S. News list of the nation's top 10 hospitals.

The survey focused on “four critical areas of patient safety,” including the use of computer physician order entry to prevent medication errors, standards for high-risk procedures, protocols and policies to reduce medical errors and adequate staffing.
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FDA Will Examine Link Between Food Dye and Child Behavior

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The Food and Drug Administration will hold a meeting to determine if there is a negative link between child consumption of synthetic color additives in food and a child’s behavior. 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday the FDA will meet in March to determine whether “relevant data” is available to link food dyes with impaired behavior by children, a meeting they said is “welcome and overdue.”

“Yellow 5, Red 40, and other commonly used food dyes have long been shown in numerous clinical studies to impair children’s behavior,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson. “But for years, FDA — which actually commissioned one of the first controlled studies — dismissed the mounting evidence against the dyes.”

Jacobsen said that animal studies have also demonstrated the link between food dyes and cancer.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sleep, Eating Schedules Major Concerns for New Mothers

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(SHELTON, Conn.) – Establishing a healthy sleep routine is the biggest concern for American mothers bringing home newborns, according to a survey commissioned by Playtex.

Fifty-seven percent of moms worry that their newborn will not sleep properly during their first months. Forty-nine percent also worry about establishing a healthy feeding routine.

“Focus your attention on making sure your newborn is waking up to feed at least every two-to-three hours and is getting enough to eat to gain weight and grow as expected,” said Dr. Laura Jana, a pediatrician and author. “Even as babies get older, it helps to remember that not everyone eats the same thing, in the same amount, at the same time, day in and day out – and babies are no exception.”

Although it may be messy, spit-up concerns were low on the list, with just 20 percent of new mothers raising that particular issue.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


CT Scans May Not Be As Risky As Once Thought, Study Finds

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Doctors have long known that CT scans can be a double-edged sword. Their diagnostic power is pivotal in modern-day medicine, but their inherent cancer risks leave both physicians and patients wary.

Now, a new study presented at a major scientific meeting may alleviate some CT cancer fears -- but it may also fuel the controversy surrounding the tests.

The study of more than 10 million Medicare patient records suggests the cancer risks from the scans are much smaller than past studies claim. Prior research estimated radiation-induced cancer rates associated with these scans around one-and-a-half-to-two percent, but results from the Stanford study found that CT scans were only associated with a 0.02 to .04 percent higher risk of cancer in its study population.

"The bottom line here is that not enough work has been done in this area yet," said Dr. Pat Basu, faculty radiologist at Stanford University and co-author of the study. "We need to be sure not to over-scan people, but not forget the tremendous benefits from CT scans; they can save lives and make medical care cheaper."

Dr. David J. Brenner, professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University, takes issue with the methodology of the study. Only patients who had received no less than the radiation of about four or five CT scans were included in the final risk results. Those patients who had only a few CT scans in the years studied were not included in the final results.

Today, more than 62 million CT scans are performed in the United States, compared with three million in 1980. A CT scan can have 50 to 250 times more radiation than a conventional X-ray.

For this reason, some doctors have raised alarm on unnecessary CT scans. Indeed, many studies have shown that patients are unnecessarily getting CT scans, exposing themselves to radiation.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, agreed that the issue is in the amount of CT scans used on patients.

"We as a nation are in love with technology," said Lichtenfeld. "We're going in the complete opposite direction where I think we should go. We need to take a step back, respect technology, but understand the limitations of technology and not assume everything must be used all the time."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Dangerous Dose? Kids' Meds Are Hard to Measure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Dosing directions for children's over-the-counter medications are misleading and hard for parents to understand, according to a study from the New York University School of Medicine.

Researchers sampled 200 of the top-selling cough/cold, allergy, analgesic and gastrointestinal over-the-counter (OTC) liquid medication for children and found that inconsistencies between labeled dosage and the provided measuring device could increase the likelihood of mis-dose when medicine is administered by caretakers in the home.

One-in-four OTC medications didn't even include a measuring device, despite guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration that recommend all children's medications to include them.

In response to growing concerns over accidental drug overdose in OTC children's medications, the FDA released new guidelines on how to create clear and easy-to-use dosing directions in November 2009.

The study examined over-the-counter products around the time the guidelines were released and documents the widespread inconsistencies in dosing directions and packaging that spurred the action by both the FDA and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents the makers of 95 percent of all OTC consumer medications.

"This study is intended to establish baselines.  The plan is to take another look in a year or so to see if changes have been made," says Dr. H. Shonna Yin, lead author on the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine.

According to the CHPA, all member manufacturers are voluntarily participating in revisions to bring pediatric medications up to the new guidelines, though the results of these changes will not be reflected in the products immediately.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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