Allegra to Be Sold Over the Counter

Photo Courtesy- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Those who suffer from allergies can now buy the number-one prescribed allergy treatment without a prescription.

The FDA approved the Allegra family of allergy medication for over-the-counter use Tuesday.

Allegra and Allegra-D will be available in March 2011 in their original prescription strengths for over-the-counter purchase. The price of the medication will be left to the discretion of retailers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cost of Treating Heart Disease, Stroke to Triple by 2030

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) – The aging population of the United States is expected to cause the cost of treating heart disease and stroke to triple by the year 2030.

In a policy statement, the American Heart Association said the cost of treating the diseases in the U.S. is expected to reach $818 billion in the next 20 years.

"The burden of heart disease and stroke on the U.S. health care system will be substantial and will limit our ability to care for the U.S. population unless we can take steps now to prevent cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paul Heidenreich, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford Medical School. Heidenreich is also the chair of the American Heart Association panel who issued the statement in the January edition of Circulation.

Along with an aging population, the dramatic increase in costs also accounts for an increasingly diverse racial mix in patients. The American Heart Association also points to “unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments” that have increased risk factors in Americans.

The percentage of Americans with some type of heart disease is expected to rise to 40.5 percent by 2030, compared to the current figure of 36.9 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Seeks Tougher Oversight for Defibrillators

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ROCKVILLE, Md.) – The Food and Drug Administration has asked for greater standards for external defibrillators as issues with the technology have led to several recalls, according to HealthDay News.

The FDA Tuesday asked a panel of advisors for stricter oversight on the devices, which are used to jumpstart a patient’s heart in an emergency, because manufacturers have failed to fix problems that led to the recalls.

In the past five years, the FDA says there have been 68 recalls of the device, as well as 23,591 reports of malfunction.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Anti-Estrogen Medication Could Improve Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GENEVA, Switzerland) – A drug used to battle breast cancer may help reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer, according to a new study.

The study, published in Cancer, claims that the anti-estrogen medication tamoxifen can help control hormonal levels in lung cancer patients that are critical to survival.

Researchers at the Geneva Cancer Registry examined the effect of anti-estrogen therapy in patients with lung cancer. They found that fewer women who had taken anti-estrogens died from lung cancer than expected.

"Our results support the hypothesis that there is a hormonal influence on lung cancer which has been suggested by findings such as the presence of estrogen and progesterone receptors in a substantial proportion of lung cancers," said Elisabetta Rapiti, M.D., of the Geneva Cancer Registry. "If prospective studies confirm our results and find that anti-estrogen agents improve lung cancer outcomes, this could have substantial implications for clinical practice.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Do We Expect Too Much from Fast Food?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- At Taco Bell, 99 cents gets a customer a beefy five-layer burrito: layers of seasoned ground beef, beans, real cheddar cheese and reduced-fat sour cream wrapped up in a nacho-cheese-sauce-smothered tortilla.

But a California woman is suing the fast-food chain for false advertising, claiming its beefy filling is only 35-percent ground beef.

"We are asking that they stop saying that they are selling beef," a representative from the California law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, which is representing the woman in a class action, told the New York Daily News.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders or binders added." The lawsuit, filed Jan. 19 in a California federal court, claims Taco Bell's "seasoned ground beef" is two-thirds binders, extenders, preservatives, additives and other agents. The lawsuit wants Taco Bell to publicly come clean about the content of its Mexican-inspired products.

But for 99 cents -- and ready in seconds -- who expects Grade-A beef?

"It may be unrealistic to think that you're going to get a high-quality meat product at an inexpensive fast-food joint," said Lisa Cimperman, a registered dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "Ground beef is an expensive ingredient, so it's probably one place they're going to cut corners."

Among the ingredients in Taco Bell's taco meat filling are soybean oil (an anti-dusting agent), silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent) and the common food additives maltodextrin and soy lecithin.

"In most cases, these additives are not necessarily harmful," said Cimperman. "They're added for shelf stability, texture and flavor."

Nevertheless, the plaintiff has a legitimate "beef," Cimperman said. But she hesitates to say the lawsuit will dissuade Taco Bell devotees.

"People who are interested in eating organic, grass-fed beef aren't eating at Taco Bell," Cimperman said. "I think that if you choose to eat there, it's a conscious decision to eat something less healthy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women Enjoy Reading Celebrity Gossip

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Reading gossip about celebrities is apparently a weekly habit for more than 50 percent of America's women, according to a new survey.  A survey of 1,281 women ages 18 to 35 reveals that more than 50 percent of respondents read celebrity gossip at least once per week, including seven percent who claim they're addicted.  Just 16 percent of women claim they never read celebrity news.

Additional survey findings:

  • 60 percent of women prefer to read about a celebrity's successful comeback while 40 percent would rather read about their downfall.
  • 46 percent of women enjoy reading about a celebrity's party lifestyle, but 54 percent would rather read about a star's charity work.
  • Gossip magazines and websites are the top two preferred sources of celebrity gossip for women, with 34 percent and 32 percent of women rating them as their primary sources, respectively.
  • Just five percent of women get their celebrity gossip from daily newspapers.
  • Nearly 70 percent of women catch up on celebrity news and gossip in their homes, while 33 percent do so in doctor's offices.
  • Some 27 percent of women polled read celebrity gossip in the workplace, while 23 percent get their celebrity news in beauty salons.  Thirteen percent of women read celebrity news while in an airport or traveling on a plane.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Roger Ebert Back 'At the Movies' With Prosthetic Chin

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Renowned movie critic Roger Ebert returned to the small screen to talk about the big screen over the weekend in the new show, "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies" looking much different than he did the last time he gave one of his famous "thumbs up/thumbs down" ratings several years ago.

Ebert, who lost the lower part of his jaw and his voice box after complications from thyroid and salivary gland cancer, appeared in a segment at the end of the show with his new prosthetic chin and an artificial voice in place of what he lost.

A Scotland-based company, CereProc, reconstructed Ebert's voice using archived footage of him from his show "At the Movies." The company says there are realistic animated and emotional aspects to the voices it creates with its software.

Ebert's chin is a silicone prosthesis that is similar to dentures in that it's not meant to be worn all the time. Dr. David Reisberg, a maxillofacial prosthodontist at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, helped create Ebert's prosthetic chin.

"We wanted to design a prosthesis that would elevate his lower jaw or chin area," said Reisberg. "It wasn't so much because he wanted to look better, but he felt that other people would be more comfortable dealing with him."

The prosthesis rests on Ebert's shoulder blades and is almost like a collar, Reisberg said. Since he doesn't wear the chin every day, it's unlikely there will be any complications, which would be minor.

Reisberg said that reconstructive surgery is generally the best option, but Ebert suffered from complications from previous procedures. Reisberg couldn't elaborate on those problems because he wasn't involved in that part of Ebert's cancer treatment.

Surgeons say silicone implants and silicone prostheses are two options for facial reconstruction. Depending on the severity of the facial trauma or personal preference, patients may also opt to use their own tissue.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Capitalizing on Medical Marijuana: Pot Soft-Drinks

Photo Courtesy - KGO-TV San Francisco(SAN FRANCISCO) -- California and Colorado have more liberal medical marijuana laws than most states, and one entrepreneur wants to capitalize on those tolerant policies by marketing a line of marijuana soft drinks.

Clay Butler tells The Mercury News he's never smoked marijuana, but he thinks there's a market in marijuana dispensaries for a line of soft drinks that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

The resident of Soquel, Calif., has partnered with Diavolo Brands to produce five soft drink flavors: Canna Coke, a Dr. Pepper-like beverage called Doc Weed, lemon-lime Sour Diesel, Grape Ape, and the orange-flavored Orange Kush.

Butler hopes to launch the products in Colorado next month, and in California by springtime. 

The soft drinks will sell for between $10 and $15 per 12-ounce bottle.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New 'Nutrition Keys' Coming to Front of Food Packages

Photo Courtesy - Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Marketing Institute (PHOENIX) -- The leading food manufacturers and retailers in America introduced a new labeling system Monday that will call for the placement of nutrition facts on the front of food items to help consumers make informed decisions when they shop for groceries.

Called Nutrition Keys, the new labels will feature information on calories, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars content on the front of food and beverage products.  The nutrition facts will be easy to read and to the point, and will also feature daily value percentages as recommended by the U.S. government. 

Smaller products, like beverages, may only feature caloric content, while larger items could add “nutrients to encourage” -- potassium, fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium and iron -- in addition to the four basic icons.

The program is a joint venture between the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, and was created after first lady Michelle Obama requested it in March of 2010.

Food and beverage companies will begin to adopt the Nutrition Keys icon this year, with the first products to feature them hitting store shelves in a few months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arctic Blast Increases Risk of Frostbite, Hypothermia

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As many Americans feel the arctic blast moving across the country, doctors are warning people to take extra care in bundling up and staying out of the cold.

Frostbite, in particular, is a major threat; it can occur in under a minute at extremely cold temperatures.  The term is shorthand for the literal freezing of body tissue, usually skin.  The most vulnerable areas to frostbite include fingers, toes, noses, cheeks, and ears.

According to the National Weather Service, frostbite can occur within 5 minutes in temperatures between 0 degrees and -19 degrees Fahrenheit.

The initial stage of frostbite usually affects the top skin layers and does not lead to long-term damage.  As freezing continues, second-degree frostbite may set in.  The skin can become hard and waxy, and blisters may form a day or two after the freezing.

Third degree frostbite consists of a deep frostbite, where the skin turns blue or black, and the muscles, nerves, and vessels have all frozen as well.  The area is temporarily debilitated, and, in some cases, permanently damaged.

In extreme cases of frostbite, the area can be infected with gangrene, where the affected body part will eventually fall off if it is not amputated first.

And, in a tidbit that could surprise even the most avid of winter athletes, Dr. Sandra Schneider, professor and chair emeritus of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center said: "It's better to leave a frostbitten area frozen then to go through a freeze, thaw, freeze, and thaw period."

Repetitive warming and freezing can cause ice crystals in the tissue, which only multiplies the damage done to the frostbitten skin.

Along with frostbite, hypothermia is another cold weather condition that can be dangerous to people unprepared for the weather.  It occurs when body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

"As the body temperature goes down, people will begin to shiver in order for the body to generate heat," said Dr. Lewis Marshall, chairman of emergency medicine at Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York.  "As the body temperature falls below 90 degrees, shivering stops and body can no longer regulate temperature. "

Other symptoms of hypothermia include clumsiness and confusion, drowsiness, a weak pulse, and shallow breathing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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