Hope for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(BEIJING) -- Researchers at China's Peking University may have found new hope for people who suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Experiments have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from umbilical cord blood can suppress inflammation.  The research, described in BioMed Central's open access journal, Arthritis Research and Therapy, has been done in vitro and on animals.

Experts say there is very little known about MSCs but they are believed to exert profound immunosuppression.  That could mean they are very beneficial for those with autoimmune diseases such as RA.

Researchers at Peking University took immune cells from RA patients and found that the umbilical MSCs were able to suppress the cells' growth, invasive behavior and inflammatory responses.  The doctors say because RA places such a burden on health care systems nationwide and causes so much pain for patients, a dramatic new treatment could mean major improvements in dealing with the disease.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Blood Pressure Treatment Shows Promise

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- A new treatment for high blood pressure may be emerging and it doesn't involve a row of pill bottles on your kitchen counter.

Doctors at the American Heart Association conference in Chicago are looking at the treatment, which uses radio waves to target nerves that raise blood pressure. The waves damage the nerves, which leads to permanent relaxation of the arteries involved. Those nerves are located near the kidneys and are accessed through a tube fed through the groin.

A small study, involving about 100 patients, found the procedure led to a 33-point drop in the top number of the blood pressure reading.  That's considered much better than the 10-point or less reduction common with pills.

Cardiologist Elliot Antman said even if the procedure doesn't always work as well as the study suggests, it is still a "dramatic new option" for people at risk of heart attacks, strokes and death, who are not being helped by drugs.

It was approved two years ago overseas but further study is needed before U.S. approval could be granted.  That study is scheduled to begin next year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Allergic Teen Seeks High School Perfume Ban

(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) -- One Indiana high school could have a zero tolerance policy on cologne, perfume, and other sprayed body scents if concerned mother Janice Zandi wins a court case she's filed against the Fort Wayne Community High Schools for not banning the scents that she claims her son J.Z. is allergic to.

Seventeen-year-old J.Z. has been treated for a reaction at school several times in the last year in connection with his allergy, three times requiring an ambulance to nearby Parkview North Hospital, where he was treated for respiratory distress.

Claiming that the school district's refusal to protect her son with a fragrance ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Zandi filed the suit Nov. 12.

But several allergists contacted said they had never heard of an actual allergy to sprayed scents and noted that an allergy would be highly unlikely given the size of the particles in perfume.

"Generally we think of sprays as irritating to someone with asthma, but this is not a true allergy," says Dr. Wesley Burkes, chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center.

Whether allergy or asthma, J.Z.'s case pushes the envelope on school liability concerning allergies. If won, the case could open up broader interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, allergists say.

According to the official complaint, J.Z. has never suffered an anaphylactic reaction outside of the school grounds and "can tolerate exposure to the normal scents found in contemporary American society, and reacts only to freshly sprayed perfumes, colognes, and body sprays such as Axe lingering in the air."

None of the allergist contacted by ABC News, however, had ever heard of an allergy to sprayed scents.

"I know of no documentation that they cause actual primary allergic reactions," agreed Dr. Miles Weinberger, director of Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa. "It especially doesn't sound credible for allergy that various difference odors, sprays, and scents have triggered the reaction."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Americans Optimistic about Nation's Health Care

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Public opinion on health care quality and coverage in the US is more positive now than it has been for the past decade.

This is according to the latest Gallup Health and Healthcare poll. The poll found that 62-percent of Americans rate the quality of the nation’s health care as excellent or good. This percentage is five points higher than last year’s figure.

The opinion on health care coverage wasn’t quite as positive, with the poll’s results showing that only 39-percent of Americans rated coverage as excellent or good. This figure stands at just one percentage point higher than last year’s figure.

These figures are the highest ever recorded since Gallup began conducting the poll in 2001.

The poll also found that only 23-percent of Americans are satisfied with the cost of health care in the nation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Makers Pull Darvon, Darvocet Off the Market

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The painkiller known by the brand names Darvon and Darvocet has been on the market since the 1950s, but now, it is being pulled from the market. Under pressure from critics who say hundreds die every year from heart problems caused by the drug, manufacturer Xanodyne has agreed to withdraw it from U.S. markets.

The Food and Drug Administration says the new concerns about Darvon and Darvocet follow new clinical data linking the drugs -- both technically known as propoxyphene -- to potentially fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.  The agency says the clinical data, combined with new epidemiological research and other information, mean the risks now outweigh the benefits of Darvon and Darvocet. 

Doctors are being advised to stop prescribing the medication.  People who are taking it are advised to contact their doctors immediately.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio



Arizona Budget Cuts Put Some Organ Transplants Out of Reach

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MESA, Ariz.) -- As the United States continues debating expanded health care access, the state of Arizona has begun rationing some care it says it cannot afford to give its poorest residents. Beginning on Oct. 1, Arizona's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, stopped covering seven types of organ transplants, including heart transplants for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, lung transplants, pancreatic transplants, some bone marrow transplants and liver transplants for patients with hepatitis C.

The reductions made by the Arizona state government were approved by the federal government, according to an Aug. 11 letter from Gloria Nagle, associate regional administrator for the Division of Medicaid & Children's Health Operations. In addition to limiting organ transplants, Arizona also restricted coverage of prosthetics and zeroed out podiatrists' services, preventive dental services, and wellness and physical exams for adult Medicaid enrollees.

"This may be a harbinger of what will evolve in this Obama national healthcare system where the expense of the health system will only be able to be contained by limitation of access," said Dr. David C. Cronin, director of liver transplantation at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "So everybody may be covered, but all services may not be available."

Of Arizona's decision to pull the plug on an insured patient's transplant, he said, "I don't see how that's fair on any level. It's indefensible to renege if the patient did everything they were supposed to do and they don't have another option. You shouldn't try to balance your budget on the backs of the most desperate patients."

Arizona's Republican governor and legislature, who already control the state's purse strings, want even more independence when it comes to determining which health care services Arizona Medicaid patients receive. Indeed, Arizona's newly elected Senate President Russell Pearce has argued for cutting the state's Medicaid program, even if that means Arizona will lose about $7 billion worth of federal grants.

Jennifer Carusetta, chief legislative liaison for AHCCCS, said the state is facing a $1 billion deficit in the program come July 2011. Although Arizona's fiscal year began July 1, the state opted not to implement the cuts until Oct. 1, when it estimated they'd affect about 100 people on transplant lists. However, Carusetta said the state anticipated that only a fraction of them were likely to feel direct effects of the policy change. "We believe that only about 15 percent of those individuals would be able to get a match and secure an organ," she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Americans Divided Over Healthcare Coverage

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PRINCETON, NJ) – Americans remain split over whether it is the job of the government to provide all citizens with healthcare coverage, according to a new Gallup Poll.

Exactly half of those polled do not believe the federal government is responsible for healthcare insurance, while 47 percent believe it is.

The poll also showed that 61 percent of Americans prefer a healthcare system backed by private insurance versus a government-run program. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Report: One in Five Americans Experienced Mental Illness Last Year

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- Over 45 million American adults experienced mental illness last year, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Dr. Peter Delaney, the agency's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics director, says the report found that "about one in five Americans has experienced mental illness over the past year," and that "about 8.4 million Americans had a serious thought about committing suicide."

"The is the first time that we've been able to put a report like this together," Delaney adds.  "So, this is a first-of-a-kind report."

Delaney says doctors need to do a better job identifying people who are at risk for hurting themselves.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FDA Declares Four Loko, Similar Beverages Unsafe

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WABC-TV New York(WASHINGTON) -- In an expected move, the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday launched a crackdown on popular alcoholic caffeinated drinks such as Four Loko, declaring the products unsafe.

The FDA has notified four companies marketing the popular drinks that adding caffeine to alcohol was unsafe and unapproved.  The FDA stated in letters to the companies that if they do not take steps within 15 days to halt sales of the products, the regulatory agency would obtain a court order to bar them.

In a written statement, Joshua M. Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy commissioner, declared the agency “does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is generally recognized as safe, which is the legal standard.  To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”

The FDA announcement came one day after Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, announced it was removing caffeine and two other ingredients from the product.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Will The Food Safety Bill Make Our Meals Safer?

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The Senate is scheduled to take up debate Thursday on a bill to strengthen the nation’s food safety rules.

The bill, which was passed in the House almost a year ago, would give the FDA the power to mandate food recalls. It would also allow the FDA to increase inspections of food producers, improve tracking of fruit and vegetable shipments and set stricter standards for food manufacturers to help prevent outbreaks of contamination.

Food experts have offered their opinions on whether the bill will truly make food safer for consumers. 

"It will be a huge victory for consumers when it passes, and will pay off rapidly with better public health and economic protections,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "With better internal controls and better oversight, the legislation will help to prevent contaminated foods from reaching the public.” Smith also noted that the bill is equipped with safety nets that would give the FDA more control, like the authority to issue mandatory recalls and civil penalties, if problems do occur.

Other industry experts have raised concerns over why the Senate has taken so long to begin debate.

Marios Nestle, a professor at New York University, supports the bill but finds it “truly shocking” that the Senate has sat on it since July 2009.

“The bill has bipartisan support but neither party wants the other to get credit for passing it,” Nestle said.

Even as debate gets underway, some remain doubtful that the bill will offer the protection it has promised.

"There are bad players in the system, which government is supposed to catch, but given the pervasive food safety outbreaks over the past 20 years, they don't seem very good at it,” said Dr. Douglas Powell, a profesor at Kansas State University.

"Will the new bill mean fewer sick people? Doubtful.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio