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Entries in Celiac Disease (3)

Thursday
Jun212012

Blood Pressure Drug Linked to Celiac Disease Side Effects in Patients

Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A drug used for treating high blood pressure has been linked with a number of severe gastrointestinal side effects, according to a report from the Mayo Clinic.

Between 2008 and 2011, 22 patients taking the drug olmesartan, sold under the brand name Benicar, suffered symptoms similar to celiac disease, including chronic diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal inflammation and weight loss. Fourteen of the patients had to be hospitalized.

Doctors tried putting the patients on a gluten-free diet, the typical solution for treating celiac disease, but to no avail.

"We thought these cases were celiac diseases initially because their biopsies showed features very like celiac disease, such as inflammation," said Dr. Joseph Murray, the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist treating the patients, in a news release. "What made them different was they didn't have the antibodies in their blood that are typical for celiac disease."

When patients stopped taking olmesartan, their symptoms improved dramatically.

Olmesartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker, or ARB, a popular class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pharmacies dispensed the drug to 1.2 million Americans in 2010. About 68 million Americans have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors are skeptical that the findings apply to most of the people who take olmesartan or other ARBs. Dr. Franz Messerli, director of the hypertension program at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said just because the side effects stopped when patients stopped taking the drug doesn't necessarily mean that the drug caused those side effects.

"Only re-exposure [to the drug] can confirm that the GI side effects were indeed due to olmesartan," he said.

And many doctors say that GI side effects from the drug are very uncommon.

"I use this agent all the time with excellent results with respect to blood pressure lowering," said Dr. Henry Black, clinical professor of cardiology at NYU-Langone Medical Center. "I find it very difficult to believe that this very small sample of individuals means anything."

Black said it's more important to know whether other drugs in the ARB family have produced similar side effects.

Other doctors said there are other more likely explanations for the reported side effects.

"The report from the Mayo Clinic would suggest a drug allergy of sorts and findings that would not relate to the mechanism of action of this drug," said Dr. Domenic Sica, a professor of medicine and pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.

Murray said physicians should know that the drug has the potential for side effects.

"It's really an awareness issue. We want doctors to be aware of this issue, so if they see a patient who is having this type of syndrome that they think about medications as a possible association," Murray said in the news release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb212012

Gluten Intolerance: When Is it a Full-Blown Allergy?

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Store aisles, markets, bakeries, blogs and books are stocked with food ideas for going gluten-free.  The gluten-free diet has become popular for combating a full-blown gluten allergy known as celiac disease, or more popularly for those with no allergy at all as a means to lose weight and enhance athletic performance.

But researchers say there's a middle ground emerging.  A growing number of people now have a type of gluten intolerance called nonceliac gluten sensitivity, which isn't quite as serious as celiac disease but not to be taken lightly either.  Mounting evidence now suggests the number of people who have nonceliac gluten sensitivity may outnumber those who have full-blown celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a genetic condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients from food.  The damage is attributed to an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats.

People with celiac disease are diagnosed through specific blood and bowel tests.  Those with the disease have a higher risk for anemia, osteoporosis, severe intestinal damage and gastrointestinal cancers.

Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity walks a blurry diagnostic line.  There's no definitive way to diagnose the condition like a blood test.  The condition is also not associated with as serious side effects and doesn't have the same genetic markers as celiac disease.

"It's been very tough to qualify and classify given that we did not have a clear definition of what it's all about," said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In February, Fasano and more than a dozen international food allergy experts published a consensus report identifying gluten sensitivity as one in a group of gluten spectrum disorders that include wheat allergy and celiac disease.

Sixty million gluten-free products are consumed in the U.S. each day, Fasano said.  But the question remains as to how many of these products are consumed out of medical necessity.

What looks like an increase in the number of people reporting gluten sensitivity may stem from an incorrect diagnosis, according to Italian researchers who published a commentary Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Since there are no standard diagnosing criteria for gluten sensitivity, few patients have been properly diagnosed, the researchers wrote.

Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include abdominal pain similar to irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, headaches and a "foggy mind." But these symptoms generally improve or disappear after removing gluten from the diet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug022011

FDA May Be Closer to Defining 'Gluten-Free'

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- "Gluten-free" has become a popular, and profitable, label. But what does it mean?

The Food and Drug Administration may be getting closer to answering this question. On Wednesday, the FDA is expected to announce that it is resuming its finalization of a standard defining what foods are gluten-free. The standard would be that foods carrying a "gluten-free" label must have no more than 20 parts per million gluten. This mirrors Europe's standard.

Congress ordered the FDA to produce a standard seven years ago. A major reason was to protect people with celiac disease, a genetic disorder that causes intolerance to gluten. The National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control estimate between 1.5 million and 3 million Americans suffer from this disease.

Grocery shelves are stacked with "gluten-free" food. Sales are approaching $3 billion per year. A few months ago, Kellogg's launched Rice Krispies Gluten Free. It's now one of the company's top sellers.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye barley and other grains, as well as many processed foods, soups, salad dressings and sauces.

Victoria Beckham, Rachel Weisz and Gwyneth Paltrow are among the celebrities who have publicly promoted gluten-free eating. Weight loss, better sleep and clearer skin are among the benefits proponents tout. Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake was baked with gluten-free flour.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio