Health Highlights: July 2, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Many More Kids Vaccinated For Hepatitis A

One-dose hepatitis A vaccination coverage among U.S. infants ages 24 months to 35 months increased from 26.3 percent in 2006 to 47.4 percent in 2007, says a federal government study released Thursday.

The increase followed a 2006 recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that all children ages 12 months to 23 months be immunized against hepatitis A. Previously, vaccination was recommended only for children who lived in areas where hepatitis A rates were consistently higher than the national average.

The 2006 recommendation also lowered the age for hepatitis vaccine from 24 months or older to 12 to 23 months.

Following the new recommendations, the largest increases in vaccination rates occurred in areas of the United States where hepatitis A vaccination wasn't previously recommended, said the CDC researchers.

The study appears in the current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is published by the CDC.

The analysis of one-dose vaccine coverage suggests efforts to implement the new recommendations are well under way, the researchers said. They added that future analysis of two or more vaccine doses will offer a better idea of how well children are being protected from hepatitis A.

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TB Vaccine May Be Fatal for Infants With HIV

Infants with HIV can die if they're given a standard tuberculosis vaccine, according to a three-year study conducted in South Africa.

The World Health Organization said the study found that babies born with HIV were more likely to contract a deadly form of TB if they were given the BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Infants with HIV should not receive the vaccine, and vaccination should be delayed if a baby's HIV status is unknown, the researchers said.

The study appears in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

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Colon Cancer Study Is Stopped

A late-stage study of the cancer drug Sutent as a treatment for colon cancer has been halted because the drug is not effective enough, the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, announced Tuesday.

The study was designed to compare the use of a combination treatment of Sutent and a type of chemotherapy with use of the chemotherapy alone. Researchers found that the combination treatment was not more effective at extending survival without cancer progression.

There were no safety issues, according to Pfizer.

Sutent is approved in the United States for treatment of advanced kidney cancer and gastrointestinal cancer, the Associated Press reported.

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U.S. Government to Seek Answers to Health-Care Questions

Should birth control pills be available over the counter? What's the best way to treat back pain? Should people with irregular heartbeats have surgery or take a drug?

The U.S. government plans to spend more than $1 billion to find the answers to questions such as those, according to an Associated Press report.

The money is part of the economic stimulus plan, specifically aimed at figuring out the so-called comparative effectiveness of various treatments, tests and strategies related to health care. The idea is to give doctors better information as to what's best for a particular patient and to give patients more ammunition to become active, informed participants in their health-care decisions, the AP said.

The questions released Tuesday came from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, and included its top 100 priorities for study. The $1.1 billion set aside for the project would cover only a fraction of the research required to obtain answers, the AP reported.

Posted: July 2009


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