Health Highlights: July 24, 2012

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

MS Drug Raises Seizure Risk: FDA

A warning about the increased risk of seizures in multiple sclerosis patients taking the drug Ampyra (dalfampridine) has been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The drug is prescribed to improve MS patients' ability to walk.

The FDA reviewed reports of adverse events associated with the drug and found that most seizures occurred within days to weeks after MS patients started taking the drug and occurred in patients with no history of seizures.

Ampyra should not be used in patients with a history of seizures or in those with moderate to severe kidney impairment, according to the FDA, which is updating the drug's label to clarify prescribing information for doctors.

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First U.S. Woman in Space Dies

Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, died Monday at her home in San Diego.

The 61-year-old physicist died of pancreatic cancer, according to an announcement on the website of her company, Sally Ride Science, The New York Times reported.

Ride was accepted into the space program in 1978 after she answered a newspaper ad for astronauts. She was 32 -- the youngest American in space -- when she flew on the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983. She flew on a second shuttle mission in 1984.

Later, Ride became the only person to sit on both panels investigating the two shuttle accidents that killed all astronauts on board, the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003, The Times reported.

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Alzheimer's Drug Shows No Benefit in Large Study

A highly anticipated experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease was shown to be ineffective in its first large clinical trial.

The phase 3 trial of 1,100 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's found that bapineuzumab provided no benefits, The New York Times reported.

The findings will be presented at a medical meeting in September, according to Pfizer, one of the three companies behind the drug.

All the patients in the study had the ApoE4 gene, which increases the risk that a person will develop Alzheimer's and can make the disease worse. Findings from a phase 2 study suggest that bapineuzumab may be more effective in patients without the gene, The Times reported.

The drug was designed to target beta-amyloid, a protein that has toxic effects in the brain and is widely believed to be a cause of Alzheimer's.

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New TB Therapy Shows Promise

A new three-drug therapy for tuberculosis appears to be highly effective and could dramatically shorten treatment times, according to a new study.

After two weeks of treatment, more than 99 percent of TB bacteria was killed in 85 patients, BBC News reported. Of the three drugs used in the therapy, one is new and another is not yet licensed.

The findings were published in The Lancet. Larger studies are now being conducted to further assess the therapy.

Currently, TB patients have to take drugs daily for six months. Drug-resistant TB is much more difficult and can require up to two years of treatment, BBC News reported.

TB kills about 1.4 million people a year worldwide, mainly in poor nations.

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U.S. Pledges More Funds to Fight HIV/AIDS

The United States is donating $80 million in new funding to help poor countries boost their efforts to prevent HIV infection in babies born to mothers with the virus that causes AIDS.

The new money will help get life-saving HIV drugs to women who currently don't receive them, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the International AIDS Conference Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Clinton also told the conference that the U.S. will invest millions more to identify the best ways to protect the highest-risk populations -- gay and bisexual men, sex workers and injection drug users -- in countries hard hit by HIV.

Also at the conference, leading U.S. AIDS researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci said science has provided the tools needed to greatly reduce the number of new HIV infections, but countries need to put these tools in place, the AP reported.

Those tools include better treatment of HIV-infected people, so that they're less likely to infect others.

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Cargill Recalls Ground Beef

Nearly 30,000 pounds of ground beef that may contain salmonella has been recalled by Cargill Beef, Hannaford Supermarkets is alerting consumers.

The 85-percent-lean ground beef was produced at Cargill's plant in Wyalusing, Pa. on May 25, the Associated Press reported.

The recall includes ground beef sold at Hannaford Supermarkets between May 29 and June 16. The company said that customers who return ground beef with those dates will receive refunds.

"Food borne illnesses are unfortunate and we are sorry for anyone who became sick from eating ground beef we may have produced," Cargill President John Keating says in a statement, the AP reported.

Consumers can find additional information at the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

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Posted: July 2012


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