Health Highlights: May 23, 2008

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

Truckers, Bus Drivers Can't Take Anti-Smoking Drug Chantix

Examiners shouldn't give commercial motor vehicle license clearance to anyone currently using the anti-smoking drug Chantix, says the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees the interstate trucking and bus industries.

The FMCSA announcement Thursday came a day after the Federal Aviation Administration banned the use of the drug by pilots and air traffic controllers.

The agencies took action in response to an Institute for Safe Medication Practices study saying that Chantix may be linked to seizures, dizziness, heart rhythm problems, diabetes and more than 100 accidents, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The non-profit group's study said the drug was linked to 988 serious incidents in the last quarter of 2007 alone. After the study was released Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation alerted its agencies and instructed office directors to read the study's warnings and recommendations.

Last year, warnings on Chantix's label were updated to include depression and suicidal thoughts. The FDA hasn't announced any new action in response to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices study, the Journal reported.

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Everlasting Jelly Candles Pose Fire, Burn Hazards

Additional incidents of minor fires and burn injuries have prompted a repeat of an earlier recall of about 1,700 Everlasting Jelly candles sold at Spa at Home stores and online, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday.

The candles may be prone to excessive flame. The original recall in February 2007 noted there had been seven reports of flames coming in contact with nearby combustibles, resulting in minor fires, smoke and soot damage, along with four reports of burn injuries to users' hands.

Since that initial recall, there have been four more reports of the candles causing minor fires, smoke and soot damage, and one additional report of burn injuries to a consumer's hand, the CPSC said.

Consumers should stop using the candles and contact manufacturer M & A Global Technologies of Tallahassee, Fla. for instructions on returning the product. The company can be reached at 866-224-8811.

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Health Canada Warns About Male Sexual Performance Aid

A male sexual performance aid called Desire may cause serious health complications for certain people, says Health Canada.

One lot of the product was found to contain the prescription drug phentolamine, which may be prescribed intravenously to prevent and control high blood pressure in patients with adrenal tumors, CBC News reported.

The presence of phentolamine is not indicated on Desire's label, Health Canada said.

If people take phentolamine, those with heart problems, on medications for high blood pressure, and those at risk of stroke could suffer serious health problems such as low blood pressure, chest pain and abnormal heartbeat, dizziness, and loss of consciousness. They could also experience prolonged erections, headaches, flushing, nasal congestion, indigestion and abdominal pain, CBC News reported.

To date, there have been no reports of adverse reactions, Health Canada said.

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Americans Lack Awareness of Osteoporosis Risk: Survey

American women and men age 45 and older have a low awareness of bone health and osteoporosis risk, according to a survey by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

While 55 percent of Americans over age 50 are living with or at risk for osteoporosis, 40 percent of women and 60 percent of men age 45 and older have little or no concern about their bone health, the survey found.

The survey of 661 people also found that most are concerned about the impact a broken bone would have on their daily activities and independence, but nearly 80 percent of respondents didn't believe osteoporosis is a risk factor for broken bones.

It's estimated that one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, the NOF noted.

Among the other findings of the survey, released Thursday:

  • 40 percent of women 45 and older and nearly 80 percent of men in this age group haven't had a bone density test.
  • 60 percent of women and 90 percent of men haven't had a discussion with their health-care provider about the risk of breaking a bone.

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Paint Chemical Linked to Male Fertility Problems

Regular exposure to paint chemicals called glycol solvents may harm male fertility, suggests a British study that looked at more than 2,000 men attending 14 fertility clinics.

The researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield found that painters, decorators and other men who work with glycol solvents -- used in water-based paints -- were 250 percent more likely to have sperm motility problems than other men, BBC News reported.

Sperm motility, which refers to the amount of movement of individual sperm, plays an important role in overall fertility.

"We know that certain glycol ethers can affect male fertility and the use of these has reduced over the past two decades. However, our work suggests they are still a workplace hazard and further work is needed to reduce such exposure," said Dr. Andy Povey of the University of Manchester, BBC News reported.

Povey and his colleagues looked at a wide range of workplace chemicals and concluded that glycol solvents were the only ones that had an impact on male fertility. The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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U.S. Creates Drug and Medical Device Surveillance System

The U.S. government will establish a surveillance system to help monitor the safety of drugs and other medical products on the market.

The system will analyze Medicare claims data for signs of problems with medicines and medical devices. On Thursday, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department introduced a plan to allow federal agencies, states, and academic researchers to examine Medicare claims data. That access will be subject to protections for privacy and trade secrets.

The system would enable the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to analyze significantly more information than it can today by tapping into databases of health information to detect early signs of emerging safety problems.

This kind of surveillance system was recommended in 2006 by the Institute of Medicine, and the FDA has been under pressure to implement such a system, the Associated Press reported.

"This initiative will tremendously increase the FDA's capacity to monitor the use of medical products on the market," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a prepared statement.

Posted: May 2008


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