Health Highlights: May 9, 2008

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

Marijuana Linked to Teen Mental Health Problems

Teens who've reported being depressed at some point in the past year are more than twice as likely (25 percent) to have used marijuana than those who weren't depressed (12 percent), according to a White House Office of National Drug Control Policy report to be released Friday.

The paper also said that marijuana use by teens increases their risk of developing a mental disorder by 40 percent and that teens who use marijuana at least once a month for a year are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who don't use the drug, the Associated Press reported.

In addition, teens who smoke marijuana when feeling depressed are more than twice as likely as other teens -- eight percent compared with three percent -- to abuse or become addicted to marijuana, the report said.

The report authors analyzed data from about a dozen previous studies that examined marijuana use.

"Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years. This is not just youthful experimentation that they'll get over as we used to think in the past," John Walters, director of the drug control policy office, told the AP.

Since 2001, marijuana use among American teens has decreased 25 percent. Currently, about 2.3 million children use marijuana at least once a month, according to the drug control office.

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New Formulation of Coagulation Factor Approved by FDA

A new formulation (NovoSeven RT) of the genetically engineered version of Factor VIIA -- a plasma protein essential for the clotting of blood -- has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. With the new formulation, the product can be stored at room temperature (up to 81 degrees F) for up to two years.

NovoSeven RT shares the same uses as the earlier NovoSeven including: treatment of bleeding and the prevention of surgical bleeding in patients with hemophilia A or B who have antibodies that neutralize the action of clotting Factors VIII or IX; treatment of bleeding and the prevention of surgical bleeding in patients with congenital Factor VII deficiency; and prevention of surgical bleeding in patients with acquired hemophilia, the FDA said.

Approval of NovoSeven RT will benefit health-care facilities with limited refrigeration space. The original formula could be stored for three years at temperatures between 36 and 46 degrees F, the FDA said.

Fever, bleeding, injection site reaction, joint discomfort, headache, increases or decreases in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, pain, swelling and rash are among the most common side effects associated with NovoSeven RT.

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FDA Approves Generic Versions of Restless Legs Drug

The first generic versions of the restless leg syndrome drug Requip have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said it approved generic ropinirole hydrochloride tablets in the following dosages: 0.25 milligram, 0.5 milligram, 1 milligram, 2 milligrams, 3 milligrams, and 4 milligrams. The companies approved to market the generic tablets are: Roxane Laboratories Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Par Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.

While Requip is also approved to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease, the generic versions are currently not approved for that kind of use, which is protected by patent. However, that patent expires later this month and the makers of the generic drugs may then seek approval for the Parkinson's disease indication, the FDA said.

The generic tablets will carry the same safety warnings as Requip about the possible risk of falling asleep while doing daily activities, including driving.

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Diet May Affect Prostate Cancer Surgery Outcome

Men who eat a diet low in saturated fat do better after having their prostate removed due to cancer (radical prostatectomy) than those who eat a diet high in saturated fats, according to a study of 390 patients by researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

After five years of follow-up, 80 percent of men who limited their saturated fat intake had no evidence of cancer, compared with 65 percent of men who consumed high levels of saturated fats, United Press International reported.

The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The men who ate high levels of saturated fats were younger and had higher body mass index levels at the time of prostate cancer diagnosis than the men who consumed fewer saturated fats, UPI reported.

There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups of men in terms of family history of prostate cancer, education, history of diabetes or physical activity.

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Southern Metro Areas 'Hotspots' for Teen Driving Deaths

The 10 worst "hotspots" for teen driving deaths are in the southern United States, according to an Allstate Insurance Company study that examined federal crash statistics for 50 of the nation's largest metro areas.

The worst metro areas for rates of fatal teen crashes are: Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla.; Orlando/Kissimmee, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Phoenix; Kansas City, Mo. and Kan.; Atlanta; Charolotte, N.C.; and Louisville, Ky.

The five metro areas with the lowest rates are: San Francisco/Oakland, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; New York City (including Long Island and northern New Jersey); Los Angeles; and Cleveland.

The study also found that the rate of fatal teen crashes in rural areas of the United States is double the rate in cities and suburbs -- 51.5 per 100,000 teens per year, compared with 25. 4 per 100,000.

"We feel that state and federal leaders should enact uniform national standards for graduated drivers licensing laws. Further, we must have better conversations with teens about safe driving and set good examples through our own good driving behavior," George Ruebenson, president of Allstate Protection, said in a prepared statement.

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Campaign Seeks to Prevent Doctor Suicides

An estimated 300 to 400 U.S. doctors commit suicide each year, which has prompted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to launch an educational campaign designed to encourage troubled doctors to seek help.

The campaign includes a documentary called "Struggling in Silence," which will begin appearing on public television stations this week, the Associated Press reported.

The issue of doctor suicide "has really been swept under the carpet," said Dr. Paula Clayton, the suicide foundation's medical director.

The stigma of mental illness is heightened in a profession that values stoicism and bravado, some experts suggest. Many doctors worry that admitting they have psychiatric problems could ruin their careers, so they suffer in silence, the AP reported.

And when they feel they can't go on, doctors have easy access to prescription drugs and the knowledge to use them to commit suicide.

Posted: May 2008


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