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Health Highlights: April 2, 2013

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

Shanghai Activates Emergency Response Plan After Bird Flu Deaths

Officials in Shanghai, China have activated an emergency response plan after two men died from the lesser-known H7N9 strain of bird flu.

The city government did not immediately provide details about the plan, but measures typically include more stringent monitoring of suspect cases, the Associated Press reported.

The H7N9 bird flu virus, which previously was not known to infect humans, also seriously sickened a women in another Chinese city. And there are unverified reports about a fourth case of H7N9 in the city of Nanjing.

The official Xinhua news agency reported that Beijing health officials increased the capital city's state of readiness, ordering hospitals to monitor for cases of bird flu and pneumonia without clear causes, the AP reported.


Balloon Treatment for MS Ineffective: Study

A controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis did not help patients and may actually have worsened brain lesions associated with the disease, according to the findings of a small clinical trial.

University at Buffalo researchers tested the "liberation therapy," which involves the use of balloons to widen veins in the head and neck. The therapy is based on the unproven theory that narrowed veins cause multiple sclerosis by preventing blood from draining out of the brain properly, The New York Times reported.

In the study, 10 patients underwent the balloon procedure while 10 other patients had a "sham" procedure in which doctors did not actually use balloons. The patients were monitored for six months.

The two groups of patients had no significant differences in symptoms or in quality of life. In a few cases, brain lesions associated with multiple sclerosis actually seemed to worsen after balloon treatment, The Times reported.

The findings were presented last month at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. The clinical trial was small and the results need to be confirmed by further research, said study leader Dr. Adnan Siddiqui.

In recent years, about 30,000 patients worldwide have been treated at clinics offering the balloon treatment, The Times reported.


Novartis Loses Cancer Drug Patent Fight in India

Swiss drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to patent an updated version of its cancer drug Glivec was rejected Monday by India's Supreme Court.

Health activists said the decision ensures that poor patients worldwide will continue to have access to cheap versions of lifesaving medicines, the Associated Press reported.

Glivec, which is known as Gleevec outside of India and Europe, is mainly used to treat leukemia.

Indian generic drug maker Cipla makes a version of Glivec that sells for less than a tenth of the original drug's selling price, the AP reported.

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Posted: April 2013