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Health Highlights: Jan. 11, 2013

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

FDA Should Approve New Diabetes Drug: Expert Panel

Approval of a new diabetes drug called canagliflozin was recommended Thursday by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, but several members of the committee had concerns about potentially serious risks associated with the drug.

Johnson & Johnson's canagliflozin is one of a new group of drugs that lowers blood pressure by causing blood sugar to be excreted in the urine. Many current diabetes drugs work by affecting the supply or use of insulin, The New York Times reported.

The drug would be taken once a day by adults with type 2 diabetes.

The advisory panel's recommendation was based on clinical trials or more than 10,000 patients worldwide showing that canagliflozin improved blood sugar levels, lowered blood pressure, and led to weight loss.

However, some panel members raised concerns about potential stroke and other cardiovascular risks associated with the drug and its use in patients with impaired kidney function, The Times reported.

The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.


Medical E-Records Haven't Provided Predicted Cost-Savings: Report

The switch to electronic health records in the United States has not yet resulted in hoped-for cost savings or major improvements in efficiency or patient care, according to a new analysis by the RAND Corporation.

In 2005, RAND predicted that widespread use of electronic medical records could save the U.S. health care system at least $81 billion a year. RAND's new study says that figure was overstated, The New York Times reported.

The new analysis did not put a dollar figure on how much electronic medical records have helped or hindered efforts to reduce health care costs.

"We've not achieved the productivity and quality benefits that are unquestionably there for the taking," said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, one of the authors of the new RAND analysis published in this month's edition of the journal Health Affairs.

The findings add to concerns about the costs of electronic health record systems and the push for their rapid adoption, The Times reported.


Miss America Contestant Plans to Have Double Mastectomy

A 24-year-old contestant in this weekend's Miss America pageant plans to undergo a double mastectomy after the competition.

Allyn Rose, who is Miss D.C., said she will have both her breasts removed to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer, which killed her mother, grandmother and great aunt, the Associated Press reported.

Her father first raised the subject with Rose during her freshman year of college, two years after her mother died. She initially dismissed the suggestion but has thought about that conversation for the past three years.

"My mom would have given up every part of her body to be here for me, to watch me in the pageant," Rose told the AP. "If there's something that I can do to be proactive, it might hurt my body, it might hurt my physical beauty, but I'm going to be alive."


Major League Baseball to Widen Drug-Testing Program

Major League Baseball, along with its players union, announced Thursday that they had reached a deal on expansion of the sport's drug-testing program.

According to the league, blood testing for muscle-enhancing human growth hormone (HGH) will now be conducted in-season, and a new test aimed at catching players who are dosing up on testosterone will also be used, The New York Times reported. Prior to the new agreement, HGH testing was performed only during spring training and the off-season.

The move comes a day after players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- each embroiled in drug-doping scandals -- failed to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because they could not reach the 75 percent of votes from members necessary for induction.

According to the Times, Major League Baseball is now outpacing the National Football League in its monitoring of potential doping infractions by players.


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Posted: January 2013