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Health Highlights: July 13, 2010

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

FDA Has Concerns About New Weight Loss Drug's Side Effects

Nervous system and psychiatric side effects of a potential new weight loss drug called Qnexa are likely to be the focus when a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel reviews the drug on Thursday.

Vivus Inc. is seeking FDA approval for the drug, which helped patients in clinical trials lose as much as 13 percent to 15 percent of body weight.

FDA briefing documents posted online Tuesday acknowledge the drug's effectiveness in helping patients lose weight, but say the review panel should take into account a number of potential side effects such as depression, memory and concentration problems, and heart-related concerns, the Associated Press reported.

The panel will make a recommendation on whether the FDA should approve Qnexa. It's expected the agency will announce its decision in October.

"Given two-thirds of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese, weight loss products, such as Qnexa, may have widespread exposure, and the potential for associated safety issues must be considered," the FDA said, the AP reported.


Fewer Young Africans Being Infected With HIV: U.N.

The rate of HIV infection among young people is declining in 16 of the 25 African nations hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, according to a new UNAIDS report.

The United Nations agency said the HIV infection rate among young people has dropped by at least 25 percent in 12 countries. For example, the infection rate among people ages 15 to 24 in urban areas of Kenya has decreased from about 14 percent in 2000 to 5.4 percent, the Associated Press reported.

These declining rates of HIV infection coincide with changes in sexual behavior, such as increased condom use and having fewer sexual partners. However, UNAIDS couldn't attribute the positive trends in some nations to recent agency policies that have mainly emphasized purchasing AIDS drugs rather than preventing new HIV infections.

"Young people have shown that they can be change agents in the (AIDS) prevention revolution," said UNAIDS.

The document appears to provide further evidence that the AIDS outbreak may have peaked more than a decade ago and is on the decline, according to the AP.


Drug Maker Recalls Some Lots of Blood Thinner Coumadin

Drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb on Monday said it is recalling eight lots of the widely used blood thinner Coumadin because the amount of active ingredient in the product could change, the Associated Press reported.

No side effects from recalled product have yet been reported, the company said, and the recall is a precaution. The recall only affects 1-milligram pills distributed in the United States in blister packs, with expriation dates between June 2011 and November 2012.

Coumadin, commonly called warfarin, is used widely to help prevent blood clots after surgery. According to Bristol-Myers Squibb, too much active ingredient might up a users' odds for bleeding, while too little could increase their chances for clots.


Gulf of Mexico Seafood Safe: U.S. Officials

To date, tests on about 400 samples of commonly consumed Gulf of Mexico seafood such as shrimp, tuna and grouper indicate they're safe to eat, according to U.S. government officials.

The samples were chemically tested by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which found no concerning level of contaminants associated with the massive oil spill that began after the April 20 BP rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana, the Associated Press reported.

The NOAA is mostly looking for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the most common cancer-causing components of crude oil.

Among other measures to protect consumers; about one-third of federal Gulf waters have been closed to commercial fishing, and seafood inspectors have been trained to sniff out oily seafood, the AP reported.


Coughs And Sneezes Not Properly Covered: Study

Most people don't correctly cover their coughs and sneezes, a new study finds.

New Zealand researchers secretly observed hundreds of people cough or sneeze at a hospital, shopping mall and train station and found that about 75 percent of them did try to cover their cough or sneeze, the Associated Press reported.

However, about two-thirds of them used their hands instead of the recommended methods of coughing or sneezing into their elbow (1 in 77) or into a tissue or handkerchief (1 in 30).

"When you cough into your hands, you cover your hand in virus," said study author Nick Wilson, an associate professor of public health at the Otago University campus in Wellington, the AP reported. "Then you touch doorknobs, furniture and other things. And other people touch those and get viruses that way."

The study was presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, held in Atlanta.


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Posted: July 2010