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Health Highlights: March 6, 2013

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

Actress Valerie Harper Has Brain Cancer

Actress Valerie Harper, 73, has terminal brain cancer and as little as three months to live.

Harper, who played Rhoda Morgenstern on television's "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spinoff "Rhoda," received the diagnosis on Jan. 15, People magazine said on its website Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

In a cover interview with the magazine, Harper said: "I don't think of dying. I think of being here now."

Harper's character, Rhoda, was one of the most popular sidekicks on television during the 1970s, the AP said.


FDA Panel Says Bone Drugs Should No Longer Be Used for Osteoporosis

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted on Tuesday to recommend that an inhalable osteoporosis drug no longer be used by women because recent research has suggested it might raise the risk of cancer.

In a 12-9 vote, the panel said the risks of Miacalcin and Fortical outweigh the benefits, according to the Associated Press. Novartis makes Miacalcin and Upsher-Smith makes Fortical. Both medications are sold as nasal sprays.

Last July, the European Medicines Agency ruled that the drugs should no longer be used to treat bone loss because of the cancer risk, the AP reported.

While some of the panelists said the drugs provide a viable alternative for women who cannot tolerate taking bisphosophonates for osteoporosis, other members were not convinced it was a good idea to recommend continued use of the drugs, the AP reported.

"I think the cancer risk seems to be low, but it tips the balance for this drug, which has very little evidence of efficacy," said Amy Whitaker, a professor at the University of Chicago.

According to the AP, prescriptions for the medications have plummeted in recent years amid safety concerns. Between 2006 and 2011 the number of U.S. patients receiving the drugs fell 51 percent, to 205,000.


Non-Hormonal Drugs for Hot Flashes Rejected by FDA Panel

Two drugs being proposed as alternatives to hormones to treat hot flashes in menopausal women were rejected Monday by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel.

The committee of outside experts voted 12 to 2 against approving Depomed's extended-release gabapentin and voted 10 to 4 against approving a low-dose formulation of the antidepressant paroxetine developed by Noven Pharmaceuticals, The New York Times reported.

The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.

There are no FDA-approved nonhormonal treatments for menopause-related hot flashes and the committee acknowledged the need for new drugs. However, they said the drugs' risks outweighed their benefit. Research showed that the drugs reduced the number of hot flashes by only one a day compared to a placebo, The Times reported.


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Posted: March 2013