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Health Highlights: Oct. 6, 2010

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

Drug Take-Back Program Huge Success: DEA

More than 121 tons of unused medicines were collected during the national prescription drug "Take-Back" day on Sept. 25, says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The drugs that were collected at more than 4,000 sites across the country will be incinerated, the Associated Press reported.

"The Take-Back Campaign was a stunning nationwide success that cleaned out more than 121 tons of pills from America's medicine cabinets, a crucial step toward reducing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is plaguing the nation," DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said in a news release.

Many Americans have unused prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets but aren't sure what to do with them. Some people flush their unused medicines down the toilet, which can lead to contamination of water supplies. Others toss their old medicines in the trash, where they can be found by drug-seeking criminals, the AP reported.


Judge Approves $600 Million Settlement In Botox Marketing Case

A judge in Georgia has approved Botox maker Allergan Inc.'s decision to pay $600 million and plead guilty to misbranding the wrinkle-smoothing product in order to settle a federal investigation into misleading marketing.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Orinda D. Evans sentenced California-based Allergan to pay $375 million in connection with the guilty plea. The company also agreed to pay $225 million in civil fines, the Associated Press reported.

A few weeks ago, Allergan announced it would plead guilty to a charge that its marketing strategies resulted in doctors using Botox for unapproved uses such as headaches, pain and cerebral palsy in children. Federal prosecutors began their investigation after being tipped off by two whistle blowers.

Allergan risked public safety by putting profits ahead of the federal drug approval process, according to U.S. Attorney Sally Qullian Yates, the AP reported.

"We hope other companies are paying close attention to what can happen if they don't follow the rules and rush towards making profits," she said.


Nobel Prize Awarded For Chemical Tool Used In Cancer Research

Scientists who created a chemical method used in cancer research have been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Richard Heck, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, and Japanese researchers Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki developed palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic systems, the Associated Press reported.

This tool is one of the most sophisticated available to chemists today and is used worldwide in the commercial production of pharmaceuticals and molecules used to make electronics, said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel prizes.

The academy said the tool was used to artificially produce cancer-killing substances first found in marine sponges. Clinical testing of the substances is underway, the AP reported.


Teen Girls' Obesity Surgery May Increase Birth Defects Risk: Study

Teen girls who've had obesity surgery may be at increased risk for having babies with spine and brain birth defects, says a new study.

Obesity surgery limits the amount of food a person can consume. This can lead to inadequate absorption of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which plays an important role in the prevention of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects, explained Diana Farmer, chief of pediatric surgery at Benioff Children's Hospital at the University of California, San Francisco, Bloomberg news reported.

While patients who undergo obesity surgery are placed on vitamin supplements, only about 14 percent of teen patients adhere to the supplement regimen, according to Farmer.

She said the "possibility of future birth defects may outweigh the benefit of this bariatric procedure," for teen girls, Bloomberg reported.

The study was presented at a meeting of the American Association of Pediatrics.

Air Pollution Linked To Diabetes: Study

There's a strong link between air pollution and adult diabetes, according to a new study.

U.S. researchers analyzed national data and found a 1 percent increase in diabetes rates for every 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in fine particulate air pollution, such as that found in car exhaust and smoke, USA Today reported.

"We didn't have data on individual exposure, so we can't prove causality, and we can't know exactly the mechanism of these peoples' diabetes," said study co-author John Brownstein of Children's Hospital Boston. "But pollution came across as a significant predictor in all our models."

The link between air pollution and diabetes was evident even in areas with air pollution levels considered safe according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, USA Today reported.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Diabetes Care.


U.S. Promises $4 Billion To Fight AIDS, TB, Malaria

The White House said Tuesday it will give a record four billion dollars over the next three years to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. The amount is a 38 percent increase in funding provided over the previous three years.

"The Obama Administration intends to seek four billion dollars for the (Global) Fund for 2011 through 2013 to continue America's strong support for this important multilateral partner," said a State Department news release, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The pledge is the largest every by a donor to The Global Fund and represents one of the largest increases by an individual donor country to The Global Fund for this replenishment period," said a fund news release.

The Global Fund is a partnership between governments, the private sector, and affected communities. It was established in 2002.


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Posted: October 2010