Health Highlights: April 10, 2015
Diabetes Drug Onglyza Increases Risk of Death: FDA U.S. Ebola Patient Recovers, Leaves Hospital Ebola Outbreak Still an International Emergency: WHO Record Number of West Nile Deaths In California Last Year Vitamin Shoppe Pulls Dietary Supplements Containing Speed-Like Drug
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Diabetes Drug Onglyza Increases Risk of Death: FDA
The diabetes drug Onglyza increases the risk of death from all causes, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report released Friday.
FDA staff analyzed the findings of a clinical trial on the heart effects of AstraZeneca's drug for type 2 diabetes and found that it was associated with "significant or near-significant" increased risk of death from all causes, not just heart problems, Bloomberg News reported.
The cause of the increased risk of death was not included in the FDA analysis.
The agency also said that patients who took Onglyza also have a 27 percent increased risk of hospitalization for heart failure compared to those who took a placebo.
Onglyza belongs to a class of diabetes drugs called DPP-4 inhibitors. FDA staff also analyzed another DPP-inhibitor called Nesina, made by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, but found no increased risk of death, Bloomberg reported.
The FDA report on the two drugs was release in advance of an April 14 meeting of an outside panel of advisers who will discuss the heart effects of the drugs.
Merck's Januvia is the same type of drug and is also being studied, but the company has not yet released the results of its heart risk trial, Bloomberg reported.
U.S. Ebola Patient Recovers, Leaves Hospital
An American health worker infected with Ebola has fully recovered and was discharged from a special treatment unit at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the agency said Thursday.
The patient was infected while working in Sierra Leone for a nonprofit group called Partners in Health.
"The American healthcare worker admitted to the NIH Clinical Center on March 13 with Ebola virus disease was discharged today in good condition after having been successfully treated at the NIH Clinical Center Special Clinical Studies Unit," the NIH said in a statement, NBC News reported.
"The individual is no longer contagious to the community. At the request of the patient, no further information is being provided," the NIH said.
Sixteen of the patient's colleagues were evacuated from Sierra Leone and placed under quarantine when they arrived in the United States. None of them showed any signs of infection and have all been released from quarantine, according to Partners in Health, NBC News reported.
Ebola Outbreak Still an International Emergency: WHO
Despite a large drop in the number of cases, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa still qualifies as an international emergency, the World Health Organization says.
At the peak of the outbreak that began about a year ago, hundreds of new cases were being reported every week. In an update this week, WHO said there were 30 confirmed cases last week in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The last confirmed case in Liberia was a patient who died on March 27, the Associated Press reported.
The shrinking number of cases appears to be real rather than just "a pothole on the bumpy road to get to zero cases," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is in charge of WHO's Ebola response.
The risk of the Ebola virus spreading globally appears to be dropping, even though officials still haven't determined where the virus is spreading in most cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone, Aylward said at a media briefing in Geneva on Friday, the AP reported.
Experts agree that the recent decline in cases may be deceptive and that it's too soon for the WHO to downgrade the status of the largest Ebola outbreak in history.
"We are still not controlling the epidemic," said Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, the AP reported.
Record Number of West Nile Deaths In California Last Year
The drought in California may have contributed to the high number of West Nile cases and the record number of deaths from the disease in the state last year, officials say.
The state Department of Public Health said there were 31 West Nile deaths in California last year, the highest number since the state began recording cases of the disease in 2003, the Associated Press reported.
Officials also said that 801 people in California tested positive for the West Nile virus in 2014, which was short of the record of 880 cases a decade ago. Last year, Orange County had the highest number of cases of the mosquito-borne disease, with 263.
The drought may have contributed to last year's high number of West Nile cases and deaths because birds and mosquitoes were attracted to the same few water sources, according to Dr. Karen Smith, director of the state's health department.
"As birds and mosquitoes sought water, they came into closer contact and amplified the virus, particularly in urban areas. The lack of water could have caused some sources of water to stagnate, making the water sources more attractive for mosquitoes to lay eggs," Smith told the AP.
Vitamin Shoppe Pulls Dietary Supplements Containing Speed-Like Drug
Dietary supplements with a speed-like substance have been pulled from its shelves, Vitamin Shoppe said Wednesday.
The national vitamin store chain took the action after a new study found that the supplements labeled as containing a shrub called Acacia rigidula actually contained a compound called BMPEA, ABC News reported.
BMPEA -- stimulant originally created in the 1930s as a replacement for amphetamines -- is not a regulated drug and has never been studied in humans.
The study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis found that 11 of 21 dietary supplement brands labeled as containing Acacia rigidula actually contained BMPEA. The supplements claimed to help with weight loss, cognitive function and athletic performance, ABC News reported.
"If these findings are confirmed by the FDA, these products should not be sold as dietary supplements," Vitamin Shoppe said in a news release.
"There's an unbelievably potent stimulant, a close relative, a brother of amphetamines -- that's found in multiple different brands of supplements," study author Dr. Pieter Cohen, a professor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News.
"But much more alarming than this is that even though the FDA has known about this for the last two years, they have done absolutely nothing to remove these supplements from the market," he added.