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Health Highlights: April 2, 2013

Four More H7N9 Bird Flu Illnesses Reported in China Balloon Treatment for MS Ineffective: Study Novartis Loses Cancer Drug Patent Fight in India

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

Four More H7N9 Bird Flu Illnesses Reported in China

Four more people in China have been sickened by the H7N9 bird flu virus, officials said Tuesday.

In a notice on its website, the health bureau of eastern Jiangsu province said three women -- aged 45, 48 and 32 -- and an 83-year-old man were critically ill with the virus. The four patients are from different cities in the province, the Associated Press reported.

These four cases follow three reported Sunday, including two men who died in Shanghai.

The statement from the health bureau in Jiangsu province suggests that only one of the patients had daily contact with birds. The 45-year-old woman was described as a poultry butcher, the AP reported.

Officials said the four new cases did not appear to be connected, and no fevers or respiratory problems have been reported by people who have had close contact with the patients.

The H7N9 bird flu strain has previously been considered not easily transmitted to humans, unlike the H5N1 strain, which has killed 360 people worldwide since 2003, the AP reported.


Balloon Treatment for MS Ineffective: Study

A controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis did not help patients and may actually have worsened brain lesions associated with the disease, according to the findings of a small clinical trial.

University at Buffalo researchers tested the "liberation therapy," which involves the use of balloons to widen veins in the head and neck. The therapy is based on the unproven theory that narrowed veins cause multiple sclerosis by preventing blood from draining out of the brain properly, The New York Times reported.

In the study, 10 patients underwent the balloon procedure while 10 other patients had a "sham" procedure in which doctors did not actually use balloons. The patients were monitored for six months.

The two groups of patients had no significant differences in symptoms or in quality of life. In a few cases, brain lesions associated with multiple sclerosis actually seemed to worsen after balloon treatment, The Times reported.

The findings were presented last month at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. The clinical trial was small and the results need to be confirmed by further research, said study leader Dr. Adnan Siddiqui.

In recent years, about 30,000 patients worldwide have been treated at clinics offering the balloon treatment, The Times reported.


Novartis Loses Cancer Drug Patent Fight in India

Swiss drug maker Novartis AG's attempt to patent an updated version of its cancer drug Glivec was rejected Monday by India's Supreme Court.

Health activists said the decision ensures that poor patients worldwide will continue to have access to cheap versions of lifesaving medicines, the Associated Press reported.

Glivec, which is known as Gleevec outside of India and Europe, is mainly used to treat leukemia.

Indian generic drug maker Cipla makes a version of Glivec that sells for less than a tenth of the original drug's selling price, the AP reported.

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