Health Highlights: Aug. 28, 2008

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

Almost 1,000 People Died From Katrina: Study

Some 986 deaths in Louisiana were caused directly or indirectly by Hurricane Katrina, making it the deadliest hurricane to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 80 years, new research timed to the storm's third anniversary finds.

Study authors were from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a news release, they said the leading cause of death was drowning (40 percent), followed by injury and trauma, then heart conditions.

Almost half of the victims were 75 or older. Eighty percent of the deaths occurred on the day of the storm -- Aug. 29, 2005.

"What we learned from Hurricane Katrina is that disaster preparedness efforts must focus on evacuating and caring for vulnerable populations -- particularly the elderly -- including those in hospitals, nursing homes and private residences," said lead study author Joan Brunkard of the CDC.

The study was published on the Web site of the American Medical Association's journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

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Dangerous Drinking Binges Mark 21st Birthdays

College students surveyed about 21st birthday celebrations had an average of 12 drinks for men and nine for women, a University of Texas study reported by USA Today found.

Twelve of 152 students polled at the Austin campus said they had had 21 or more birthday drinks.

The consequences of extreme partying didn't end at the bar, the researchers said. Fifty-four percent of the students cited nasty hangovers. And of the 44 percent who said they blacked out, 22 percent discovered later that they had had sex, 22 percent had gotten into a fight or argument, and 39 percent couldn't explain how they had returned home, the newspaper reported.

The researchers said they knew of no national studies of 21st birthday celebrations, but cited a few studies on other campuses that had uncovered similar behavior.

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Clinical Trial Ended for Prostate Cancer Vaccine

Biotech startup Cell Genesys has ended a clinical study of its prostate cancer vaccine GVAX due to a rise in deaths among users of the vaccine compared with those taking another drug, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"What we do not know is the reason for the imbalance in deaths," Cell Genesys CEO Stephen Sherwin was quoted as saying. He labeled the interim trial results "very disappointing and surprising news."

The Phase III trial of the vaccine had begun in 2005. Of 408 people with spreading (metastatic) prostate cancer who participated in the trial, 114 had died. Sixty-seven of those deaths involved people using GVAX and the chemotherapy drug Taxotere, while the other 47 deaths involved people taking Taxotere and the corticosteroid prednisone, the newspaper said.

Another trial, which will continue, uses GVAX by itself. Participants in that trial are said to be generally healthier than those in the discontinued study, the Chronicle reported.

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Disappointing Results Noted in Anti-Clotting Drug Trials

Results from late-stage trials of the anti-clotting drug apixaban have been disappointing, said makers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Early data from the Phase III testing of apixaban showed the drug wasn't better than a current drug, Lovenox, in preventing clotting complications in people who had knee replacement, the companies said.

The drug makers also announced they would postpone plans to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve apixaban for venous thromboembolism, a condition that includes deep vein thrombosis. The filing had been slated for the second half of next year, the Journal said.

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Canadian Food Poisoning Death Toll Jumps

The Canadian government has revised upward the death toll associated with tainted meat products to 12 from four, The New York Times reported.

Earlier this week, it had been reported that in addition to the deaths, there were 26 confirmed cases of people sickened by the recalled cold cuts, which may be tainted with listeria bacteria. Another 29 suspected cases are awaiting analysis, a number that is expected to rise, the Times reported.

Some 220 products have been recalled by Maple Leaf, one of Canada's largest food makers. It has closed the Toronto plant where the recalled products were produced for sanitizing, the newspaper said.

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