Health Highlights: Dec. 21, 2012

FDA Says Gene-Engineered Salmon Is Environmentally Safe Stop Prescribing Heart Drug Tredaptive: Merck

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

FDA Says Gene-Engineered Salmon Is Environmentally Safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Friday that a genetically engineered salmon is not likely to cause environmental problems, the Associated Press reports. This fish is engineered to grow twice as fast as normal salmon.

The FDA's decision clears the way for the agency's approval for the first genetically engineered animal for humans to consume.

The fish, created by AquaBounty and called the AquaAdvantage salmon, has been the subject of controversy at the agency for a year. According to the FDA the fish "will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States." More than two years ago the FDA said the fish was safe to eat, according to the AP.

Critics typically call genetically engineered fish "frankenfish" and are concerned it might cause allergies and might even end up destroying natural salmon should one of these fish escape into the wild, the AP noted.

The company, however, claims that only a limited number of its modified fish would be able to breed as most would be sterile and the odds that one of these fish could escape are very low. The FDA has supported the company's claims.

In all, AquaBounty has spent more than $67 million developing the fish. In mid 2012, the company reported having only $1.5 million left and no other products on the drawing board, the AP reported.


Stop Prescribing Heart Drug Tredaptive: Merck

The heart drug Tredaptive is ineffective, causes major side effects and should no longer be prescribed, drug maker Merck said Thursday.

The drug is used in 40 countries, but is not available in the United States, CBS News reported.

Merck's announcement came after a study of more than 25,000 patients at high risk for heart problems found that Tredaptive did not reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and caused significant side effects.

Merck, which did not specify what those side effects, did not say that patients currently taking the drug should stop doing so, CBS News reported.


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