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Health Highlights: Dec. 23, 2008

FDA Says Diet Coke Plus Claims Violate Regulations Michael Jackson's Publicist Says Illness Rumors False Approval Given for New Use of Cancer Drug Gleevec

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

FDA Says Diet Coke Plus Claims Violate Regulations

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft-drink maker, that its claims that Diet Coke Plus contains vitamins and minerals violate federal regulations, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

The agency said the company product is misbranded, because it includes the content claim "plus," and it urged Coca-Cola to "take prompt action to correct these violations," according to the FDAs Web site. Coca-Cola disputed the finding, saying the complaint doesn't involve health or safety issues, according to the news agency.

The FDA letter said it was not appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages. Diet Coke Plus has vitamins and minerals, including 10 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium and 15 percent for vitamin B12.

A company spokesman said the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA policies and regulations and that it plans to reply in detail to the complaint in early January, Bloomberg reported.

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Michael Jackson's Publicist Says Illness Rumors False

Singer Michael Jackson's publicist says reports that the "King of Pop" is seriously ill "are a total fabrication."

"Mr. Jackson is in fine health, and finalizing negotiations with a major entertainment company and television network for both a world tour and a series of specials and appearances," Dr. Tohme Tohme, identified as Jackson's "official and sole spokesperson," told CNN Monday night

Tohme was responding to reports Monday in the London's Sun newspaper that quoted writer Ian Halperin, author of an upcoming book on Jackson, as saying the singer was suffering from Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, a potentially fatal disease that required a lung transplant. Major media outlets picked up the story, and the report also spread through Internet message boards, CNN reported.

Halperin originally said that Jackson's illness had robbed him of 95 percent of the vision in one eye and that he needed the lung transplant "but may be too weak to go through with it." A photo earlier this year of Jackson in a wheelchair seemed to bear out the rumors.

Halperin has written previously about Hollywood scandals and the troubled lives of various celebrities, CNN reported.

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Approval Given for New Use of Cancer Drug Gleevec

Gleevec, a "miracle drug" in curing certain types of adult leukemia, has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to stop cancer growth after gastrointestinal cancer surgery.

According to an FDA news release, Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) can be used after removal of a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). While this is a fairly rare form of cancer (5,000 - 6,000 new cases annually), the malignancy is particularly nasty because it can interfere with the flow of food and liquids through the intestines.

This latest approval "illustrates how the continued study of a once novel drug throughout its product lifecycle can yield new and important uses," Dr. Richard Pazdur, the FDA's director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the news release.

Gleevec, made by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis AG, was first approved by the FDA in 2001 to treat chronic myeloid leukemia.

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