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Health Highlights: Feb. 1, 2008

FDA Approves 1st New Drug-Eluting Stent Since 2004 U.S. Women's Heart Disease Deaths Continue to Decline Marigold Therapies May Help Treat Stubborn Warts Eye Drops and Eye/Ear Wash Recalled More Tamiflu-Resistant Flu Viruses Found in Europe Well-Fed Babies Earn More as Adults: Study U.S. Army Suicides Increased in 2007

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

FDA Approves 1st New Drug-Eluting Stent Since 2004

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval Friday to a new drug-eluting stent for use in treating patients with narrowed coronary arteries.

The Endeavor Zotarolimus-Eluting Coronary Stent, manufactured by Medtronic Inc., of Minneapolis, is the first such stent OK'd since 2004 and the first since an agency panel convened in 2006 to examine the risk of blood clots occurring in patients who receive drug-eluting stents.

Stents are tiny mesh tubes positioned in an artery to act as a scaffold that keeps a clogged artery open. Stents can be bare-metal or drug-eluting -- coated with drugs -- to ensure that the artery doesn't re-close in a process call restenosis.

According to the FDA, Medtronic provided data from seven clinical trials in its application showing that the Endeavor significantly reduced the number of major coronary events such as heart attack or cardiac death. The company said use of its product cut the restenosis rate by about half.

"The Endeavor drug-eluting stent provides cardiologists with another option for treating the one million patients who undergo an angioplasty procedure every year to open their clogged coronary arteries," said Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

U.S. Women's Heart Disease Deaths Continue to Decline

Heart disease deaths among American women declined again in 2005, marking the sixth consecutive year of decreases, according to a new analysis announced Friday by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

It's the first time there's been a six-year consecutive decline.

The preliminary data analysis for 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, shows that women are living longer and healthier lives, and dying at much older ages than in the past.

"Considerable progress continues to be made in the fight against heart disease in women," NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel said in a prepared statement.

However, she noted there are still serious challenges. One in four women dies from heart disease and women of color have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and are more likely to die of the disease.

"Unfortunately, many women still do not take heart disease seriously and personally," Nabel said. "Millions of women still have one or more risk factors for heart disease, dramatically increasing their risk of developing heart disease. In fact, having just one risk factor increases a woman's chance of developing heart disease two-fold."

An NHLBI-sponsored campaign called "The Heart Truth" is striving to educate people that heart disease is largely preventable. As part of that campaign, Friday is National Wear Red Day, when thousands of people across the country wear red to give women a personal and urgent reminder about their risk for heart disease.

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Marigold Therapies May Help Treat Stubborn Warts

Marigold-based therapies show promise in helping people with hard-to-treat warts, according to preliminary research by an assistant professor at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.

Tracey Vlahovic offers Marigold therapy -- creams, ointments, tinctures and oils -- to her patients and has investigated it as an alternative treatment for three HIV-infected patients with warts that hadn't responded to other treatments.

Plantar warts are common among healthy adults. In HIV patients, these warts are often more difficult to treat, more numerous and less receptive to common treatments such as cryotherapy or surgical removal.

Vlahovic found that four to six sessions of marigold-based therapy either cleared or greatly reduced the number and size of the warts. The findings were presented Friday at the American Academy of Dermatology's annual meeting.

"Mainstream treatments are sometimes not an option for HIV-positive patients because they have weakened immune systems and invasive procedures can further compromise them," Vlahovic said in a prepared statement. "But alternative therapies like Marigold therapy don't pose that threat."

She plans further research with more patients and a standardized treatment regimen.

Marigold plants have been used as a treatment for a variety of health problems as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, when marigold tea was used to combat sleep disorders and calm nerves. During the Renaissance, the yellow plant was used to treat everything from headache, red eyes and toothaches to jaundice and skin problems, the statement said.

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Eye Drops and Eye/Ear Wash Recalled

Possible contamination with bacteria and particulate matter has prompted a voluntary recall of NuCel-brand eye drops and eye/ear wash, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this week.

The problem was detected after an FDA inspection of the products made by NuCel Labs of Idaho Falls, Idaho, United Press International reported. The company then initiated a nationwide recall of the potentially non-sterile eye drops and eye/ear wash in 1/4-ounce bottles.

About 500 units of the products, which have no lot numbers or expiration dates, were distributed across the United States, the FDA said. Consumers should stop using these products and return them to the company. For further information, contact NuCel at 208-542-0325.

Non-sterile eye drops could cause infections which, in rare cases, could lead to blindness, the FDA warned. So far, there have been no reports of illness or injury caused by the recalled eye drops and eye/ear wash.

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More Tamiflu-Resistant Flu Viruses Found in Europe

Tamiflu-resistant seasonal flu viruses have now been found in nine European countries, indicating the resistant strains are more widespread than previously believed, Bloomberg news reported.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Thursday that tests on 437 H1N1 flu strain specimens from patients in 18 countries found that 59 specimens from nine countries showed resistance to Tamiflu (oseltamivir). Nearly half the resistant specimens were from Norway.

The viruses have a gene mutation that gives them "high-level" resistance to Tamiflu, Bloomberg reported.

Experts are still analyzing data and will release an interim assessment of the situation in the coming days, the ECDC said.

"At this stage, it is impossible to say what the level of resistance is in influenza across Europe," the health agency said. "However, from the limited data, the proportion of influenza viruses exhibiting resistance to oseltamivir must be significant, but not as high as in Norway."

This emerging resistance to Tamiflu has led doctors in Europe to consider other anti-flu drugs such as Relenza, Bloomberg reported.

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Well-Fed Babies Earn More as Adults: Study

Feeding nutritious food to babies could boost the amount of money they earn as adults, suggests a three-decade study that followed Guatemalan males from birth, BBC News reported.

The study found that babies who were given a very nutritious food supplement up to age 3 went on to earn an average of almost 50 percent more as adults than babies who didn't receive the supplement. The findings are published in The Lancet medical journal.

Experts said the study results could influence how aid is managed in developing nations and could also affect social policy toward the poor in more developed nations, BBC News reported.

The study provides the first direct evidence of a link between nutrition early in life and adult wages, and that well-fed infants could boost economic growth, according to The Lancet.

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U.S. Army Suicides Increased in 2007

In 2007, as many as 121 U.S. Army soldiers committed suicide, compared to 102 suicides in 2006 and 87 in 2005, according to the Associated Press, which cited internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month.

The papers showed there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 suspected suicides that are still under investigation, the AP reported.

Last year, more than a quarter of the confirmed and suspected suicides occurred during deployments in Iraq.

The number of attempted suicides and self injuries also increased from fewer than 1,500 in 2006 to about 2,100 in 2007. There were fewer than 500 such incidents in 2002.

The 2007 rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated, Army officials said. The 2006 suicide rate of 17.5 per 100,000 was the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, the AP reported.

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