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Health Highlights: Feb. 3, 2009

FDA Panel Backs New Blood Thinner Cancer Leading Killer in Developing Nations: Report Nine More Canadian Poultry Farms Quarantined Europeans and Japanese Have Same Longevity Gene: Study Peanut Corp. Ran Unlicensed Plant in Texas: Report

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

FDA Panel Backs New Blood Thinner

A new blood thinner called prasugrel marks a significant advance over older treatments, an advisory panel of U.S. cardiologists said Tuesday.

The nine members on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's panel unanimously voted in favor of approval for Eli Lilly's anticlotting drug, which, if OK'd by the FDA itself, would be marketed under the brand name Effient, according to the Associated Press.

The approval followed an FDA review, released last week, that found prasugrel appeared more effective than the current leading blood thinner Plavix.

Since prasugrel, which was developed by Lilly and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo, was submitted for approval last January, the FDA has twice put off making a decision because of concerns about its safety. While the drug reduces life-threatening heart problems, it increases the risk of internal bleeding.

But the new FDA review, and the advisory panel's endorsement, indicate the drug's lifesaving benefits clearly outweigh its risks, the AP reported.

The agency is not required to follow the recommendations of its expert panels, but it usually does.


Cancer Leading Killer in Developing Nations: Report

Cancer now claims more lives in developing countries each year than malaria, tuberculosis or AIDS, according to a report issued in advance of World Cancer Day on Wednesday.

In 2008, more than 12 million new cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide and 7.6 million people died of cancer, Agence France Presse reported.

Developing nations accounted for more than half of all new global cancer cases and about 60 percent of cancer deaths, according to the report from health foundation and consultancy Axios International.

"Cancer in the developing world is a hidden crisis that goes largely unreported, undiagnosed and untreated," said study co-author David Kerr, a professor of clinical pharmacology and cancer therapeutics at the University of Oxford in the U.K., AFP reported.

"Cancer survival rates in developing countries are exceptionally poor. Lack of awareness, stigma and reliance on traditional healers mean most people do not seek medical help until their disease is advanced, and often incurable," Kerr said.


Nine More Canadian Poultry Farms Quarantined

Nine more poultry farms in British Columbia's Fraser Valley are under quarantine as Canadian officials try to contain an avian flu outbreak in the region.

Although a total of 36 farms are now under quarantine, the disease has been confirmed on only one farm, although testing and monitoring continue, CBC News reported.

The nine new farms were quarantined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they received products or equipment from the Abbotsford farm where an H5 strain of avian flu has been confirmed.

About 60,000 turkeys at the affected farm have been destroyed, CBC News reported.


Europeans and Japanese Have Same Longevity Gene: Study

German researchers have discovered that a gene linked to longevity in Japanese people is also found in Europeans, which means this gene probably helps people around the world live longer.

The Kiel University team compared the genetic make-up of 388 Germans over 100 years old with 731 younger people and found that the older people were more likely to have a variant of the gene FOXO3A, Agence France Presse reported.

The same finding was reported in a previous study that included 3,741 Japanese men over 95 years old.

"This discovery is of particular importance because Japanese and Europeans are relatively different genetically. Now we can assume that this gene plays a role worldwide in living longer," said Prof. Almut Nebel, head of the Kiel University group, AFP reported.

The study appears online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Peanut Corp. Ran Unlicensed Plant in Texas: Report

The company blamed for the nationwide salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 500 people has a peanut processing plant in Texas that operated for years without being inspected or licensed by government health officials, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

State health records obtained by the news service show Peanut Corp. of America's plant in Plainview wasn't inspected until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linked the salmonella outbreak to the company's plant in Blakely, Ga.

The Plainview plant, which hadn't been inspected since it opened in March 2005, was found to be salmonella-free by state and federal health officials who checked out the facility a few weeks ago.

Even so, the case raises questions about the adequacy of government oversight of food safety, according to the AP.

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