Health Highlights: July 13, 2007

Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease India May Establish Abortion Registry Fellow Airline Passengers Suing Atlanta Lawyer With TB Thousands of Chemicals Need Safety Reassessment: Report Large HIV Prevention Programs More Efficient

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

Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects

In the month after the New England Journal of Medicine published an analysis that showed a possible connection between the popular diabetes drug Avandia and heart problems, there was a large increase in the number of suspected Avandia-related side effects reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reported.

The analysis appeared online May 21. In the 35 days before the release of the analysis, five heart attacks believed to be linked to Avandia were reported to the FDA, compared with 90 such reports in the following 35 days. Reports of heart-related hospitalization among Avandia patients increased from 11 to 126, said the AP, which obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA.

A number of experts said the analysis likely increased doctors' awareness about the drug's possible role in patients' heart problems, which resulted in the large increase in reported cases of side effects.

Avandia is made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which insists the drug is safe and effective. The FDA has scheduled hearings on July 30 to look into safety concerns about the drug, the AP reported.

Diabetes experts said patients taking Avandia should talk to their doctors and shouldn't immediately stop taking the drug.


Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Men who consume milk and other dairy products may have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, concludes a 20-year British study that included 2,375 men, ages 45 to 59.

The University of Cardiff team found that men who drank a pint or more of milk a day were 62 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, BBC News reported.

People with metabolic syndrome have two or more health conditions -- such as high blood glucose, high blood fats, high blood pressure, and high body fat -- that increase the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

But people shouldn't consume large amounts of full-fat dairy products in an attempt to prevent diabetes, Jemma Edwards, care advisor at Diabetes UK, told BBC News. Edwards recommended two to three daily servings of low-fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet.


India May Establish Abortion Registry

India's government plans a mandatory registry of pregnancies and abortions in an attempt to stop selective abortions of girl fetuses, according to an official quoted by the Hindustan Times on Friday.

"This well check both feticide and infant mortality," Renuka Chowdhury told the newspaper, Agence France-Presse reported.

In India, there are 927 females born for every 1,000 males, which is far below the worldwide average of 1,050 females for every 1,000 males. Many people in India prefer to have male children and use selective abortion to avoid having girls, AFP said.

According to the newspaper story, data in the registry will enable the government to concentrate its efforts at preventing female feticide in areas where there are large differences in the number of recorded pregnancies and births, AFP reported.

Abortions would only be permitted in cases with a "valid and acceptable reason," Chowdhury said.

There was no immediate official government response to the newspaper article, the AFP reported.

Last year, a study published in The Lancet medical journal estimated that India may have lost as many as 10 million unborn girls in the past 20 years. Indian experts disputed that figure, saying it was closer to five million.


Fellow Airline Passengers Suing Atlanta Lawyer With TB

Nine people are suing the Atlanta attorney with tuberculosis who took a commercial flight from the Czech Republic to Canada in late May. The plaintiffs' lawyer filed the motion Thursday in Quebec Superior Court. To date, TB has not been confirmed in any of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit includes eight passengers who were on the flight from Prague to Montreal, as well as a brother and roommate of one of the passengers, the Associated Press reported.

Despite warnings from health officials that he had drug-resistant TB, 31-year-old Andrew Speaker took the flight to Canada and then drove across the border into the United States.

"They do not have tuberculosis, but nobody can say that they won't have tuberculosis," Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen said of his clients. "And that will not be known, not now, not next year, but for many years in the future, so the pain and suffering that the people have gone through are real. They continue to suffer now because of the uncertainty."

Nguyen told the AP that he believes many more passengers on the flight may take legal action against Speaker.


Thousands of Chemicals Need Safety Reassessment: Report

Scientists say that thousands of chemicals should be reassessed to determine the threat they pose to humans and the environment.

In a report published in the journal Science, the scientists said that current tests underestimate how certain substances, such as pesticides and even some pharmaceuticals, accumulate along the food chain, BBC News reported.

Concentrations of substances increase as they work their way up the food chain -- for example, from plankton to small fish to larger fish to fish-eaters such as bears, seals and humans.

The scientists estimated that about one-third (10,000) of organic substances in commercial use should be reassessed, but predicted that most would be found to be benign, BBC News reported.


Large HIV Prevention Programs More Efficient

Boosting the size of HIV prevention programs increases their efficiency and helps prevent more infections, concludes a University of Southern California, San Francisco study. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The study found that each doubling of an HIV prevention effort's size reduces costs by about a third. Some large programs are 10 times more efficient than smaller ones, which translates into the prevention of many more HIV infections using the same amount of resources.

This "scale-up, cost-down" effect was found in many countries and different kinds of HIV prevention programs. The study was published Thursday in the BioMed Central journal BMC Health Services Research.

"Proven prevention methods need to be scaled up rapidly," lead author Eliot Marseille said in a prepared statement. "Therefore, the fact that costs tend to go down as scale goes up is good news. This could save millions of lives, as well as keeping in check the number of new patients requiring expensive anti-retroviral therapies."

For this study, the researchers analyzed 206 HIV prevention programs in India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Uganda.

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