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Health Highlights: June 10, 2009

Controversial Chelation Study Enrolling New Participants New Orleans Mayor Released From Swine Flu Quarantine Diabetes Screenings Could Lower Medical Costs: Study

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

Controversial Chelation Study Enrolling New Participants

A $30 million U.S. study of an alternative therapy called chelation has resumed enrolling volunteers with a history of heart attack, despite a federal investigation into whether previous enrollees were told enough about the study's risks, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Some 1,500 people have been enrolled in the study, which the wire service said is among the largest ever of an alternative therapy. Chelation is a "treatment used for lead poisoning that has not been proved safe or effective for heart disease," the AP reported.

Chelation, in this case, involves injecting the drug disodium EDTA, which backers claim will thin artery-clogging calcium that is impeding blood flow to the heart.

Enrollment in the study was halted 10 months ago amid an investigation by the federal Office of Human Research Protections on whether study participants had been fully informed about the research and its sponsors. Study critics have complained that some users have died while on chelation and that more than half of the doctors running the study have a conflict of interest because they sell chelation remedies, the wire service reported.

The study is being co-sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A heart institute spokeswoman refused comment, citing the ongoing federal investigation, the AP said.

The wire service cited a statement on the Web site of the American Heart Association that warns "EDTA isn't totally safe," citing potential risks including kidney failure, shock, low blood pressure, convulsions, allergic reactions, heart rhythm problems and breathing trouble.


New Orleans Mayor Released From Swine Flu Quarantine

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, quarantined in Shanghai since Sunday over swine flu concerns, has been released, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Nagin, his wife and a guard had been quarantined after a passenger on their flight from the United States had flu-like symptoms.

A Nagin spokeswoman confirmed the mayor's release, saying Nagin was to fly Wednesday to Australia for a planned series of speeches, the AP said.


Diabetes Screenings Could Lower Medical Costs: Study

Nearly one-quarter of adults screened for diabetes ended up having the full-blown disease or its precursor, allowing doctors to begin treatment sooner. This suggests that routine diabetes screening could result in significant cost savings for the U.S. health-care system, researchers at Atlanta's Emory University concluded from a new study.

Prof. Lawrence S. Philips and his colleagues screened 1,259 adults who hadn't been diagnosed with diabetes, reported United Press International. Twenty-four percent of study participants ended up having diabetes or prediabetes, characterized by elevated blood sugar levels that don't meet the criteria of the full-blown disease.

Participants found to have either condition were treated with the anti-diabetic drug metformin or ordered to make lifestyle changes designed to control blood sugar. The cost of these remedies was found to be lower than the costs "associated with not screening," UPI reported.

Study results were presented at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting in New Orleans.

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