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Health Highlights: May 23, 2006

NSAIDs Increase Risk of 1st Hospital Admission for Heart Failure Prince Charles, British Docs Differ Over Alternative Medicine No Difference Between 2 Anemia Drugs for Cancer Patients: Report U.S. Soldiers With PTSD More Likely to Suffer Poor Health FDA Approves Generic Version of Lexapro

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

NSAIDs Increase Risk of 1st Hospital Admission for Heart Failure

Commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) painkillers, such as ibuprofen, are associated with a slightly increased risk of first hospital admission for heart failure, says a study in the journal Heart.

The study of more than 228,660 patients concluded that there would be one extra first hospital admission for heart failure for every 1,000 people ages 60 to 84 who take NSAIDs, United Press International reported.

However, the researchers said this could increase to three additional cases per 1,000 among patients 70 and older who have chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney failure.

Overall, 14 percent of patients were taking NSAIDs at the time of their first hospital admission for heart failure, compared with 10 percent of a comparison group of randomly selected people. Half of those admitted to hospital were ages 70 to 79.

The data used in the study came from the General Practice Research Database, which contains the medical records of millions of patients of family doctors in Britain, UPI reported.

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Prince Charles, British Docs Differ Over Alternative Medicine

Just hours after a group of Britain's leading doctors and scientists urged the National Health Service (NHS) to stop paying for complementary health therapies, Prince Charles told a meeting of the World Health Organization in Geneva that alternative medicine should be given more prominence in mainstream health care.

In an open letter, the British doctors and scientists criticized public funding of "unproven or disproved treatments" such as homeopathy and reflexology at a time when large deficits are leading to the firing of nurses and to limited patient access to life-saving drugs, The Times of London reported.

They demanded that the NHS pay only for evidence-based therapies.

In his speech, the Prince of Wales said that an integrated, holistic approach was the best way to tackle chronic disease, rather than a "dangerously fragmented" approach that relies on what he referred to as a bio-physical treatment model, The Times reported.

He did note that modern medicine has served humanity well but he said excessive reliance on it had upset natural harmony.

"I believe there is now a desperately urgent need to address the fragile but vital balance between man and nature, through a more integrated approach where the best of the ancient is blended with the best of the modern, and I am convinced this is particularly vital when it comes to the collective health of people in all countries," Prince Charles told delegates from 192 nations.

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No Difference Between 2 Anemia Drugs for Cancer Patients: Report

There is no clinically significant difference in effectiveness between two drugs -- epoetin and darbepoetin -- used to manage anemia in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, says a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The report said the two drugs show no difference in improving hemoglobin concentration or in reducing the need for transfusion. Both drugs do reduce the need for transfusion by about 20 percent, but there is no evidence that either drug, when added to cancer treatment, improves patient survival.

In addition, there are many unanswered questions about the safety and best use of both drugs, the report said.

"This report is a synthesis of studies performed so far regarding epoetin and darbepoetin, including unpublished findings as well as published reports," Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ director, said in a prepared statement.

"The authors have analyzed and weighed all of the evidence available in order to obtain the fairest possible understanding of these two alternative treatments for managing anemia in cancer patients. In addition, an important role for our comparative-effectiveness reviews is to identify research gaps where new evidence is needed. Their report finds that significant questions remain unanswered about both of these drugs," Clancy said.

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U.S. Soldiers With PTSD More Likely to Suffer Poor Health

A year after leaving Iraq, American combat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to be in worse physical health, experience more pain, and are more likely to miss work than those who don't have PTSD, says a U.S. military survey of nearly 3,000 Iraq war veterans.

The survey found that about 17 percent of the respondents had PTSD symptoms and they were more likely than those without symptoms to report various kinds of pain -- from backaches to headaches -- and gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion and nausea, USA Today reported.

Anxiety may contribute to these physical symptoms, said Dr. Charles Hoge, chief of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C.

He also noted that nightmares, flashbacks and other symptoms of PTSD can interfere with sleep, resulting in a negative impact on health. About 50 percent of the soldiers who reported PTSD symptoms rated their health as fair to poor, compared with about 20 percent of soldiers with no PTSD symptoms, USA Today reported.

The findings were released Monday at an American Psychiatric Association meeting.

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FDA Approves Generic Version of Lexapro

The first generic version of Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate), one of the most popular prescription antidepressants, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The approval, announced Monday, gives permission to Ivax Corp. of Miami to market 5, 10, and 20 milligram doses of the drug for major depression, The Associated Press reported.

Ivax is part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. of Israel.

The brand name Lexapro is made by New York-based Forest Laboratories Inc. Last year, Lexapro was the No. 2 antidepressant in the United States, with 29.6 million prescriptions filled and sales of $2.1 billion. The drug Zoloft was the leading antidepressant, the AP reported.

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