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Health Highlights: May 28, 2008

60 Percent of U.S. Adults Have at Least One Chronic Condition Drug Doesn't Stem Bleeding in People With Rare Disorder: FDA Big Increase Reported in Intestinal 'Superbug' Infections Dietary Supplement for Impotence Recalled Counterfeit Circuit Breakers Pose Fire Hazard Estrogen Linked to Prostate Cancer

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

60 Percent of U.S. Adults Have at Least One Chronic Condition

In the United States, 60 percent of people aged 18 and older have at least one chronic medical condition, defined as one expected to last at least one year and result in limitations or the need for ongoing care.

The latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality looked at 2005 data, finding that:

  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 had at least one chronic condition, as did 90 percent of people aged 65 and older.
  • About 77 percent of those aged 65 and older had two or more chronic conditions, compared with 14 percent of those aged 18 to 34.
  • Treatment of chronic conditions accounted for nine of every 10 dollars spent for medical care on American adults, excluding costs for dental care, medical equipment, and supplies.
  • About 22 million adults received medical care for osteoarthritis and related conditions, 49 million for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 17 million for diabetes, 45 million for high blood pressure, and 19 million for heart disease.


Drug Doesn't Stem Bleeding in People With Rare Disorder: FDA

The unapproved GlaxoSmithKline drug Promacta doesn't appear to restrict bleeding in people with a rare blood disorder called chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, reviewers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

Glaxo studies submitted to the FDA "do not provide robust evidence" to back the company's assertions that the drug controls the severity and frequency of bleeding, the Associated Press quoted agency reviewers as saying.

The anti-clotting disorder of the immune system, affecting some 60,000 people in the United States, leads to abnormally high bleeding and bruising. It causes the body to destroy its own blood platelets, which are necessary for clotting.

Promacta is designed to raise levels of blood platelets. But a pair of studies sent to the FDA for review showed no significant difference between Promacta and a non-medicinal placebo, the wire service reported.

On May 30, an FDA panel of experts is set to meet and announce whether to recommend approval of the drug. The full agency isn't bound by the decisions of its advisory panels, but usually follows them.


Big Increase Reported in Intestinal 'Superbug' Infections

The number of Americans hospitalized with the dangerous intestinal superbug Clostridium difficile has been increasing by more than 10,000 a year, and the germ was a factor in nearly 300,000 hospitalizations in 2005, more than double the number in 2000, a new study says.

Lead author Dr. Marya Zilberberg, of the University of Massachusetts, and colleagues looked at more than 36 million annual discharges from non-governmental U.S. hospitals to create national estimates for C. difficile cases, the Associated Press reported.

The researchers also concluded that 2.3 percent of C. difficile cases in 2004 were fatal (about 5,500 deaths), nearly double the percentage of C. difficile cases that were fatal in 2000.

C. difficile has developed resistance to some antibiotics and has become a common threat in hospitals and nursing homes.

"The nature of this infection is changing. It's more severe," Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the AP. He was not involved in the study, which is published in the June issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.


Dietary Supplement for Impotence Recalled

Xiadafil VIP Tabs -- a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement and erectile dysfunction -- are being recalled because they contain a potentially dangerous ingredient that isn't listed on the packaging, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The tablets contain hydroxyhomosildenafil, a chemical analog of the active ingredient in Viagra, the Associated Press reported. The compound could interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. This interaction could result in a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

The recalled Xiadafil was sold in eight-tablet bottles and two-tablet blister cards with expiration dates of September 2009. The tablets were made by SEI Pharmaceuticals and sold online and at health food stores across the United States, the AP reported.

For more information, contact the FDA at 888-463-6332.


Counterfeit Circuit Breakers Pose Fire Hazard

About 371,000 counterfeit circuit breakers labeled as "Square D" are being recalled because they can fail to trip when overloaded and pose a fire hazard, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The counterfeit products, distributed by Specialty Lamp International Inc., of Deerfield Beach, Fla., are black and labeled as Square D QO-series models 115, 120, 130, 215, 220, 230, 240, 250, 260 and 2020, and Square D QOB-series models 115, 120, 130, 220, 230, 250, 260 and 1515.

The circuit breakers were sold at electrical product distributors across the United States from May 2005 through June 2006 for between $3 and $23.

Consumers should contact Specialty Lamp International at 866-650-3076 to determine if they have a counterfeit breaker and, if so, to arrange for a free inspection and replacement or refund if necessary, the CPSC said.


Estrogen Linked to Prostate Cancer

The hormone estrogen plays an important role in about half of all prostate cancers, according to U.S. researchers.

They analyzed thousands of genes in more than 450 prostate cancer samples and found that estrogen is part of a molecular pathway that leads to the fusion of two genes that fuel prostate cancer growth, United Press International reported.

While estrogen is known as a female hormone, it's also produced by men.

Fifty percent of prostate cancers have a common recurrent gene fusion believed to make them more aggressive, said Dr. Mark A. Rubin, of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, UPI reported.

"Interfering with this gene fusion -- or its downstream molecular pathway -- will be crucial in the search for drugs that fight the disease," Rubin said in a prepared statement. "Based on our new data, we now believe that inhibiting estrogen may be one way of doing so."

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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