Health Highlights: May 4, 2003

Mountain Climber Cuts Off Arm to Free Himself Big Retailer to Drop Ephedra Products Separated Twin has Successful Follow-up Surgery Anthrax Antidote Uses Human Antibody Consumer Group Opposes Cancer Drug Approval House Passes $15B Global AIDS Bill

HealthDay News

HealthDay News

Published on May 04, 2003

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

Mountain Climber Cuts Off Arm to Free Himself

An expert outdoorsman from Colorado is to undergo surgery Monday after he was forced to use a pocketknife to cut off his arm, which had become trapped by a boulder while he was climbing in Utah.

Aron Ralston, 27, of Aspen, became trapped April 26 while mountain climbing in Canyonlands National Park and the boulder shifted onto his arm. After spending days trying to budge the boulder and running out of water, Ralston used his pocketknife Thursday to cut off his arm, the Associated Press reports.

He remains hospitalized in fair condition. Surgeons say they hope to fit him with a prosthetic arm, the AP says.

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Big Retailer to Drop Ephedra Products

General Nutrition Centers announced Friday that its stores would stop selling products that contain the controversial weight-loss supplement ephedra at the end of June.

GNC says that while it believes the products are safe when used as directed, more customers are now buying similar products that don't contain ephedra, the Associated Press reports.

Ephedra, an herb, has been linked to serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke, and it's been implicated in a number of deaths.

GNC has more than 5,300 retail stores in the United States and other countries.

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Separated Twin has Successful Follow-up Surgery

Surgeons in Guatemala have inserted a valve to ease pressure on the brain of a nearly 2-year-old girl who was born conjoined and then successfully separated from her twin sister.

The three-hour surgery on Maria de Teresa was termed a success by her doctors; the valve was inserted to replace another one that had become infected, the Associated Press reports.

The girls were born July 25, 2001, to a poor family in rural Guatemala. Charitable groups in that country and the United States were able to bring the conjoined girls to Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles, where they were successfully separated last August in a 23-hour operation, the AP says.

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Anthrax Antidote Uses Human Antibody

A U.S. company says it has developed and successfully tested in the laboratory an anthrax antidote that utilizes a human antibody to neutralize the potentially deadly toxin.

Scientists at Avanir Pharmaceuticals of San Diego say their discovery could lead to the development of new drugs and a vaccine to combat anthrax, BBC News Online reports.

The announcement follows the recent news that scientists cracked the genetic code of the strain of anthrax used in letters mailed in the United States in 2001.

Drugs and a vaccine to treat anthrax already exist, but the vaccine has to be injected multiple times over a number of months before it's effective.

The Avanir scientists believe their human antibody antidote could offer a more effective way of protecting people from anthrax.

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Consumer Group Opposes Cancer Drug Approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should not approve the new cancer drug Iressa for use in the United States because it's too dangerous, says the consumer group Public Citizen.

While it showed promise in early tests, the drug caused serious side effects and deaths in some Japanese patients, the Associated Press reports.

Public Citizen says Iressa is dangerous and ineffective. But an FDA-convened panel of cancer experts has recommended the drug be approved in the United States for treatment of lung cancer.

The FDA is considering whether to approve the drug for use in people with late-stage lung cancer that has failed to respond to other treatments. A decision is expected Monday.

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House Passes $15B Global AIDS Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $15 billion bill to combat AIDS across the globe, but not before conservatives included a proviso that a third of the money be used to promote abstinence before marriage.

Thursday's lopsided 375-41 vote would almost triple federal spending over five years for fighting AIDS internationally, especially in the poorer nations of Africa, The New York Times reports. Some 25 million Africans have died from AIDS and at least 30 million have been infected with the AIDS-causing HIV virus, the newspaper says.

President Bush endorsed the legislation in his January State of the Union speech. The measure now moves to the Senate, and Majority Leader Bill First (R-Tenn.) has said he'd try to have the bill on the president's desk by Memorial Day.

In pushing the abstinence proposal, adopted 220-197, Republican conservatives said it was not enough to send billions of dollars to Africa without including "values that work," in the words of Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana). He cited a reduction in AIDS cases in Uganda after imposition of a program that stressed abstinence. Some Democrats countered that the Ugandan program also encouraged greater use of condoms, which they said was probably more responsible for the drop in Ugandan cases.

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