Health Highlights: Nov. 17, 2010
HPV Vaccine Also Prevents Anal Cancer, FDA Panel Says Cholera Confirmed in Florida Woman Hospital Stay Caused Cheney's Weight Loss: Spokesman Diabetes Drug Mediator Linked to 500 Deaths U.S. Cancer Patients' End-of-Life Care Varies Widely: Study
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
HPV Vaccine Also Prevents Anal Cancer, FDA Panel Says
An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that the Gardasil human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine -- already approved to prevent cervical cancer -- can also prevent anal malignancies in males and females.
The recommendation was based on a study of 4,000 men conducted by the vaccine's maker, Merck & Co, the Associated Press reported. The panelists said that the findings could also apply to women.
Gardasil is currently approved to help ward off cervical cancer and genital warts in females aged 9 to 26, and genital warts in males within the same age range. The vaccine blocks four common strains of HPV.
Cholera Confirmed in Florida Woman
A Florida woman who visited family in Haiti returned home with cholera, but the disease is unlikely to spread because of better sanitation in the United States, say state health officials.
It's the state's first confirmed case of cholera linked to the Haiti epidemic.
The women, who cannot be identified due to privacy laws, visited family residing along Haiti's rural Artibonite River, where the cholera outbreak began in October. She returned to her home in Collier County in southwest Florida and has recovered from cholera, said Dr. Thomas Torok, of the Florida Department of Health, the Associated Press reported.
Other suspected cases of cholera are under investigation, said the health department. There have not been any reports of locally acquired cases of cholera.
Since an earthquake devastated Haiti in January, there has been increased travel between Florida's large Haitian community and the Caribbean country, the AP reported.
Florida health officials have asked doctors to report cases of watery diarrhea in people who recently went to Haiti and to submit specimens to state laboratories.
Hospital Stay Caused Cheney's Weight Loss: Spokesman
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's thin appearance is the result of weight loss during a long hospital stay after he had heart surgery in the summer, according to a spokesman.
Cheney, who appeared Tuesday at the groundbreaking for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, wants to keep the weight off for health reasons, said spokesman Peter Long, the Associated Press reported.
The former vice president also used a cane during his appearance. Cheney needed the cane because a bad knee from playing high school football acts up occasionally, Long said.
Diabetes Drug Mediator Linked to 500 Deaths
The banned diabetes and weight loss drug Mediator (benflourex) may have contributed to the deaths of about 500 people, say health officials in France.
The European Medicines Agency banned Mediator last year but France's health products safety agency said that people who used the drug between 2006 and 2009 should get checked for possible heart valve problems, the Associated Press reported.
About five million people have used Mediator since 1976, according to the French agency.
When the European Medicines Agency said it decided to pull the drug from the market because it had little effect on diabetes and could lead to a dangerous thickening of heart valves, the AP reported.
U.S. Cancer Patients' End-of-Life Care Varies Widely: Study
There are wide regional variations in the proportion of cancer patients who die in the hospital and get hospice care, say U.S. researchers.
They analyzed the records of 235,821 Medicare patients with cancer, ages 65 and older, who died between 2003 and 2007. Overall, one-third of the patients spent their final days in hospitals and intensive care units. However, regional rates ranged from 46.7 percent in New York City's Manhattan to only 7 percent in Mason City, Iowa, the Washington Post reported.
Overall, 6 percent of patients received chemotherapy in their last two weeks of life, but the rate was more than 10 percent in some places, said the researchers at the Dartmouth Atlas Project in Lebanon, N.H. Studies have shown that chemotherapy has little or no value for frail elderly patients and those with advanced cancer.
There was also wide variation in hospice care. At least 50 academic medical centers failed to provide hospice services for more than half of their patients with a poor prognosis. The researchers also found that some hospitals referred patients to hospice care too late to provide much comfort, the Post reported.
"The care that patients receive has less to do with what they want and more to do with the hospitals they happen to seek care from," study leader David Goodman said during a briefing. "Geography is destiny."