Health Highlights: Nov. 22, 2006
U.S. Judge Rules Out Class Action for Vioxx Claims New Prostate Cancer Test Available in Europe Mothers with Sick/Disabled Children Report More Health Problems Contact-Lens Solution Recalled for Bacterial Contamination China Reports 30 Percent Increase in HIV/AIDS Cases 1.1 Million African Newborns Die Yearly: Report
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Judge Rules Out Class Action for Vioxx Claims
A U.S. judge ruled Wednesday that thousands of federal lawsuits involving Merck and Co.'s painkiller Vioxx cannot be grouped into a single national class action, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon rejected a proposal by plaintiffs' lawyers to try all the cases under the laws in New Jersey, where drug company Merck has its headquarters.
Fallon said that it makes more sense to apply the law of each plaintiff's home state to the claims, the AP reported.
He did not rule on the issue of separate class-action lawsuits for each state and the District of Columbia.
Fallon has been assigned to handle all pretrial matters for all federal lawsuits involving Vioxx, the AP reported.
New Prostate Cancer Test Available in Europe
A new prostate cancer test that looks for high levels of the biomarker PCA3 mRNA in urine has been launched in the European Union. The test has not been approved in the United States.
Research has shown that, in more than 95 percent of prostate cancer cases, PCA3 is 60- to 100-fold over-expressed in prostate cancer cells, compared to normal cells.
Preliminary data indicate the PCA3 test may be more specific to prostate cancer than the traditional serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which means the PCA3 test would be less likely to give false positive results.
"Only 25 to 30 percent of men who have a biopsy due to elevated PSA levels actually have prostate cancer; therefore, the majority of elevated PSA tests are the result of non-cancerous conditions," Dr. Mark Emberton, senior lecturer in oncological urology at University College Hospital in London, said in a prepared statement.
"Unnecessary biopsies contribute to patient anxiety and are a burden on the healthcare system. We are optimistic that the Gen-Probe PCA3 test, used in combination with serum PSA, will further identify appropriate biopsy patients and that this will result in better detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer," Emberton added.
Mothers with Sick/Disabled Children Report More Health Problems
Mothers who take care of children with disabilities or chronic health problems are more likely to report poor health than mothers of healthy children, says a Canadian study.
Researchers looked at the parents of children ages 6 to 15 and found that 11 percent of mothers caring for a chronically sick/disabled child said they were in poor or fair health, compared with just over 5 percent of mothers of healthy children, CBC News reported.
However, no differences were noted among fathers in the study.
"We think that it might be the nature of the responsibilities that the mother has that's stressful for her and leads to lower health," study lead author Shelly Phipps, an economics professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told CBC News.
The findings suggest that more needs to be done to provide support to parents, especially mothers, who take care of sick/disabled children. This would benefit both the parents and the children.
Contact-Lens Solution Recalled for Bacterial Contamination
A California-based optical company is recalling 2.9 million bottles of contact-lens cleaner following reports some bottles sold in Japan had bacterial contamination.
The voluntary recall of the 12-ounce COMPLETE MoisturePLUS solution is mainly in Asia, but it does cover 183,000 units in the United States, which is a fraction of what is distributed, according to a spokeswoman for Advanced Medical Optics Inc., in Santa Ana. The spokeswoman told Bloomberg that there had been fewer than 10 complaints in Japan about the non-sterile solution and no problems reported in the United States.
The company said that it had traced the contaminated units to its plant in China and found that the waterborne Ralstonia bacteria had compromised the disinfectant in the solution and were eating away at the oxygen in the bottles.
The company's plant in Spain, which makes most of the solutions sold in Europe and the United States, will remain open while the plant in China is closed for sterilization and upgrades, the company said.
Bacterial infections are the most common type of infection associated with contact lenses and are usually easily cured with eye drops, according to experts. Fungal infections, such as the one linked to the major recall in May of Bausch & Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc lens cleaner, are more difficult to treat.
China Reports 30 Percent Increase in HIV/AIDS Cases
Reported cases of HIV/AIDS in China increased 30 percent this year, according to government officials and state media. So far in 2007, 183,733 people are confirmed to have HIV/AIDS, an increase of 39,644 from last year.
However, it's believed that the actual number of total infections, including unreported cases, is about 650,000, BBC News reported.
Chinese health officials also said that it appears that HIV/AIDS is starting to spread from high-risk groups, such as injection drug users and prostitutes, into the general population.
China has the world's largest sex trade industry. About 10 million young women work in brothels, but less than half of them tell their clients to use condoms.
After years of denying that HIV/AIDS was a serious problem in China, officials in that country have recently boosted efforts to combat the virus, including promises of free treatment for poor people, prevention programs, and a ban on discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, BBC News reported.
1.1 Million African Newborns Die Yearly: Report
Each year in Africa, about 500,000 children die within 24 hours after being born and about 1.1 million die within a month of their birth, according to a report released Wednesday by international health groups.
The report said that simple health measures -- such as tetanus immunization and malaria control, clean and safe childbirth with a skilled midwife, and breastfeeding support for mothers -- could save the lives of about 800,000 babies each year, Agence France Presse reported.
Infant death rates are highest in countries scarred by conflict. Liberia had the highest infant mortality rate (66 deaths per 1,000 births), followed by Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
Just five countries, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, account for 50 percent of all newborn deaths in Africa, the report said.
Nigeria alone has more than 250,000 newborn deaths a year and is not making much progress in reducing that toll, Joy Lawn of Save the Children told AFP.