Health Highlights: Nov. 6, 2007

MRSA Common Among Pigs, Pig Farmers Mattel Recalls Fisher-Price Kitchen Toys Home-Based Antibiotic Therapy Effective: Study U.S. Report Analyzes Health Spending Safety Concerns Over New Diabetes Drug

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

MRSA Common Among Pigs, Pig Farmers

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria are common among Canadian pigs and pig farmers, says a study that looked for MRSA in 285 pigs at 20 Ontario farms. Researchers found MRSA at 45 percent of the farms, in nearly 25 percent of pigs, and in 20 percent of pig farmers.

The study, which appears in the journal Veterinary Microbiology, is the first to indicate that North American pigs and pig farms regularly carry MRSA. The findings seem to support previous European research that identified pig farms as a possible source of these antibiotic-resistant infections, which commonly occur in hospitals.

In the United States, members of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition want the federal government to study whether the use of human antibiotics in farm animals is contributing to an increase in MRSA infections and deaths among people.

"Identifying and controlling community sources of MRSA is a public health priority of the first order. Are livestock farmers and farms in the United States also sources? We don't know for sure, because the U.S. government is not systematically testing U.S. livestock for MRSA," Richard Wood, steering committee chair of Keep Antibiotics Working, said in a prepared statement.

In 2005, MRSA infections killed nearly 19,000 people in the United States, compared to 17,000 HIV/AIDS deaths, according to results of a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Mattel Recalls Fisher-Price Kitchen Toys

Mattel Inc. announced Tuesday that it's recalling more than 172,000 Fisher-Price "Learning Kitchen" toys in the United States and Europe after several children choked and gagged on small parts that came off the Mexican-made toys.

Parents should immediately take the toys -- which feature a sink, refrigerator and a range -- away from children, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

toy recall

There have been 48 reports of small parts detaching from the toys. One child who was choking on a part was saved by a person using the Heimlich maneuver. Another child started choking, and two children gagged on toy parts in their mouths, the Associated Press reported.

The toys -- sold between May and October of this year -- included 155,000 affected units in the United States, 7,000 in Britain, 4,900 in Italy, 4,900 in Germany and 394 in Austria. U.S. consumers in can get a free repair kit by calling Fisher-Price at 888-812-7187.


Home-Based Antibiotic Therapy Effective: Study

A short course of high-dose oral amoxicillin antibiotic given at home is as effective in treating severe pneumonia in children as hospital inpatient intravenous (IV) antibiotic treatment, says a study that included more than 2,000 children at seven sites in Pakistan.

The findings suggest that home/community-based oral antibiotic therapy could dramatically reduce treatment costs, increase access to timely care, and decrease rates of pneumonia-associated deaths.

"This study has major public health and health policy implications for the treatment of acute respiratory infections, which account for more than two million deaths in children under five years of age globally," lead investigator Dr. LeAnne Fox, former assistant professor of International Health at Boston University School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

"Many children in the developing world are not effectively referred to hospitals, or they simply don't have easy access to a facility and the costs of transportation are prohibitive, so being able to provide effective treatments and monitoring at home is critical," she said.

The study was presented Tuesday in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.


U.S. Report Analyzes Health Spending

Healthcare spending for Americans younger than 65 is growing faster than for those 65 and older, says a U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) report in the journal Health Affairs.

The CMS noted that the growing number of older Americans was expected to change patterns of health spending, but the impact of that age group has been modest and is expected to remain so, the Associated Press reported.

The study found that health costs for those 65 and older were 3.5 times higher than working-age people in 1987, and 3.3 times higher in 2004. Among people age 85 and older, health costs were 6.9 times higher than working-age people in 1987, and 5.7 times higher in 2004.

Among those 18 and under, per person health spending increased from $868 in 1987 to $2,650, compared with an increase from $1,521 to $4,511 for those ages 19 to 64, and an increase from $5,282 to $14,797 for those aged 65 and older, the AP reported.


Safety Concerns Over New Diabetes Drug

Swiss drug maker Novartis said Tuesday that the once-daily 100 milligram dose of its new Galvus (vildagliptin) diabetes drug causes higher levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage than the once- or twice-daily 50 milligram dose of the drug.

The company has contacted regulators to discuss these findings from recent analyses and has proposed amendments to the drug's prescribing information, reported of the U.K.

The drug was approved by European Union regulators in September but isn't yet available to consumers in EU countries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has delayed Galvus' approval until it receives further information about a specific aspect of the drug. That's not expected to happen until the end of 2009.

Both the 100 milligram and 50 milligram doses of Galvus are currently being sold in Brazil and Mexico. A Novartis spokesperson told that the possibility of dropping the 100 milligram dose altogether "is being discussed with regulatory agencies, but we made a clear statement today to recommend using the 50 milligram once daily and 50 milligram twice daily dosing."

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