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Health Highlights: Oct. 18, 2007

Millions of American Teens Smoke, Drink and Use Drugs Each Day: Report Pfizer Stops Making Inhaled Insulin Product U.S. West Nile Infections Reach 3,022 FDA Widens Approval of Meningitis Vaccine for Young Kids Regular Aspirin Use Against Heart Attack May Only Work for Men Britain Facing Obesity Crisis: Report

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

Millions of American Teens Smoke, Drink, Use Drugs Each Day: Report

On an average day in 2006, 1.2 million American teens smoked cigarettes, 631,000 drank, 586,000 used marijuana, almost 50,000 used inhalants, 27,000 used hallucinogens, 13,000 used cocaine, and 3,800 used heroin, according to a government report released Thursday.

It also found that on an average day, almost 8,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol for the first time, about 4,300 used an illicit drug for the first time, about 4,000 smoked cigarettes for the first time, almost 3,600 used marijuana for the first time, and about 2,500 abused pain reliever for the first time.

The report, by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is based on national surveys conducted and analyzed by the agency's Office of Applied Studies.

"While other studies have shown that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of substance abuse among young people in the last few years, this report shows many young people are still engaging in risky behavior," SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline said in a prepared statement.

"By breaking the data down and analyzing on a day-to-day basis, we gain fresh perspective on how deeply substance abuse pervades the lives of many young people and their families," Cline said.


Pfizer Stops Making Inhaled Insulin Product

Pfizer Inc. announced Thursday that it was halting production of its inhaled insulin product Exubera, which was touted as a major advance for diabetes patients when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in January 2006.

"Despite our best efforts, Exubera failed to gain the acceptance of patients and physicians. We have therefore concluded that further investment in this product is unwarranted," Pfizer Chief Executive Jeff Kindler said in a prepared statement.

There were a number of problems with Exubera, Forbes reported. The drug seemed to decrease lung function, apparently due to the way the insulin was delivered into the lungs. There were also problems with dosing because it proved a challenge to convert a patient's normal insulin dose into a dosage of Exubera.

And as Pfizer was forced to conduct safety studies on Exubera's effect on lung function, other companies developed less painful methods of insulin injection, Forbes reported.


U.S. West Nile Infections Reach 3,022

So far this year, there have been 3,022 reported cases of human West Nile virus illness in 42 states, with 76 fatalities, according to a report published Thursday in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the cases reported so far this year, 1,646 (55 percent) occurred males and the median age of patients was 51 years, with an age range of 15 months to 97 years.

There have been 265 presumptive West Nile viremic donors (PVDs) reported: 46 in California, 37 in Texas, 24 in North Dakota, 21 in South Dakota, 20 in Colorado, 17 in Minnesota, 16 in Oklahoma, 13 in Montana, 12 in Mississippi, 11 in Missouri, seven in Arizona, six in Ohio, five each in Iowa and Utah, four each in Kentucky and New Mexico, three each in Puerto Rico and Wyoming, two each in Indiana and Pennsylvania, and one each in Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Of those reported PVD cases, 52 subsequently developed West Nile fever and two people developed neuroinvasive illness.


FDA Widens Approval of Meningitis Vaccine for Young Kids

The approved age range for the bacterial meningitis vaccine Menactra has been expanded to include children ages 2 to 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. The vaccine had been approved for people ages 11 to 55.

Previously, a product called Menomune was the only meningitis vaccine approved in the U.S. for use in children ages 2 and older. Both Menactra and Menomune are made by Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and offer protection against four groups of the bacterium that can cause meningitis.

In the United States, about 2,600 people become ill from bacterial meningitis each year. About 10 percent of those patients die and about 15 percent suffer brain damage or limb amputation.

Meningitis vaccine is recommended for children ages 2 to 10 who are at increased risk for developing meningitis including: those who have had their spleen removed or whose spleen is not functioning; those who are traveling to areas outside the U.S. where the disease is common; and those with a condition called terminal complement component deficiency, which makes it difficult to fight infection. Vaccination is also used to control outbreaks of bacterial meningitis.


Regular Aspirin Use Against Heart Attack May Only Work for Men

An aspirin a day to protect against heart attack may only work for men, say Canadian researchers who reviewed data from 23 international studies involving more than 113,000 people.

The University of British Columbia team found that regular aspirin use reduced heart attack risk by 25 percent in men, but had almost no effect on women, the Toronto Star reported. The findings were published online Wednesday in the journal BMC Medicine.

"For people without risk factors who haven't had heart attacks in the past ... Aspirin in women is not very effective. In fact, it's not effective," said study co-author Dr. Don Sin, an assistant professor of medicine. "Whereas it seems to be quite effective in preventing heart attacks in men."

The disparity between men and women may due to gender-related physiological differences, suggested Dr. Peter Liu, head of circulatory research at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Star reported.

In men, heart attacks are often caused by plaque build-ups that break off an arterial wall and block an important blood vessel. In women, it's believed that plaque wears away at coronary arteries, causing them to spasm shut and trigger a heart attack.


Britain Facing Obesity Crisis: Report

By 2050, 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women, and 25 percent of children in Britain could be obese unless drastic action is taken, warns a British government report that found little evidence that current anti-obesity policies are effective

The document said that excess weight has become the norm and described Britain as an "obesogenic" society. Over the last 25 years, the number of overweight and obese people in Britain has tripled and about one-quarter of adults are now obese, the Associated Press reported.

In the United States, one-third of adults are obese and two-thirds are overweight.

The authors of the report proposed a number of measures to control weight gain, including: earlier action when young children start gaining too much weight; controlling high-calorie foods; increasing employer responsibility; targeting people at increased risk for weight gain; and changing the designs of towns in order to increase residents' physical activity, the AP reported.

"There is a danger that the moment to act radically and dramatically will be missed," said Sir David King, head author of the report and the government's chief scientific adviser. "It (obesity) is a problem that is getting worse every year."

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