Health Highlights: Oct. 18 2011
Ban on Chewing Tobacco During Baseball Games Sought Blood Test Detects Down Syndrome in Fetus FDA Panel Opposes New Use for Parkinson's Drug
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Ban on Chewing Tobacco During Baseball Games Sought
The professional baseball players union should agree to a ban on the use of chewing tobacco at games and on camera, say some U.S. senators and health officials from St. Louis and Arlington, Texas -- the cities hosting the 2011 World Series.
The requests to the union were outlined in separate letters sent by the senators and the public health officials, the Associated Press reported.
Millions of people, including children, will watch the series, wrote Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tom Harkin of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate health committee.
"When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example," the senators said.
"Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products," they added, the AP reported.
In their letter, the health officials from Arlington and St. Louis noted that tobacco companies can't advertise on TV, but they "literally could not buy the ads that are effectively created by celebrity ballplayers using tobacco at games."
A ban on chewing tobacco was endorsed earlier this year by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig but the players union has not committed to the idea.
Blood Test Detects Down Syndrome in Fetus
A new test that uses a sample of a pregnant woman's blood to detect Down syndrome in her fetus will be offered in 20 U.S. cities starting Monday, according to The New York Times.
The test from the San Diego-based biotechnology company Sequenom analyzes fetal DNA in the mother's blood and detected 98.6 percent of Down syndrome cases, according to a study published online in the journal Genetics in Medicine.
The test can be used as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
"It's better than anything by far that we've ever seen in testing for Down syndrome non-invasively," said study senior author Jacob A. Canick, a professor of pathology at Brown University, The Times reported.
This and other new blood tests coming to market offer alternatives to riskier invasive tests such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling that carry a slight risk of miscarriage.
FDA Panel Opposes New Use for Parkinson's Drug
The Parkinson's disease drug Azilect does not slow progression of the disease and should not be approved for such use, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration expert panel recommended in a unanimous vote Monday.
The drug is approved to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease but Teva Pharmaceuticals wanted the FDA to expand that approval so that Azilect could be prescribed to slow the underlying disease, the Associated Press reported.
But the FDA panel of outside experts said the company's clinical trial results were not convincing and voted 17-0 against recommending approval for that use.
"I believe the drug shows signs of effectiveness for symptomatic use, for which it is already approved. But the higher bar is whether it does anything for disease modification, and it did not meet that standard," said Dr. Justin Zivin of the University of California, San Diego, the AP reported.
Currently there is no approved treatment to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease.