Health Highlights: Oct. 27, 2010

U.S. Army Funds Suicide Prevention Research Taller Men May Be Likelier to Get Testicular Cancer: Study Scientists Map 95 Percent of Human Gene Variations Glaxo Pays $750 Million Fine for Sale of Tainted Drugs: Report Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages Under Scrutiny

HealthDay News

HealthDay News

Updated on October 27, 2010

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

U.S. Army Funds Suicide Prevention Research

The U.S. Army is funding a three-year, $17 million project to determine the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs.

The research was prompted by the rising number of suicides in the military. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 U.S. military personnel committed suicide, the Associated Press reported.

The project will involve creation of a global network of researchers to study suicide. A large database will then be compiled so that people running prevention programs can see which methods are effective.

Current suicide prevention approaches are based on "good ideas" from experts, but there's no actual proof they work, said Col. Carl Castro, director of an Army medical research program, the AP reported.


Taller Men May Be Likelier to Get Testicular Cancer: Study

Taller men may be at increased risk for testicular cancer, according to a new study.

U.S. National Cancer Institute researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 men and concluded that for every extra 2 inches above average height, the risk of testicular cancer increased 13 percent, BBC News reported.

It's not clear why increased height boosts the risk of testicular cancer, said the researchers. The study appears in the British Journal of Cancer.

"Tall men should not be alarmed by this research since fewer than four in 100 testicular lumps are actually cancerous," Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research U.K., told BBC News. "But it is still important for men to be aware of any changes to the size and weight of their testicles and not delay seeing their GP if they are concerned. This is particularly true for young men as the disease is more common with under-35 year olds."


Scientists Map 95 Percent of Human Gene Variations

About 95 percent of all human gene variations have been mapped, say the leaders of a project to sequence and compare the DNA of 2,500 people from around the world.

The members of the 1,000 Genomes Project also said their findings suggest that each person carries an average of 75 gene variations that may play a role in inherited disorders, BBC News reported.

The findings appear in the journal Nature.

The researchers said that mapping human genetic differences can help explain why some people may be more prone to inherited disease, and could lead to new treatments, BBC News reported.


Glaxo Pays $750 Million Fine for Sale of Tainted Drugs: Report

GlaxoSmithKline will pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it sold contaminated and substandard drugs made at a plant in Puerto Rico, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The 20 affected drugs included the antidepressant Paxil, the diabetes drug Avanida, the heart drug Coreg, and the acid reflux drug Tagamet. There are no known cases of patients becoming sick from taking the drugs, The New York Times reported.

The payment includes $150 million to settle criminal charges and $600 million in civil penalties. Federal officials were alerted by Glaxo's former quality manager, who was fired after she warned company executives about the problems.

In a statement, GlaxoSmithKline said it regretted operating the Puerto Rico plant in violation of good manufacturing practices. The plant was closed in 2009, the Times reported.


Caffeinated Alcohol Beverages Under Scrutiny

College and health officials are alarmed about the increasing number of young people ending up in hospital after drinking large cans of beverages that combine alcohol and caffeine.

Doctors warn these products are dangerous because the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, preventing drinkers from realizing how drunk they are, The New York Times reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether the drinks are safe.

One particular brand is under particular scrutiny. Four Loko is a fruit-flavored malt beverage that has an alcohol content of 12 percent and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

"This is one of the most dangerous new alcohol concoctions I have ever seen," Dr. Michael Reihart, an emergency room physician at Lancaster General Hospital in Pennsylvania, told the Times.

Over the last three months, he's treated more than a dozen teens and adults who were brought to the ER after drinking Four Loko.

"It's a recipe for disaster because your body's natural defense is to get sleep and not want to drink, but in this case you're tricking the body with the caffeine," Reihart said.

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