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Health Highlights: Oct. 5, 2006

Hispanic-Americans Often Turn to Healthy Stress-Busters FDA Targets Makers of Unapproved Drugs California Students Abusing Prescription Drugs Side-Curtain Air Bags Greatly Reduce Crash Death Risk Prempro Contributed to Woman's Breast Cancer: Jury Aspirin Blocks Tumor Blood Vessel Growth

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

Hispanic-Americans Often Turn to Healthy Stress-Busters

Hispanic Americans are more likely than the general U.S. population to use healthy behaviors -- such as exercise or the support of family and friends -- to manage stress, according to a survey released Thursday by the American Psychological Association.

The survey of 2,152 adults (including 434 Hispanics) found that the leading source of stress for Hispanics -- particularly women -- is concern for the health of family members (34 percent). Other major sources of anxiety include money (28 percent), personal safety (27 percent), and work (25 percent).

Some other survey findings:

  • 56 percent of Hispanics said they're very likely to spend time with family and friends in order to manage stress and 44 percent said they're very likely to exercise to reduce stress.
  • Hispanics are less likely than the U.S. general population (8 percent vs. 14 percent) to rely on unhealthy behaviors such as smoking to deal with anxiety.
  • Other coping mechanisms used by Hispanics include listening to music (51 percent), reading (34 percent), and watching television (21 percent).
  • Hispanics are more open than the U.S. general population to seeking professional health care for stress (22 percent vs. 15 percent). However, only 41 percent of Hispanics with health insurance have mental health coverage. That's 20 percent less than the general population.

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FDA Targets Makers of Unapproved Drugs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it's negotiated one "consent decree" regarding unapproved drugs and sent warning letters to four other makers of unapproved medicines .

The consent decree, signed by Syntho Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Intermax Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Syntho/Intermax) of Farmingdale, N.Y., permanently prohibits them from making, processing, packing, labeling, and distributing cough-cold products called: Coldec Tablets; Coldec D Tablets; Coldec TR Tablets; Dyphylline & Guaifenesin Tablets, USP; Guaidex PD Tablets; Guaidex D Tablets; Crantex LA Tablets, USP; Migrazone Capsules; and Usept Tablets (for urinary tract infections); and any other drugs not approved by the FDA.

The companies were also told to recall all unapproved drugs and drugs that may have been made and distributed with poor manufacturing standards. Consumers who've used products from these companies and have questions or concerns should contact their doctor, the FDA said.

The agency said it had also sent four warning letters to companies making unapproved drugs under conditions that don't meet federal requirements. The companies are: Neil Laboratories, East Windsor, N.J.; Concord Laboratories Inc., Fairfield, N.J.; Scientific Laboratories, Columbia, Md.; and Sheffield Laboratories, New London, Conn.

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California Students Abusing Prescription Drugs

Even though their use of illicit drugs and alcohol appears to have leveled off, California students are increasingly abusing prescription pills such as painkillers, according to a study released Wednesday.

In many cases, pills are stolen from parents' medicine cabinets or obtained at parties, the Associated Press reported.

The state survey of 10,638 students at 113 middle and high schools was conducted between September 2005 and February 2006.

It found that 15 percent of Grade 11 students; nine percent of Grade 9 students; and four percent of Grade 7 students say they are abusing prescription drugs.

Overall, prescription drugs ranked third, behind alcohol and marijuana, as students' stimulant of choice, the AP reported. In a previous survey, inhalants had ranked third.

The survey did identify some positive trends. Less than 20 percent of seventh graders reported that they drank beer or wine in the previous six months, compared to 40 percent in a survey taken a decade ago.

Rates of drinking also declined among ninth and 11th graders over the past decade. The survey also found a decline in the use of marijuana and inhalants among all three age groups, the AP reported.

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Side-Curtain Air Bags Greatly Reduce Crash Death Risk

Side-curtain air bags designed to protect the head reduce a driver's risk of death in a side-impact crash by more than one-third, says a study by the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In sports utility vehicles, this kind of airbag reduces death risk by 52 percent, The New York Times reported.

The study found that side air bags designed to protect a driver's chest and abdomen, but not the head, cut the risk of death in a side-impact crash by 25 percent for all vehicles and 30 percent for SUVs.

The findings are based on crash tests conducted by the insurance institute and an analysis of traffic crash data, the Times reported.

Automakers in the United States have agreed to make side-curtain air bags standard equipment on all vehicles by 2010, the Times said.

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Prempro Contributed to Woman's Breast Cancer: Jury

The hormone-replacement drug Prempro was at least partially responsible for a Dayton, Ohio, woman's breast cancer, a jury ruled Wednesday.

The jury awarded $1 million to 66-year-old Jennie Nelson and $500,000 to her husband in compensatory damages. But the money will only be paid if it can be proven in the second phase of the trial that drug maker Wyeth failed to issue sufficient warnings about Prempro or was otherwise reckless or negligent, the Associated Press reported.

Nelson, who took Prempro for five years to treat menopausal symptoms, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.

The second phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 14, the AP reported.

U.S. government studies have suggested a link between hormone therapy and some diseases. Prempro is still sold in the United States, but sales have fallen sharply since the government research was released a few years ago.

Wyeth faces thousands of lawsuits over its hormone drugs Prempro and Premarin. The company won its first Prempro case last month when a jury rejected an Arkansas woman's claim that the drug had caused her breast cancer.

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Aspirin Blocks Tumor Blood Vessel Growth

Aspirin limits the formation of blood vessels that tumors need to grow, say British scientists who conducted laboratory tests with the painkiller.

"Aspirin seems to work against tumor formation in several ways, one of which is to restrict the blood supply," said study lead author Dr. Helen Arthur, of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Newcastle.

The finding may eventually lead to new cancer treatments, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Cancer patients need to understand that this research only involved cells grown in the laboratory, noted Dr. Kat Arney, senior scientific information officer at Cancer Research UK. "We certainly wouldn't recommend that cancer patients take aspirin without medical advice, as large doses can be harmful," Arney said.

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