Health Highlights: Sept. 10, 2006

Ibuprofen Can Lessen Aspirin's Cardiovascular Benefits, FDA Says Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Cause Damage After Hip Surgery Anticipating a Bad Event Can Make the Memory of it Worse, Study Says Polio Vaccination Effort Begins in Parts of Africa Major Changes in NYC Healthcare Use After 9/11: Study

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

Ibuprofen Can Lessen Aspirin's Cardiovascular Benefits, FDA Says

Taking the pain relievers aspirin and ibuprofen at the same time may lessen aspirin's effects in preventing a heart attack, a U.S. government agency warns.

The Food and Drug Administration says that combining low dose aspirin (usually 81 mg) with 400 mg of ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) reduces the antiplatelet effect on the heart the low dose aspirin provides.

In its Sept. 8 report to consumers, the FDA said there is no evidence that taking the two anti-pain medications is harmful, but that ibuprofen has been shown to reduce aspirin's cardio-protective benefit.

But, says the FDA, you can take the two drugs within a reasonable time of each other, under certain circumstances. The research showed that a person could take ibuprofen 30 minutes after taking aspirin. Or aspirin could be taken 8 hours after taking ibuprofen.

Most important, the agency says, check with your physician, especially if you're taking aspirin as part of a daily heart regimen.


Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Cause Damage After Hip Surgery

Anti-inflammatory drugs used six months after hip replacement surgery demonstrate no more pain relief than when they're not used, a new study from Australia and New Zealand says. Furthermore, the use of ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) may actually cause unnecessary bleeding, the researchers found.

Scientists from The George Institute for International Health studied post-operative treatment of more than 900 patients, concentrating on the development of ectopic bone formation, which can occur 6-to-12 months after hip surgery. This bone develops in about one-third of hip replacement patients, the researchers say. It forms in soft tissue around the operated hip and can cause inflammation and pain.

While ibuprofen can "greatly reduce" the chances of ectopic bone formation, the scientists, said, it also considerably increases the chance of internal bleeding. And, they note, patients who didn't use ibuprofen reported no greater pain and discomfort 6-to-12 months after surgery than those who used the drug.


Anticipating a Bad Event Can Make the Memory of it Worse, Study Says

Sometimes, too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

In a small study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that being aware that something bad is about to happen is going to make a person remember it more vividly after the event occurs.

BBC News reports that the study, published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that a part of the brain that triggers memory retention activated when people anticipated an adverse event.

Researchers first showed 36 study subjects a series of symbols, followed by pictures depicting gruesome images, BBC news reported. The symbols indicated the subjects either were going to see the bad photos or be spared the experience. The subjects were quizzed 30 minutes after first having seen the pictures and again two weeks later.

The scientists concluded that those who saw the gruesome images were more likely to remember them more vividly than those who saw benign material. "Our study illustrates how the power of expectancy can extend to memory formation as well, the BBC quotes lead author Jack Nitschke as saying. "Just the expectation of seeing something bad can enhance the memory of it after it happens."

The research may be used in developing ways to treat post traumatic stress disorder, the researchers say.


Polio Vaccination Effort Begins in Parts of Africa

Attempting to counter claims by some Islamic clerics that the polio vaccine is part of a U.S. plot, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) have embarked on a campaign to immunize almost 3 million children in the Horn of Africa this year against polio.

According to the Associated Press, the crippling disease has re-emerged in parts of Africa in recent years, and WHO officials are targeting children under 5-years-old in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. According to the health organization, Somalia has reported 215 cases, Ethipia has 37 reported cases since 2004, and Kenya has had no reported cases in 22 years.

The problem is that many people in Africa are nomadic, so the possibility of polio spreading is a real threat, the wire service reports. "Nomadic people move between these countries all the time, so the idea is to try to get to these children and protect them," the A.P. quotes Dr. Mohamed Dahir Duale, a Kenya-based doctor with WHO, as saying.

In 2003 some radical Islamic clerics claimed that the polio vaccine, first developed Dr. Jonas Salk in the United States in the 1950s, was part of a U.S.-led plot to render Nigeria's Muslims infertile or infect them with AIDS. The vaccination program was stopped for more than a year, and cases of polio began to appear.


Major Changes in NYC Healthcare Use After 9/11: Study

There was a sharp decline in healthcare usage in the New York City region during the three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but usage then rose above expected levels over the following months, concludes a study in the September issue of the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism.

Researchers analyzed health insurance claims from January 2000 to March 2002 for more than two million residents of the New York City region.

The greatest decline in healthcare usage in the weeks after Sept. 11 was among people who lived closest to the World Trade Center (WTC) site. For example, there was an overall 11 percent decline in visits to doctors' offices in the three weeks after 9/11, but a 15 percent decline in office visits by people who lived within a 10-mile radius of the WTC.

The decline in office visits in those first few weeks was likely related to disruptions in access to healthcare services or transportation, the researchers said. In addition, many people may have decided to postpone healthcare visits in order to take care of more immediate issues.

Insurance claims for mental health services were lower than expected for the six months after 9/11. The researchers suggested a number of possible reasons, such people taking advantage of free mental health services, or many not recognizing their need for mental health care. Mental stress may have also manifested as physical illness, which resulted in increased healthcare use for conditions such as chest pain, ulcers, fainting, and irregular heart beats.

Between October 2001 and March 2002, the number of visits to doctors' offices was more than 200,000 over expected levels, the study found.

In related news, residents living near the World Trade Center site said the U.S. federal government has ignored health problems they have suffered as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

At a meeting held Thursday, accountant Tom Goodkind, 52, said that while there are programs for rescue/cleanup workers, little has been done for area residents, the Associated Press reported.

"I don't think that any of these groups have looked at the children of our neighborhoods," Goodkind said.

"Collateral damage, that's what I feel like," said tenant group leader Diane Lapson.

Also on Thursday, the Bush administration said it would provide $75 million for health programs for sick Sept. 11 rescue/cleanup workers.


Consumer News