Health Highlights: Sept. 10, 2014

FDA Approves New Weight-Loss Drug Hospitals Overprescribing Antibiotics, Study Shows

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

FDA Approves New Weight-Loss Drug

A new weight-loss drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday.

Called Contrave, the medication is a combination of two approved drugs: naltrexone, which treats alcohol and drug addiction; and bupropion, which treats depression and seasonal affective disorder, and is used to help smokers quit.

The agency said in a news release that Contrave can be used by obese adults and by overweight adults who have at least one other weight-related condition or illness.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese, the agency said in its news release.

The approval was based on the results of multiple trials involving 4,500 people. One found that 42 percent of people who took Contrave lost 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 17 percent who took a placebo. A second trial found 36 percent of people with type 2 diabetes who took Contrave lost 5 percent of their body weight, while only 18 percent of those on a placebo did.

Because Contrave contains buproprion, the label will include a boxed warning about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors associated with antidepressants. Contrave can also increase blood pressure, and should not be used in people with uncontrolled high blood pressure. It can also cause seizures, and should not be used by those with seizure disorders. If it does not work after 12 weeks, the patient should stop taking it, the agency said.

Contrave's maker, Orexigen, must also conduct additional safety trials that will look at possible heart risks and safety of use in children and teens, the FDA said.


Hospitals Overprescribing Antibiotics, Study Shows

Antibiotics are being widely overprescribed in U.S. hospitals, a new study says.

The infection-fighting drugs are being given to patients too often, and many doctors are using more than one antibiotic to fight serious infections when it's not necessary, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Along with risking patient safety because of the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, the practice cost an extra $163 million, the study said.

In the retrospective analysis, pharmacy data from 2008-2011 at more than 500 hospitals showed that 78 percent of them had examples of potentially unnecessary combinations of antibiotics being given for two or more days, with a total of more than 32,000 cases of redundant antibiotics treatment.

Overall, that added up to almost 150,000 days of potentially inappropriate antibiotic therapy and $13 million in unneeded health care costs. Extrapolated to all U.S. hospitals over the same time period, an estimated $163 million could have been saved through appropriate prescribing, the researchers noted.

"Eliminating these unnecessarily duplicative antibiotic therapies is a simple way that all facilities can both protect their patients and save health care dollars," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC, MarketWatch reported.

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