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Health Highlights: April 18  2005

Target Restricting Access to Cold and Allergy Products U.S. May Soon End Cancer Drug Trial Dangerous Flu Samples Found in FedEx Warehouses U.S. Child Vaccine Supply Running Low Drugmaker Reports Positive Angina Drug Trials

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

Target Restricting Access to Cold and Allergy Products

Target Corp. said Monday that it would limit public access to all medicines containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to produce the street drug methamphetamine, an addictive stimulant.

Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, said it would move products containing the decongestant behind pharmacy counters and would stop selling them in its stores without pharmacies, the Bloomberg news service reported.

Target said the new policy would be implemented within 90 days at its 1,330 locations. The retailer said it would also continue its policy of limiting customers to two pseudoephedrine-based medicines per purchase, Bloomberg said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine is often made in small, illegal laboratories and has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Street methamphetamine is referred to by names such as "speed," "meth," and "chalk." It's the most prevalent synthetic drug manufactured in the United States, the NIDA says.


U.S. May Soon End Cancer Drug Trial

The National Cancer Institute may be poised to end its clinical trials of the AstraZeneca lung cancer drug Iressa because the drug has failed to prolong patients' lives, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing unidentified company sources.

The agency didn't return calls seeking comment, the wire service said.

Iressa was being tested as a lung cancer therapy for those who had failed standard treatments. Its 2003 approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was conditioned on additional clinical testing, the AP said.

Last December, AstraZeneca announced that ongoing trials found that the drug did not help patients live longer. The company subsequently withdrew an application to sell the drug in Europe, the wire service said.


Dangerous Flu Samples Found in FedEx Warehouses

Samples of the potentially deadly flu virus mistakenly included in thousands of laboratory test kits have turned up in FedEx warehouses in Mexico, Chile and Lebanon, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A WHO official said for reasons unknown, the kits were never delivered to their destinations but were kept in the warehouses under lock and key, USA Today reported Monday.

WHO announced last week that samples of the H2N2 virus, which killed as many as 4 million people worldwide during the flu pandemic of 1957, were sent to about 5,000 labs in 19 countries. As of Sunday, the WHO spokesman said, about 83 percent of the samples had been destroyed, the newspaper reported.

Klaus Stohr, chief of the WHO's influenza program, said the H2N2 virus should not have been included in any testing kits since the strain hasn't been included in any flu vaccine since 1968, making anyone born after that date vulnerable to the virus.

He said only about 60 of the samples were sent to labs outside the United States, and that the United States was the only country that hadn't yet destroyed all outstanding samples, USA Today said.


U.S. Child Vaccine Supply Running Low

The United States' stockpile of childhood vaccines is nearly gone, and there are no immediate prospects of it being replenished, the Washington Post reports.

Since the shots aren't delivered until the government calls for them in emergencies, three of the four makers of the vaccines announced last year that they would no longer participate in the program, the newspaper said. The vials traditionally have been held in the makers' warehouses, where auditors and investors consider them unsold, the Post reported.

The stockpile currently contains about 13.2 million doses of vaccine, less than one-third of the goal of 41 million. The reserve is supposed to contain a total of eight shots that protect against a combined 11 childhood diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. Some of the specific shots are entirely depleted, the Post said.

Created in 1983, the Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile is supposed to contain enough supply to serve the entire nation for six months. The stockpile has never reached its targeted amounts, the newspaper said.


Drugmaker Reports Positive Angina Drug Trials

CV Therapeutics announced Monday that its angina drug Ranexa (ranolazine) reduced the frequency of attacks among 565 clinical trial participants, compared with those who took a placebo.

The company received preliminary U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in October 2003 and was required to conduct additional clinical testing, the Associated Press reported. CV now plans to amend its new drug application, and full approval could mean a possible U.S. launch of the drug by the second half of 2006, the wire service said.

Angina is characterized by chest pain that occurs when oxygenated blood doesn't reach the heart due to some kind of arterial blockage. The condition affects about 6.4 million Americans, the AP said.

Renexa prevents fatty acids from reaching the heart and increases the organ's consumption of sugar, allowing the heart to require less oxygen, the wire service said.

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