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Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2005

Drug Companies Adopting New Ad Guidelines Faulty Insulin Pump Adapters Could Cause Overdose Too Little Known About Women and Heart Drugs: Report False Food Memories May Encourage Healthier Eating Beijing Bans Pork Products from Sichuan

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

Drug Companies Adopting New Ad Guidelines

Commercials for prescription medications should clearly reveal a medication's risks and encourage patients to talk with their doctor about drugs they are taking, according to new guidelines introduced Tuesday by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

The guidelines, unveiled at a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America in Dallas, say drug companies should have time to properly educate health professionals about new medications before direct-to-consumer ad campaigns are introduced, according to the Associated Press.

The new rules also suggest that the companies expeditiously clear ads with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are broadcast. Critics have complained that by the time drug ads are deemed misleading by the FDA, the offending ads often have stopped running, the wire service said.

But the new code doesn't contain specific measures suggested by critics, including limits on when "sensitive" medications such as those to treat erectile dysfunction could be advertised, the AP reported.

Last year, the U.S. drug industry spent $4.02 billion on ads, a jump of 23 percent from 2003, the AP said. Critics say these expensive campaigns encourage people to take medications that they don't need.

The director of the consumer group Public Citizen issued a statement saying the new guidelines don't go nearly far enough. Dr. Sydney Wolfe said the FDA should step up its regulation of misleading ads, that Congress should levy large fines on companies that violate drug advertising laws, and that the FDA should have the legal authority to approve all TV ads before they air.

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Faulty Insulin Pump Adapters Could Cause Overdose

Disetronic Medical Systems says it is voluntarily recalling adapters used with its D-TRONplus insulin pumps, because the adapters could over-deliver the maximum amount of up to 1.8 I.U. of insulin, according to a statement posted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its Web site.

Use of these adapters "may pose a potential life-threatening situation to certain children using the pump," the statement said. The part number is REF 3000803, and affected lots are 4013674 through 4022628. Other adapter lots aren't affected, Disetronic said.

The problem is caused by the sporadic failure of a valve inside the D-TRON adapter to close completely, the company said. This may occur within 15 minutes of replacing the adapter, and may cause the pump to sound an "A-4" alarm as it continues to deliver insulin.

Signs of excessive insulin dosing may include: sweating, thirst, confusion, nausea, and loss of consciousness, the company said. There have been no reports of injury or death associated with these adapters, the Disetronic statement added.

To learn more about the recall, contact Disetronic at 1-800-688-4578.

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Too Little Known About Women and Heart Drugs: Report

Heart drugs affect women differently than men and too little is known about the potential risks for women taking such drugs, German researchers write in the latest issue of the European Heart Journal.

Because too few women take part in heart disease studies, there is insufficient information available about potential side effects for women taking heart drugs, BBC News reported of the researchers' conclusions.

For many years, heart disease was incorrectly regarded as a male condition, even though heart disease actually kills more women than breast cancer, the researchers said.

Their analysis of previous studies identified several ways in which women respond differently to heart drugs than men. They said more heart drug studies with women are needed.

"Because too few women participate in heart disease trials we are not sure whether they really benefit from some therapeutic strategies that have shown clinical benefits in trials conducted predominately in men," said research leader Verena Stangl, professor of cardiology at Humboldt University in Berlin.

"So, we prescribe drugs to women adapted from evidence-based data obtained from studies conducted mainly in men and we do not really know whether we help or harm the female patients," Stangl said.

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False Food Memories May Encourage Healthier Eating

Planting false unpleasant childhood memories about food may help people lose weight, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

The scientists found that they were able to make strawberry ice cream unappealing to people by manipulating their memories to make them believe that the ice cream made them sick when they were children. The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In previous studies, the researchers used false memories to turn people off pickles and hard-boiled eggs. They also successfully made people feel positive about asparagus by convincing them that they once loved the vegetable, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If this method can be perfected, it may provide a way to get people to eat more fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods and fewer low-nutrient, high- calorie foods, the researchers said.

In this latest study, they gave 47 students false computer analyses that indicated that strawberry ice cream had made them sick when they were children. Of the 47 students, about 20 percent later agreed on a questionnaire that they had, in fact, been made sick by strawberry ice cream and would not eat it anymore, the Times reported.

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Beijing Bans Pork Products from Sichuan

Health officials in Beijing have banned the sale of pork products from China's Sichuan province in an attempt to prevent the spread of a deadly pig-borne disease from entering the capital city.

To date, officials have blocked the sale of about 4,000 tons of frozen pork and pork products from Sichuan. Officials in the capital have also taken steps to improve detection and prevention of the disease, believed caused by streptococcus suis bacteria, Agence France-Presse reported.

The efforts include establishment of a notification system on the epidemic between agriculture and health officials, closer surveillance of suspected cases of the disease, and more thorough inspections of pork products.

The pig-borne disease was first identified in June. So far, the epidemic has affected 155 villages and seven cities in the Sichuan province. There have been about 200 confirmed or suspected cases and 36 deaths.

Authorities in Sichuan have ordered an initial batch of between 700,000 to 800,000 does of vaccine to protect pigs. No vaccine has yet been developed for people, AFP reported.

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