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Health Highlights: June 3, 2005

Children's Tylenol Recalled Over Labeling Childhood Weight May Signal Adult Obesity Obesity Drug Trial Shows Promising Results Scientists Uncover Important Clue About Mad Cow Disease AIDS Epidemic Still Growing, U.N. Chief Says

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

Children's Tylenol Recalled Over Labeling

The maker of Children's Tylenol said Friday that it was recalling certain lots of 80 mg. Meltaways, 80 mg. Softchews, and 160 mg. Jr. Tylenol Meltaways because confusing packaging could lead to overdosing.

McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals said among certain 80 mg. blister packs, it's concerned that some parents might conclude that a single blister cavity that contains two tablets for a total of 160 mg. might be confused in thinking that the combined total for both tablets was only 80 mg.

Each 80 mg. tablet is imprinted with an "80" to remind parents of the tablet's strength, the company said in a statement.

Also, some instructions on Children's Tylenol bottles and the Jr. Tylenol product could confuse parents on proper dosages, the company added. Though it hasn't received any reports of adverse effects, McNeil said it was recalling the products to clarify the dosing instructions.

Studies have shown that over time, taking more than the recommended dose of Tylenol's main ingredient, acetaminophen, could cause liver damage. For more information about this recall, contact the company at 877-895-3665 (English) or 888-466-8746 (Spanish).


Childhood Weight May Signal Adult Obesity

A child's weight at three distinct periods in childhood could signal a tendency to become overweight as an adult, experts speaking at a European obesity conference in Athens, Greece, said.

The three periods are birth, preschool and the teenage years, according to an Associated Press account. Puppy fat or tubbiness at these stages appears to influence how much of a struggle with weight a person will have in adulthood, the wire service reported.

Babies born large are more likely to stay that way as adults. Ironically, being born very small may also increase the risk of adult obesity, since these infants are often fed intensively so that they can catch up with their peers, experts told the AP.

Prominent studies over the past few years indicate that 1 in 3 children who are fat in early childhood end up as fat adults, the wire service said. And children who become fat before age 8 are more likely to become obese adults than those kids who gain their weight later, the AP added.


Obesity Drug Trial Shows Promising Results

Mid-stage clinical trials of the anti-obesity drug Pramlintide show it helped obese patients progressively lose weight, maker Amylin Pharmaceuticals said Friday.

In a study of 204 obese people, those taking Pramlintide before meals for 16 weeks lost an average of 3.6 percent of their body weight, the Associated Press reported.

Pramlintide is a synthetic version of the hormone amylin, which helps regulate appetite.

The company is enrolling 400 people in a new round of trials, which should provide initial results in the first half of 2006, the AP reported.


Scientists Uncover Important Clue About Mad Cow Disease

U.S. scientists have gained an important insight into how the rogue proteins called prions that cause mad cow disease and related illnesses destroy the brain.

In research with mice, they concluded that in order for these prions to be toxic, they have to latch on to the outside of cell membranes, the Associated Press reported.

If scientists can find a way to prevent this attachment, they may be able to develop a treatment for mad cow and other fatal animal and human brain diseases such as scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, the human version of mad cow disease.

"We need to focus on that as a target for drug therapy," Dr. Bruce Cheseboro, a virologist at the National Institutes of Health's Rocky Mountain Laboratories, told the AP.

The study was published Friday in the journal Science.

An accompanying editorial noted that if abnormal prions can't latch on to cells' surfaces, the prions may not be able to disrupt signaling between cells. This interference with cell signaling is a leading theory behind prion toxicity, wrote neuropathologist Adriano Aguzzi, of the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland.


AIDS Epidemic Still Growing, U.N. Chief Says

The AIDS epidemic continues "to outrun our efforts to contain it," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a U.N. meeting in New York City on Thursday. At the high-level gathering on the epidemic, he pleaded for more money and efforts to combat the global scourge.

Many of the world's nations are at risk of falling short of targets that were to be met this year, Annan said. The goals -- primarily affecting young men and women ages 15 to 24 -- had been set at the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS that convened in 2001, CNN reported.

Here are key findings of a U.N. report released at Thursday's meeting:

  • While people with HIV/AIDS on antiviral therapy rose by nearly two-thirds by the second half of 2004, only 12 percent of people who needed the treatment in poor and developing countries were able to get it by the end of last year.
  • Many countries have yet to adopt legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
  • There is a growing crisis of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.
  • There is "an acute shortage of trained personnel" to deal with the burgeoning epidemic.
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