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Health Highlights: May 10, 2005

FDA Warns About Counterfeit Mexican Drugs Ecstasy, Antidepressants May Be Cancer Fighters: Study Fisher Price Recalls Pogo Sticks Low-Fat Dairy May Help Prevent Diabetes DNA-Based Cystic Fibrosis Test Wins U.S. Approval

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

FDA Warns About Counterfeit Mexican Drugs

U.S. consumers are being warned about counterfeit versions of the drugs Lipitor, Viagra and an unapproved product promoted as "generic Evista" that are being sold at pharmacies in Mexican border towns.

Consumers who have any of these products should not use them and contact their health-care provider immediately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Analysis of these counterfeit products found they contained no active ingredients and may pose a health threat to consumers. For example, people who take the counterfeit version of Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, could be at long-term risk for various complications caused by high cholesterol levels, the FDA said.

Women who take the "generic Evista" product may be at risk for developing osteoporosis or for progression of existing osteoporosis. The genuine Evista is an osteoporosis treatment and prevention medication for postmenopausal women, the FDA said.

The counterfeit Lipitor and Viagra were labeled only in English. Legitimate Mexican pharmaceuticals are usually labeled in Spanish. The counterfeit Lipitor was sold in round, white plastic bottles, whereas authentic Lipitor in Mexico is sold only in boxes of blister packs, the agency said.

The "generic Evista" is labeled as "Raloxifeno, fenilox, 50 tabletas, 60mg," made or distributed by Litio, and manufactured in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The label has red triangles across the top and bottom, the FDA said.

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Ecstasy, Antidepressants May Be Cancer Fighters: Study

The illegal drug Ecstasy and antidepressants have the potential to halt the growth of cancer cells, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham in England.

In laboratory tests, the scientists found that amphetamine derivatives such as Ecstasy and weight loss pills, along with antidepressants such as Prozac, blocked cancer growth in more than half of 17 lymphoma (white blood cell cancer) samples. Cancer growth was slowed in nine of the 17 samples when they were exposed to antidepressants and in 11 of the 17 samples when they were exposed to the amphetamine derivatives, BBC News reported.

The findings, which appear in the FASEBJ Journal, could lead to new cancer therapies, the researchers said.

"We think that a range of psychotropic agents that are being used, or sometimes abused, for other reasons will now help us in our fight against all different types of cancer," Professor John Gordon told BBC News.

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Fisher Price Recalls Pogo Sticks

Fisher-Price is recalling about 154,000 Grow-To-Pro Pogo Sticks that pose a risk of fall or facial impact injury to children.

The pogo sticks have an internal metal pin that can wear down and cause the pogo stick to remain in the down position and release unexpectedly. So far, the company has received 17 reports of incidents involving the pogo Sticks, the company said.

There was one report of a child losing two teeth and another report of a child requiring stitches. Other injuries have included cuts and bruises to the face, arms and legs, the company said.

The recalled pogo sticks come in two colors: green (model number 73386) and pink (model number 77356). The model numbers can be found underneath the pogo stick's foot pegs.

Parents should take these pogo sticks away from children immediately and contact Fisher Price for a free replacement pogo stick. Contact Fisher Price at 1-800-991-2444.

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Low-Fat Dairy May Help Prevent Diabetes

Men who consume low-fat dairy products may lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say.

Each additional serving per day of low-fat dairy products was associated with a 9 percent drop in risk, the researchers said. They studied data over a 12-year period from 41,254 middle-aged men with no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, according to an account of the study by United Press International.

When the participants ate higher-fat dairy products like regular ice cream, sour cream, and whole milk, the beneficial effects weren't as pronounced, the researchers said.

Results of the study are published in the May 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

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DNA-Based Cystic Fibrosis Test Wins U.S. Approval

The first DNA-based blood test to detect cystic fibrosis has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Tag-It Cystic Fibrosis Kit, produced by the Tm BioScience Corp. of Toronto, Canada, identifies genetic variations that can help diagnose the condition in children and identify adults who may be carriers of the disease, the FDA said in a statement.

The test does not identify all of the more than 1,300 genetic variants that could contribute to the disease, the agency said, in recommending that the test not be the only method used to identify cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is the leading cause of chronic lung disease in children and young adults, the FDA said, affecting about 1 in 2,500 Caucasian babies. Half of its victims die before their 30th birthday.

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