Health Highlights: Jan. 26, 2011

By on January 26, 2011

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

Breast Implants May Be Linked to Rare Cancer: FDA

There may be a link between saline and silicone breast implants and a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

A review of scientific literature published between January 1997 and May 2010 suggests that women with these breast implants may have a very small but significant risk of ALCL in the scar capsule next to the implant. The review identified 34 unique cases of ALCL in women with either saline and silicone breast implants.

The agency is asking health-care professionals to report any confirmed cases of ALCL in patients with breast implants. To ensure that women clearly understand the possible risk, the FDA will work with breast implant manufacturers to update their product labeling for patients and health-care professionals.

In addition, the FDA is teaming with experts to create a breast implant registry to better understand the development of ALCL in women with breast implants.


Cognitive Disorders Affect Five Percent of U.S. Seniors: Report

Just over five percent of seniors in the United States report one or more cognitive disorder, such as senility or dementia, says a federal government report.

The analysis of data from the nearly 39 million Americans who were age 65 and older in 2007 also found that those age 85 and older were most likely to report one or more cognitive disorder (18.4 percent), compared to those ages 75 to 84 (6 percent) and those ages 65 to 74 (1.1 percent).

One or more cognitive disorders were more likely to be reported by seniors with less than a high school education (8.6 percent) than those who completed high school (4.9 percent) or those with more than a high school education (2.7 percent), said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The report also said that one or more cognitive disorders were reported by:

  • Nearly 8 percent of poor seniors and 4.1 percent of middle- and high-income seniors.
  • Nearly 11 percent of seniors with both Medicare and another type of supplemental public insurance, 5 percent of seniors with Medicare only, and 4.1 percent of seniors with Medicare and supplemental private insurance.

Average yearly health expenses were $15,549 for seniors who reported one or more cognitive disorders and $9,019 for seniors without a cognitive disorder.


Winter Storms Lead to Depleted Blood Supply: Red Cross

The American Red Cross is appealing for blood donors to help restore its blood supply, which has been depleted after severe weather in much of the eastern United States in recent weeks caused the cancellation of more than 14,000 blood and platelet donations.

The impact of the storms on the national inventory management system — which moves blood products to where they’re most needed — has been huge. The Red Cross said it has been 10 years since its blood supply dropped this dramatically at this time of year.

More winter weather and a possible coastal storm are being forecast.

“Maintaining sufficient blood to meet patient needs is a delicate balance between supply and demand,” Chief Medical Officer Richard Benjamin said in a Red Cross news release. “When severe weather disrupts that balance, the Red Cross puts out a call to potential blood donors across the country to give blood as soon as possible and help make up the deficit.”

All eligible donors in areas unaffected by winter storms are asked to make an appointment to give blood or platelets within the coming days, while those in affected areas are asked to donate when it is safe to travel.


No Turning Back on Health Care Reform: Obama

While he recognizes there is opposition to the extension of insurance coverage to 30 million more Americans, President Barack Obama says he is not willing to return to a situation where private insurers can deny coverage.

The expansion of insurance coverage is part of the new health care law.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama also said he wants to work with Congress to further cut health care costs, including state reforms to the medical malpractice system, the Associated Press reported.

However, he doesn’t support a Republican proposal to cap payouts in malpractice suits, something that would offer major savings but is opposed by trial lawyers.


Weed Sap Appears Effective Against Skin Cancer: Study

Sap from a weed called petty spurge may help treat non-melanoma skin cancers, according to a new study.

It included 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma skin cancer lesions who had the sap of petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) applied to their skin once a day for three days, BBC News reported.

After one month, 41 of the 48 lesions showed a complete response, which means that clinical examination revealed no trace of the tumor. Patients who experienced only a partial response to the sap were offered a second round of treatment.

After an average of 15 months, 30 of the 48 lesions (68.5 percent) still showed a complete response, BBC News reported.

The authors of the study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, warned people not to try the treatment at home because it is still experimental and can cause skin irritation.

Petty spurge is present in many areas of the world, including North America and Europe. The plant’s sap has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine.


Blood Thinner Plavix to Retain Patent for Extra 6 Months

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted the makers of the widely
used blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel) exclusive marketing rights for an extra six months.

According to the Associated Press the patent extension is set to end on May 17, 2012, after which cheaper generic forms of clopidogrel are allowed to appear.

The FDA allowed Bristol-Myers Squibb and partner Sanofi-Aventis the patent extension subsequent to their conducting extra research into the drug’s effect on infants, the AP said. This type of extension is a kind of “reward” for participating in these pediatric studies, the new agency noted. One study looked at Plavix’ effect on 900 infants born with a heart defect that left them vulnerable to clots. The study failed to show a benefit, however.


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