Health Highlights: July 16, 2010

By on July 16, 2010

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

Drug’s Breast Cancer Promise Seems to Fade: Report

U.S. regulators could rescind approval of the cancer drug Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer, based on follow-up studies reported Friday that failed to show the medication shrank tumors or extended lives, according to published reports.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday will ask a panel of outside experts to review the evidence on the Roche drug, the Associated Press said. It’s possible the FDA will withdraw approval of Avastin as a breast cancer treatment.

The drug is also approved for lung, colon, brain and kidney cancer.

Avastin received conditional FDA approval in 2008 based on preliminary evidence that it shrank breast cancer tumors. Continued approval would depend on subsequent studies showing a survival benefit, the agency said.

But two follow-up studies recently submitted by Roche failed to show that Avastin prolonged lives significantly longer than chemotherapy alone, the AP said. And the tumor shrinkage findings of previous studies were not confirmed by recent data, according to documents posted online, the news agency said.

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Army Suicides Hit Record Level in June: Report

A record number of U.S. soldiers committed suicide in June, despite the Army’s increased suicide-prevention efforts that include counseling, training and education.

The Army said the toll for June is believed to be 32 soldiers, including 21 on active duty and 11 Guard or Reserve members who weren’t activated at the time they committed suicide. However, several of them had previously served in Iraq or Afghanistan, NBC reported.

Only four of the 32 cases have been confirmed as suicides. Official rulings are still pending on the other 28 cases. In most cases, reported suicides are eventually confirmed, the network said.

Army suicides are up 12 percent in the first six months of this year compared to 2009. Last year, 163 soldiers on active duty and 82 Guard and Reserve soldiers not on active duty committed suicide, NBC reported.

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FDA Panel Turns Thumbs Down on Weight-Loss Drug

Citing concerns about potential side effects, including memory problems, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted Thursday not to recommend an experimental weight loss drug called Qnexa.

In a 10-6 vote, the FDA advisers said the drug’s negative effects on concentration and memory outweighed its potential ability to help people lose weight, the Associated Press reported.

The full FDA will consider the panel’s recommendation and make a final decision later this year. The agency is not bound to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees but typically does so.

The application for Qnexa was submitted by Mountainview, Calif., drugmaker Vivus Inc.

The agency has not approved a new prescription weight loss pill in over a decade, and currently available drugs have limited effectiveness and worrisome side effects, the AP said.

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Former Vice President Cheney Receives Heart Pump

Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney had a pump implanted in his heart last week in order to treat worsening congestive heart failure.

The left ventricular assist device helps pump blood through the body, the Washington Post reported.

Cheney, 69, has had five heart attacks, the first once occurring when he was 37 years old. His announcement about his surgery was made Wednesday.

Potential risks associated with the left ventricular device include mechanical failure and blood clotting inside the pump, which could lead to a stroke, the Post reported.

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Fresh Express Romaine Lettuce Salad Products Recalled

Possible E. coli contamination has prompted a voluntary recall of Fresh Express romaine lettuce salad products.

The California-based company said the recall covers products that have use-by dates of July 8, July 9, July 10, July 11 and July 12, and have an “S” in the product code, MSNBC.com reported.

The products were distributed in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Washington and Nevada.

Customers with the products should discard them. For more information, call Fresh Express at (800) 242-5472.

No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall, which was announced after a random test by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected E. coli in one package of Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine, MSNBC.com reported.

In May, Fresh Express recalled romaine ready-to-eat salads due to possible salmonella contamination.

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