Health Highlights: June 29, 2011

By on June 29, 2011

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

Diet Sodas Help Cause Weight Gain: Study

Don’t drink diet sodas if you’re trying to lose weight.

A study that followed 474 diet soda drinkers, ages 65 to 74, for nearly 10 years found that their waists grew 70 percent or more than those who didn’t drink the beverages, CBS News reported.

Another study in mice suggests that artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may trigger appetite but don’t quench the appetite like regular sugars. In addition, artificial sweeteners may inhibit brain cells that make you feel full.

The studies were presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association.


Black and Hispanic Kids Most Apt to be Hospitalized For Severe Asthma

Black and Hispanic children in the United States were much more likely than other children to be hospitalized for a severe asthma attack in 2007, says a federal government study.

For every 100,000 children ages 2 to 17 who were hospitalized for asthma attacks that year, 384 were black, 135 were Hispanic, 94 were white, and 78 were Asian and Pacific Islander, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The study also said that poor children were twice as likely to be hospitalized than children from high-income families (231 vs. 102 per 100,000) and that boys were more likely to be hospitalized than girls (181 vs. 119).

Children ages 2 to 4 were more than six times more likely than children ages 15 to 17 to be hospitalized (310 vs. 50), and children in the Northeast had a higher rate of hospitalization than those in the West (196 vs. 102).


Stealth Survey of Primary Doctors Cancelled

A plan to have “mystery shoppers” pose as patients to determine how difficult it is for Americans to get appointments with primary care doctors has been shelved by the Obama administration.

The goal of the project was to determine the extent of a shortage of primary care doctors, an issue that concerns healthy policy experts. The White House said the survey posed no threat to doctors’ privacy, The New York Times reported.

The plan was heavily criticized by doctors and Republicans, but the government said this wasn’t why the survey was cancelled. Instead, it was determined that now isn’t the time to move ahead with the project.

“Politics did not play a role in the decision,” said Health and Human Services spokesman Christian J. Stenrud, The Times reported.


Breast Cancer Patients Argue For Avastin

The drug Avastin should lose its approval for treatment of advanced breast cancer because there is no evidence that it benefits patients, U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff said Tuesday on the first day of a two-day FDA hearing.

But about a dozen breast cancer patients urged the agency to change its mind about a decision made last December to revoke Avastin’s approval for advanced breast cancer. The hearing is being held to give drug maker Genentech one last chance to convince the FDA to reverse that decision, The New York Times reported.

“Despite the potential side effects from Avastin, metastatic breast cancer has only one death,” Priscilla Howard told the hearing committee. She said Avastin had controlled her cancer for 32 months. “I want every available weapon in my arsenal as I fight this devastating disease.”

Avastin received accelerated approval for metastatic breast cancer in 2008, but none of the required follow-up studies have confirmed that Avastin is safe and effective, The Times reported.

“All we are asking for here is one trial that shows clinical benefit,” said Dr. Richard Pazdur, head of the FDA’s cancer drug division.


Medtronic Bone Growth Product Research Misleading: Doctors

Research that led to the widespread use of a bone growth product called Infuse was misleading and biased, a group of spine specialists write in a series of reports published Tuesday in The Spine Journal.

The Medtronic product is used in about one-quarter of the estimated 432,000 spinal fusions performed in the United States each year, according to The New York Times.

But the journal articles charge that Infuse’s benefits were exaggerated and its risks underplayed by researchers with financial links to Medtronic.

“It harms patients to have biased and corrupted research published,” five doctors wrote in a companion editorial to the reports, The Times reported. “It harms patients to have unaccountable special interests permeate medical research.”


More Tylenol Recalled Due to Odor

Another Tylenol recall prompted by a musty moldy odor was announced Tuesday by Johnson & Johnson.

The recall by J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit involves one product lot of 60,912 bottles of Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets (225 count) that were made in February 2009 and distributed in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

There have been a small number of reports about the pills’ odor, the company said.

Similar recalls in the past have been linked to trace amounts of a chemical called TBA, a byproduct of a chemical preservative sometimes used on shipping pallets, the AP reported.

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