Health Highlights: March 20, 2012

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

FDA Should OK New Drug for Sarcoma Tumors: Advisory Panel

A new drug for a rare type of tumor called soft tissue sarcoma should be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an advisory panel of cancer experts says.

The panel voted 11-2 that the benefits of the pill Votrient outweigh its side effects, even though the drug does not significantly extend life for patients with the tumors, the Associated Press reported.

GlaxoSmithKline studies of its drug showed that it stopped the growth of the tumors for three months on average. Patients taking Votrient lived an average of about 12.6 months after beginning treatment. That’s only 2 months more than those on chemotherapy, which has been the standard treatment for sarcomas for decades.

In its recommendation, the panel noted that there are few treatment options for patients with the deadly tumors, the AP reported. The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.


Joint Pain, Other Woes Plague Obese Americans: Report

Joint pain afflicted 58 percent of obese and nearly 69 percent of extremely obese American adults age 20 and older in 2009, according to a federal government report.

Nearly 42 percent of obese adults reported having a heart condition, 42 percent had elevated cholesterol, and 15 percent had diabetes, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Rates of heart disease and diabetes were typically higher among those who were extremely obese (body mass index of 40 or more). BMI is a measurement of body fat based on a person’s weight and height.

Among the other findings from the analysis of national data:

  • About 25 percent of American adults were obese and another 5 percent were extremely obese.
  • Black Americans were more likely to be obese (31 percent) or extremely obese (8 percent) than Hispanics, whites and all other races.
  • Adults with a college degree were less likely to be obese (20 percent) or extremely obese (3 percent) than those with a high school education or less.


CDC Warns Olympics-Bound Americans on Measles Risk

Americans traveling to the Summer Olympics in London and the Euro 2012 soccer cup in Poland and Ukraine need to be up-to-date on their measles vaccinations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The measles virus is much more prevalent in Europe and caused 26,000 illnesses and 8 deaths last year, USA Today reported.

The Olympics begin July 27 and the Euro 2012 soccer cup on June 8.

“Disease knows no borders,” said Rebecca Martin, director of the CDC’s Global Immunization Division, USA Today reported. “We are concerned about Americans coming back from the Olympics this summer and unknowingly infecting others.”

Most measles cases in the U.S. are imported by American travelers who have not been vaccinated.