Health Highlights: March 25, 2012

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

Former Vice President Dick Cheney Undergoes Heart Transplant

Former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant at a Virginia hospital Saturday.

Cheney, 71, has suffered five heart attacks since his 30s, the Washington Post reported. He underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 1988, then two angioplasties as well as the implantation of a heart-monitoring device, which was removed in 2007.

According to the Post, Cheney, who was vice president under President George W. Bush, had been on the heart transplant waiting list for 20 months. He was recovering Saturday in the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital near Falls Church, Va.,
Cheney aide Kara Aherm said in a statement released late Saturday.

“Although the former Vice President and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” Ahern said. She added that Cheney “is thankful to the teams of doctors and other medical professionals at Inova Fairfax and George Washington University Hospital for their continued outstanding care.”


FDA Must Consider Ban on Antibiotic Use in Livestock: Court

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must follow through on a 35-year-old proposal that would have banned the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed due to fears about potential harm to human health, a federal district court in Manhattan ruled Thursday.

In 1977, the FDA proposed banning the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracycline due to concerns that overuse of the drugs in livestock led to the development of drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people, the Washington Post reported.

The FDA has never taken action on the proposal and was sued in May 2011 by five environmental, health and consumer advocacy groups. The court ruling forces the FDA to move ahead with proceedings that could lead to the withdrawal of the drugs.

“The scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence that the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe,” Judge Theodore H. Katz wrote, the Post reported.

The makers of the drugs will be given an opportunity at a hearing to prove that the antibiotics are safe.

“If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that the use of the drugs is safe, the [FDA] Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order,” Katz wrote.


FDA Approved Higher Dose of Alzheimer’s Drug Despite Warnings:Experts

A higher dosage of the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even though it caused potentially dangerous side effects and worked only slightly better than the existing dosages of the drug, according to an article published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

The 23-gram version of Aricept was approved by the FDA against the advice of agency reviewers. The approval was granted in July 2010, four months before the 5- and 10-milligram dosages of Aricept lost patent protection, The New York Times reported.

The FDA reviewers noted that a clinical trial involving 1,400 patients showed that the higher dosage failed to meet its goal of improving cognitive and overall functioning in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The trial also showed that the higher dosage caused substantially more nausea and vomiting, which are potentially dangerous side effects for elderly patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, The Times reported.

The drug was developed by Japanese drug maker Eisai and is co-marketed in the United States with Pfizer.