Health Highlights: Nov. 4, 2011

By on November 4, 2011

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

Sleep Apnea, Obesity and Mental Issues Linked in Kids: Study

There’s a complex relationship between obesity, sleep apnea and learning and behavior (cognitive) problems in children and this interconnection worsens the effects of each problem, according to a new study.

University of Chicago researchers assessed the sleep, weight and cognitive functioning of 350 healthy, normally developing children ages 6 to 10, ABC News reported.

“Cognitive functioning in children is adversely affected by frequent health-related problems, such as obesity and sleep-disordered breathing,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, poorer integrative mental processing may place a child at a bigger risk for adverse health outcomes.”

On the flip side, “good cognitive abilities may be protective against increased body weight and sleep-disordered breathing,” said lead author Karen Spruyt, ABC News reported. “If the brain can function optimally, it can help protect against the clinical manifestation of disease.”

The study was published this week in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine


High Doses of Bone Drug May Boost Cancer Risk

Newly-released data suggests that administering high doses of a bone growth product to patients undergoing spinal fusion may increase their risk of cancer, an expert says.

The data was collected in a clinical trial conducted by Medtronic when it sought U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of a higher-dose formulation of its bone growth product Infuse, The New York Times reported.

The FDA rejected the higher-dose version, called Amplify, due to concerns about cancer risks.

Data from the Medtronic clinical trial showed that spinal fusion patients who received Amplify had a much higher number of cancers than those who received a bone graft, Stanford University’s Dr. Eugene J. Carragee said Thursday at a national meeting of the North American Spine Society, The Times reported.

These study findings are important for patients who receive Infuse, which contains the same active ingredient as Amplify and is often given in levels much higher than the recommended doses, Carragee said.

Medtronic has given a $2.5 million grant to Yale University researchers to review data on the safety and effectiveness of Infuse. The findings are expected to be released next year, The Times reported.


Glaxo to Pay $3 Billion to Settle Investigations

In order to settle several long-running criminal and civil investigations, GlaxoSmithKline PLC says it will pay $3 billion to the U.S. government.

The company has faced allegations that it marketed some drugs illegally and defrauded the Medicaid program. The final terms of the settlement, one of the largest of its kind, are still under negotiation. The company said it expects to make the payment next year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The investigations included a Justice Department probe into Glaxo’s development and marketing of the diabetes drug Avandia. After being linked to heart attacks, the drug was taken off the market in Europe and restricted in the U.S.

The Glaxo settlement is one of the largest in a series of settlements the U.S. government has reached with drug companies in an effort to halt illegal marketing practices, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But drug industry critics say the amounts paid in such settlements are small compared to the profits companies made through illegal marketing.

“It’s a speed bump,” Kevin Outterson, co-director of the health-law program at Boston University, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a cost of doing business.”


Drug Take-Back Day Collects Nearly 200 Tons of Medications

Americans turned in more than 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired prescription medications on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 29.

The DEA set up 5,327 sites around the country to collect the medications, the Associated Press reported.

During the three Take-Back Days held over the past 13 months, nearly 500 tons of medications have been collected for safe disposal.

The response shows the need to develop a convenient way to help people get rid of unwanted or expired prescription drugs, which otherwise could end up in the hands of abusers or pollute the environment, according to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, the AP reported.


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