VH Store’s Employee NEWS SYNOPSIS 26 JUN 07
Public release date: 14-Jun-2007
Doctor advises caution over flu drug
In this week’s BMJ, a senior doctor advises caution over the use of the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
His concern follows advice by the Japanese authorities in March 2007 against prescribing oseltamivir to adolescents after the separate suicides of two 14 year olds who jumped to their deaths while taking the drug.
Before 2007, there had already been more than 100 reports of neuropsychiatric events (including delirium, convulsions, and encephalitis) with oseltamivir in children, almost entirely from Japan, which has the highest usage of oseltamivir worldwide. But a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review concluded that these events were not clearly drug related.
Since last November, the FDA has required that doctors be warned that patients should be closely monitored for signs of abnormal behaviour throughout the treatment period and the European Medicine Evaluation Agency (EMEA) took similar steps in February.
Public release date: 15-Jun-2007
Longer term breast feeding protects mother from risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
Barcelona, Spain, Friday 15 June 2007: Breast feeding for a period of thirteen months or more has been shown to reduce the mother’s the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to new data presented today at EULAR 2007, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Barcelona, Spain. In the study, the longer the breast feeding period, the lower the mother’s risk of developing RA in later life. Comparable use of oral contraceptives (OCs) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did not show a significant effect on the risk of developing RA
Lead researcher Dr Mitra Keshavarz, of Malmö Hospital University, Sweden, said of the study, “Whilst other studies suggest that hormonal factors play a part in the development of RA, and we know that pregnancy can result in an improvement in RA symptoms, we wanted to investigate the long term effect of breast-feeding. This study specifically highlights the potential of naturally-induced hormones in protecting individuals from developing RA in the future. Furthermore, it adds to the growing body of evidence in favour of breast feeding and its positive health implications – this time demonstrating its protective benefits for the mother.”
Public release date: 19-Jun-2007
Coffee drinking protects against an eyelid spasm
People who drink coffee are less likely to develop an involuntary eye spasm called primary late onset blepharospasm, which makes them blink uncontrollably and can leave them effectively ‘blind’, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Late onset blepharospasm is a dystonia in which the eyelid muscles contract uncontrollably; this starts as involuntary blinking but in extreme cases sufferers are rendered functionally blind despite normal vision because they are unable to prevent their eyes from clamping shut.
They suggest that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors as has been proposed for its mechanism in protecting against Parkinson’s disease.
The authors estimate that people need to drink one to two cups of coffee per day for the protective effect to be seen.
Public release date: 21-Jun-2007
Research suggests omega-3s may help slow prostate cancer growth
In mice that were engineered with a genetic defect that caused prostate cancer, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids beginning at birth reduced tumor growth, slowed disease progression and increased survival. The research is reported online today by the Journal of Clinical Investigation and will appear in the July 2 print issue.
Mice with the tumor suppressor gene remained free of tumors and had 100 percent survival, regardless of diet. In mice with the gene defect, survival was 60 percent in animals on the high omega-3 diet, 10 percent in those on the low omega-3 diet and 0 percent in those on the high omega-6 diet.
He noted that the mice got lifetime exposure of omega-3 and that some people may not be willing to change their diets until they develop cancer. He hopes to study whether there would be beneficial effects of adding omega-3 PUFA to the diet after tumors have developed
*The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health
For immediate release: Thursday, June 21, 2007
High Blood Levels of Urate Linked to Lower Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Boston, MA — In a new, large-scale, prospective study exploring the link between levels of urate in the blood and risk of Parkinson’s disease, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that high levels of urate are strongly associated with a reduced risk of the disease. The findings were published online on June 20, 2007 in The American Journal of Epidemiology and will appear in an upcoming print issue of the journal
Urate is a normal component of blood, and although high levels can lead to gout, urate might also have beneficial effects because it is a potent antioxidant. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive nerve disorder associated with destruction of brain cells producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system.
The researchers found that men in the top quartile of blood urate concentration had 55 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than men in the bottom quartile. This difference was not explained by differences in age or other risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. The results of two previous studies had suggested a possible inverse relation between blood urate and risk of Parkinson’s disease, but it is only when the previous data were combined with those of this new study that the evidence became compelling.
The authors hypothesize that urate’s antioxidant properties may help dampen the effects of oxidative stress, which appears to contribute to the progressive loss of the dopamine-producing brain cells that occurs in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Public release date: 21-Jun-2007
Omega-3 supplements affect Alzheimer’s symptoms
Omega-3 supplements can, in certain cases, help combat the depression and agitation symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a clinical study conducted at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.
There was no observable difference in therapeutic effect between the patients receiving the omega-3 and the placebo group. However, when the researchers took into account which of the patients carried the susceptibility gene APOE ?4 and which did not, an appreciable difference appeared. Carriers of the gene who had received active treatment responded positively to the omega-3 as regards agitation symptoms, while non-bearers of the gene showed an improvement in depressive symptoms
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi 10.1002/gps.1857 Published online 21 June 2007
Public release date: 21-Jun-2007
K-State researcher examining why common anti-inflammatory drugs harm intestines
K-State researchers are examining how nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, damage the tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract. James Lillich, associate professor of clinical sciences, is leading the research. He said NSAIDs are some of the most commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs for relieving ailments from headaches to arthritis.
NSAIDs work by blocking a type of enzyme called cyclooxygenase, or COX, which is needed for healthy cellular function. When tissue becomes inflamed, isoforms of the enzyme produce naturally occurring compounds called prostaglandins, which are responsible for the pain associated with inflammation. Although drugs inhibiting COX-2 reduce inflammation, their targets can spill over and also inhibit the gastrointestinal tract’s ability to heal itself, leading to problems like ulcers.
Lillich and the researchers found something they didn’t expect — that in addition to blocking COX, NSAIDs also are affecting other important enzymes called calpains that are required for cell maintenance. These calpains are vital to white blood cells in epithelial cell migration. Lillich said calpains have become the focus of the research at K-State.
“Calpains are a good starting point, because they play important roles for a variety of cells, and you’re not just looking at one or two cell types when it comes to ulcer formation,” Lillich said. “This will teach us about wound healing, cell migration and what the white blood cell does.”
Public release date: 24-Jun-2007
Spuds that like you — in your summer salad
It has long been known that eating potatoes is good for bowel health, but new research suggests that they may also have a beneficial effect on the whole immune system. Especially if eaten cold or in a potato salad, Anne Pichon reports in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI.
The general down-regulation of leucocytes observed by the Spanish researchers suggests an overall beneficial effect, a generally more healthy body, according to immunology expert Lena Ohman at the Department of Internal Medicine, Göteborg University, Sweden. A reduction in leucocyte levels of about 15% was observed in the RPS pigs. Lower lymphocyte levels are also indicative of reduced levels of inflammation, but according to Ohman, the observed reduction in both lymphocyte density and lymphocyte apoptosis by the Spanish researchers is surprising
Starch consumption is thought to reduce the risk of large bowel cancer and may also have an effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Ohman’s team previously found that the overall lymphocyte levels do not vary for IBS patients, but that lymphocytes are transferred from the peripheral blood to the gut, which support the hypothesis of IBS being at least partially an inflammatory disorder. She says the decrease in lymphocytes observed by the Spanish is therefore interesting, and a diet of resistant starch may be worth trying in IBS patients.
Humans do not eat raw potatoes, but they do eat a lot of foods that contain resistant starch, such as cold boiled potatoes, legumes, grains, green bananas, pasta and cereals About 10% of the starch eaten by human is resistant starch – starch that is not digested in the small intestine and so is shunted into the large intestine where it ferments.
Public release date: 24-Jun-2007
Omega-3 fatty acids protect eyes against retinopathy, study finds
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protect against the development and progression of retinopathy, a deterioration of the retina, in mice. This is the major finding of a study that appears in the July 2007 issue of the journal Nature Medicine. The study was a collaborative effort by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Goteborg in Sweden, and the National Eye Institute (NEI) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The researchers found that increasing omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing omega-6 fatty acids in the diet reduced the area of vessel loss that ultimately causes the growth of the abnormal vessels and blindness. Omega-6 fatty acid contributes to the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina
To further test the apparent beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acids, the researchers studied mice fed a diet modeled after a traditional Japanese diet (more omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids) and mice fed a diet modeled after a traditional Western diet (lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids). In addition, they studied mice genetically altered with a gene which mammals normally lack that converts omega-6 into omega-3 fatty acids. They found that the mice with higher amounts of omega-3 had a nearly 50 percent decrease in retinopathy.
The retina has one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in the body,” said lead author and NEI fellowship recipient Kip M. Connor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Children’s Hospital Boston. “Given this, it is remarkable that with only a two percent change in dietary omega-3 intake, we observed an approximate 40-50 percent decrease in retinopathy severity.”
Public release date: 25-Jun-2007
Gut check: Tracking the ecosystem within us
For more than 100 years, scientists have known that humans carry a rich ecosystem within their intestines. An astonishing number and variety of microbes, including as many as 400 species of bacteria, help humans digest food, mitigate disease, regulate fat storage, and even promote the formation of blood vessels. By applying sophisticated genetic analysis to samples of a year’s worth baby poop, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have now developed a detailed picture of how these bacteria come and go in the intestinal tract during a child’s first year of life.
The study, published June 25, 2007, in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology, was led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator Patrick O. Brown at the Stanford University School of Medicine
Before birth, the human intestinal tract is sterile, but babies immediately begin to acquire the microbial denizens of the gut from their environment — the birth canal, mothers’ breast, and even the touch of a sibling or parent. Within days, a thriving microbial community is established and by adulthood, the human body typically has as many as ten times more microbial cells than human cells. This is primarily due to the large number of microorganisms that have taken up residence in the intestine
The finding that most babies in the study did not acquire significant numbers of Bifidobacteria until several months after birth was a surprise, Palmer said: “That’s definitely a contentious area. A lot of studies say they are a major constituent of gut flora beginning shortly after birth.”
Public release date: 25-Jun-2007
Commonly prescribed antidepressants associated with lower bone density in older men and women
The class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be associated with an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women, according to two articles in the June 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) treat depression by inhibiting the protein that transports serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression, according to background information in the articles. This protein has recently been discovered in bone as well, raising the possibility that SSRIs may affect bone density and the risk of fracture. SSRIs account for about 62 percent of antidepressant prescriptions in the United States, and are often prescribed to the elderly.
“One potential explanation for our findings is that SSRI use may have a direct deleterious effect on bone,” the authors write. “This theory is supported by findings of in vitro and in vivo laboratory investigations.” Some data suggest that SSRIs may interfere with the function of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, cells responsible for the regular breaking down and rebuilding of bone in the body.
A total of 160 (2.7 percent) men reported using SSRIs, 99 (1.7 percent) reported using tricyclic antidepressants and 52 (0.9 percent) reported using trazodone, a third type of antidepressant. Total hip bone mineral density was 3.9 percent lower among SSRI users than among men who didn’t use any antidepressants. Similarly, spine bone mineral density was 5.9 percent lower among SSRI users than among non-users. There was no significant difference in either hip or spine density between men who took tricyclic antidepressants or trazodone and those who did not take antidepressants.
Public Release: 26-Jun-2007
Community Oncology Explores Pitched Debate Over Anemia-Fighting Drugs
Many cancer patients, suffering from fatigue and symptomatic anemia as side effects of their disease and its treatment, are prescribed ESAs—also known as EPO (epoetin alfa, or Procrit) and DARB (darbepoetin alfa, or Aranesp). New data—mostly from studies of off-label uses—on potentially dangerous side effects such as blood clots, and on survival rates, are prompting some scientists to recommend that the US Food and Drug Administration effectively curtail the use of ESAs. Adding fuel to this debate is the fact that the drugs are costly, and some critics have accused oncologists of overprescribing them, swayed by drug company rebates.
Public Release: 26-Jun-2007
Adding folic acid to bread could help in the fight against depression
In research published in the July edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the York team led by Dr Simon Gilbody, concluded that there was a link between depression and low folate levels, following a review of 11 previous studies involving 15,315 participants.
Dr Gilbody said: “Our study is unique in that for the first time all the relevant evidence in this controversial area has been brought together. Although the research does not prove that low folate causes depression, we can now be sure that the two are linked. Interestingly, there is also some trial evidence that suggests folic acid supplements can benefit people with depression. We recommend that large trials should be carried out to further test this suggestion.”
Recent research from the same team published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has also proved that people with depression commonly have a gene that means that they process folate less efficiently. Folate is linked to the production of some of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. The identification of this gene provides a plausible explanation as to why folic acid supplements may help people with depression.
11 0ct 2006 (update)
Drugs Slip Past FDA, Sell Unapproved by the Millions
Ballay Pharmaceuticals Inc. had a choice nine years ago: seek U.S. approval to sell a prescription decongestant or slip the drug on the market and hope regulators wouldn’t order it off.
Almost 2 percent of U.S. prescriptions dispensed last year, or as many as 73 million, were for unapproved medicines such as Balamine, the FDA estimates. After years of paying little attention, the FDA now says it will step up efforts to get many of the drugs approved or taken off the market
Physicians prescribe unapproved drugs and pharmacies sell them often without knowing their status. Insurance plans, including some tied to the U.S. Medicare program for the disabled and elderly, often pay for unapproved medicines — sometimes knowingly. It is legal to prescribe, fill prescriptions for, and insure unapproved drugs.