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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What's in the news: November

Here are some of the interesting items NRM wasn't able to include in our latest print edition (November 15-30, Vol 4, No 19).

  • Saved by the web: An Australian man was prevented from committing suicide .
  • Medical (wo)manpower: More women are , according to a report that shows female doctors now comprise 48% of the country's workforce aged under 40.
  • Toronto's hypocrisy: 29% of Torontonians would .
  • Malignant puzzle: Doctors are puzzled by the revelation that in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2004.
  • What about pepper?: Health coalition asks for salt content to be . Health Canada has to investigate. "It's been said reducing dietary sodium would result in the biggest improvement in public health since clean water and drains," said senator and physician Wilbert Keon.
  • Ottawa's out to lunch: .
  • Delayed but not defeated: More education can , but it also causes people to lose memory more quickly once dementia sets in.
  • Edible, incredible medicine: Broccoli , and garlic .
  • Posthumous mix-up: An American doctor, mixed up with his dead father, was sued by a lawyer who even after it became clear that he was targeting the wrong man.
  • Environmenta-lies-ation: The White House allegedly for decidedly unscientific reasons.
  • Chocoholic harm reduction: Fighting chocolate cravings only serves to , a new study finds.
  • Genetic pedophilia?: a Canadian study finds -- a fact which may be explained by genetics, it is suggested.
  • Can't smoke while you're in a trance...: than nicotine replacement therapy and 'cold turkey' for quitting smoking.
  • Extremely erroneous: International public health officials with a policy of applying standard treatments across broad populations rather than customizing treatments based on continuous monitoring of drug resistance.
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Once-yearly osteo med approved

Health Canada has approved zoledronic acid (Aclasta), the first ever once-yearly treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis sufferers, Novartis Pharmaceuticals announced in .

of the drug's efficacy back in May, when the published the results of a three-year trial of more than 7,700 women. A single 15-minute infusion of zoledronic acid reduced the risk of spine fractures by 70% and hip fractures by 41%.

"The approval of a new medication is welcome news for the millions of Canadians who have osteoporosis," said Julie Foley, President of Osteoporosis Canada in the press release. Nearly 60% of patients on daily bisphosphonate treatments and 50% of those on weekly bisphosphonate meds don't stick to their drug regimen, and it's hoped the once-a-year dosage will offer those patients a treatment option they can more easily follow.

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Chinese toy beads contain date-rape drug GHB

Chinese toys aren't , apparently. One toy, a kind of beads called Bindeez, also that metabolizes into the date-rape drug gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB), announced the Australian government today.

After three Australian children who swallowed the beads were hospitalized for seizures over the last two weeks, it was discovered that instead of the nontoxic chemical 1,5-pentanediol, the manufacturers had used 1,4-butanediol.

The drug information website Lycaeum has about the dangers of 1,4-butanediol, but you should generally take their writing with several grains of salt. Although the conclusion of their article is that people shouldn't use the drug, some of the writing may be suspect. The piece was written by someone who goes only as "Murple," after all. , "Adverse Events, Including Death, Associated with the Use of 1,4-Butanediol," is a better source. The authors wrote:

We identified nine episodes of toxic effects in eight patients who had ingested 1,4-butanediol recreationally, to enhance bodybuilding, or to treat depression or insomnia. One patient presented twice with toxic effects and had withdrawal symptoms after her second presentation. Clinical findings and adverse events included vomiting, urinary and fecal incontinence, agitation, combativeness, a labile level of consciousness, respiratory depression, and death. No additional intoxicants were identified in six patients, including the two who died. The doses of 1,4-butanediol ingested ranged from 5.4 to 20 g in the patients who died and ranged from 1 to 14 g in the nonfatal cases. In some cases there was evidence of addiction and withdrawal. [...]

The health risks of 1,4-butanediol are similar to those of its counterparts, -hydroxybutyrate and -butyrolactone. These include acute toxic effects, which may be fatal, and addiction and withdrawal.
Yet another imported product for parents to worry about. But Moose Enterprise, the Australian company responsible for importing the toxic beads, says it has a solution: coat the beads with , "the most bitter substance yet discovered," to make the beads "unpalatable." (The photo apparently depicts a child who's just tasted some Bitrex. Yuck.)

Update, November 8: Canada, too, has , called Aqua Dots, from the market over GHB concerns.


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King Tut revealed in all his bucktoothed glory

King Tutankhamun is looking pretty good -- for a 3,000-year-old. The was shown to the public on November 5 for the first time since the discovery of his tomb in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter.

"With his beautiful buck teeth, the tourists will see a little bit of the smile from the face of the golden boy," said overjoyed Tutankhamunologist Zahi Hawass, who unveiled the remains.

Dr Hawass was instrumental in . CT scans, done in 2005, provided a complete health report on the 19-year old pharaoh. King Tut was apparently healthy, well fed and had the pronounced overbite of Egypt's 18th dynasty. The only jarring detail was a break in his leg, just above the knee.

"He was not murdered as many people thought. He had an accident when he was hunting in the desert. Falling from a chariot made this fracture in his left leg," Dr Hawass told reporters. The wound became infected and led to the king's death.

Photo:

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Europe approves first advanced liver CA drug

Sorafenib, the oral anti-cancer drug commonly used for kidney cancer, earned the European Commission's (EC) seal of approval for , on October 30. The manufacturer, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, is now waiting for decisions from Health Canada and the FDA.

In a press release, Bayer spokesperson Arthur Higgins said,

"The approval of Nexavar (sorafenib), a novel multi-kinase inhibitor, represents an unprecedented advance for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who, until now, had no approved systemic treatment options."
The drug -- already on the for renal carcinoma treatment -- boosts HCC patients' survival by 44%, adding up to three months to their lives. on sorafenib's dramatic results in June, when the research was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists meeting in Chicago.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Chocolate, candy and... Zyban?

Hamilton police have issued a warning to parents: check your kids' Halloween hauls for Zyban.

That's right -- the smoking cessation medication (which CP describes ) was found in a child's candy bag.

The drug can cause seizures, hallucinations and allergic reactins . But on the bright side, maybe these Halloween meds will prove beneficial for a public health effort: helping kids stay away from cigarettes.

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Jiri Fischer, MD?

Jiri Fischer -- the former Detroit Red Wings player who suffered a seizure during a hockey game that caused his heart to stop and was saved by doctors who were quick to use an AED (in the photo, right, his teammates look on during the incident) -- has partnered with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames to promote CPR education in Canada.

Jiri has not yet been able to resume his NHL playing career - but is happy simply to be alive. He recognizes that he was fortunate that trained staff were on-hand at the Joe Louis Arena to administer life-saving CPR. As a result, Jiri has joined forces with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and is a tireless proponent of CPR training and the installation of defibrillators in hockey arenas and public buildings across Canada. [...]
Jiri Fischer will be making personal appearances at tonight's Calgary
Flames home game (Calgary vs Detroit) and on Saturday, November 17 when the
Leafs play the Senators.

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