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Potent new painkiller stokes alarm in US

Zohydro ER can contain 10 times the amount of hydrocodone as the most popular prescription painkiller, Vicodin, and is easily crushable so it could be snorted, bearing none of the recent safeguards added to pills like OxyContin (oxycodone). In a nation where some 15,000 people die annually from prescription painkiller use, the drug's approval has raised alarm among doctors, lawmakers and relatives of those lost to overdose. Two senators have launched an investigation into practices by the US Food and Drug Administration, amid allegations that pharmaceutical companies eager for a chunk of the $9 billion painkiller market may have paid to influence regulators' decisions. "It's almost unheard of," said Andrew Kolodny, president of the group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "For FDA to approve a drug that is going to make a serious problem worse, it is pretty shocking." Zohydro was approved in October 2013, even though a panel of FDA-convened experts voted against 11-2. The FDA is not obligated to follow the advice of its advisory committees, but it typically does. An FDA spokesman told AFP the decision was made "after careful consideration," and "the product's benefits outweigh its risks when used as intended." Zohydro contains pure hydrocodone in a range of doses, including time-release options that are much stronger than competitor products. It does not contain acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage and death in high doses and is included in most other prescription opioids. The drugmaker, California-based Zogenix, said in a statement that the "acetaminophen-free formulation of extended release hydrocodone is an important therapeutic option for certain chronic pain patients."

Zohydro ER can contain 10 times the amount of hydrocodone as the most popular prescription painkiller, Vicodin, and is easily crushable so it could be snorted, bearing none of the recent safeguards added to pills like OxyContin (oxycodone). In a nation where some 15,000 people die annually from prescription painkiller use, the drug’s approval has raised alarm among doctors, lawmakers ... Read More »

Anger outbursts linked to swift heart attacks

PARIS: People who have outbursts of anger are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the two hours immediately after the episode, European researchers said Tuesday. The study -- a big review of published papers -- is the first to give powerful statistical backing to suspicions that strong emotions can drive cardiac risk, although the underlying biological causes remain unclear. In the two hours immediately after an angry outburst, an individual’s risk of myocardial infarction or acute coronary syndrome rose nearly five-fold, to 4.7 percent, compared to times when the person was calm, the study found. The risk of stroke tripled, to 3.6 percent, it also found. There were also higher risks for arrythmia, or an erratic beating of the heart. The risks rose proportionately if the person had a history of cardiovascular problems or was frequently angry. "Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger," said Elizabeth Mostofsky at the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts. "This is particularly important for people who have higher risk due to other underlying risk factors or those who have already had a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. "For example, a person without many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, who has only one episode of anger per month, has a very small additional risk, but a person with multiple risk factors or a history of heart attack or stroke, and who is frequently angry, has a much higher absolute excess risk accumulated over time." - Risk rises with anger episodes - The researchers calculated that one extra heart attack per 10,000 people per year can be expected among people with low cardiovascular risk who are angry only once a month. This rises to an extra four per 10,000 people with a high cardiovascular risk. Among people who were frequently angry, five episodes of anger a day would result in some 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 people with a low cardiovascular risk per year. The tally would increase to around 657 extra heart attacks per 10,000 among those with a high cardiovascular risk. The paper, published in the European Heart Journal, looked at nine previously published studies covering wide groups of people whose anger profile was known. The data trawl found more than 5,000 cases of heart attack and at least 800 of stroke. The methodology used in these published papers varied, but an unmistakeable association emerged from all of them, the authors said. Previous attempts to clarify the question were based on small sample sizes where few patients reported having outbursts of anger, they said. As a result, the picture was fuzzy or lacked credibility. The paper was not designed to explore why anger is so clearly linked to heart attack. The authors point to previous research which found that psychological stress increases heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in blood flow can cause blood clots and may stimulate an inflammatory response from the immune system. Further research is needed to pinpoint this mechanism and to finetune options for doctors mulling whether the best treatment should be drugs to lower cholesterol or blood pressure or psychological help or physical exercise to curb dangerous anger episodes -- or perhaps a combination. In an independent commentary, US specialists Suzanne Arnold and John Spertus from the University of Missouri and Brahmajee Nallamothu of the University of Michigan said the findings called for an all-round approach. "Treating anger in isolation is unlikely to be impactful," they wrote in the journal. "Instead, a broader and more comprehensive approach to treating acute and chronic mental stress, and its associated psychological stressors, is likely to be needed to heal a hostile heart." (AFP)

PARIS: People who have outbursts of anger are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the two hours immediately after the episode, European researchers said Tuesday. The study — a big review of published papers — is the first to give powerful statistical backing to suspicions that strong emotions can drive cardiac risk, although the underlying ... Read More »

Polio-like illness seen in up to 25 California children

SAN FRANCISCO: A rare and mysterious polio-like illness may have afflicted up to 25 children in California, several of whom have suffered limb paralysis, and health experts were struggling to identify the cause of the ailment, said medical researchers. Since 2012, between 20 and 25 previously healthy children from across California have shown signs of the illness, possibly caused by an infectious virus, the American Academy of Neurology said in a statement detailing the research of two California neurologists. One of the children remains in serious condition but none have died from the syndrome, researchers said. Stanford University pediatric neurologist Keith Van Haren said in a statement that the cases could indicate the possibility of an "emerging infectious polio-like syndrome in California," although federal health officials said there were too few cases to consider the spread of the ailment as an imminent threat. Polio, eradicated in the United States over three decades ago, is an infectious virus that can permanently paralyze or kill victims within hours of infection. A vaccine, developed in the 1950s nearly wiped out the disease worldwide, although it remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. A study of five California children affected by the mystery ailment found they experienced the sudden paralysis of one or more limbs, with the symptoms reaching the height of severity within two days, according to findings of research by Van Haren and University of San Francisco neurologist Emmanuelle Waubant. "Although poliovirus has been eradicated from most of the globe, other viruses can also injure the spine, leading to a polio-like syndrome," Van Haren said in a statement. CHILDREN VACCINATED AGAINST POLIO Scans of the bodies of the five children included in the study also showed white spots on their spinal chords, indicating undefined damage, according to the research that is set to be released at an American Academy of Neurology meeting in Philadelphia in April. Despite the illness being similar to polio, all five of the children had been vaccinated against poliovirus before their symptoms began, the research showed. The additional 15 to 20 children showing signs of the syndrome were not closely analyzed in the study, but initial blood tests and other information collected showed they had suffered from sudden paralysis or extreme limb weakness and possible spinal chord damage, Waubant told Reuters. All the children were between the ages of 2 and 16. Two of the five children in the study tested positive for a strain of enterovirus, which has been linked to polio-like outbreaks in children in Asia and Australia over the past decade, while three tested negative, Waubant said. She said the children who were negative could have had the virus but were not tested in time for it to show up in their blood. The test results of the broader group of children with polio-like symptoms were pending, Waubant said. She said it was too soon to determine whether that particular virus had affected the bulk of the children. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher Dr. Jane Seward said the center was aware of the study but said there were too few cases of the illness to suggest there was an imminent threat of the illness spreading across the state or the U.S. The California Department of Public Heath said it would release a statement about the study and its investigation into the reported illnesses later on Monday, and declined comment ahead of the planned statement..--REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO: A rare and mysterious polio-like illness may have afflicted up to 25 children in California, several of whom have suffered limb paralysis, and health experts were struggling to identify the cause of the ailment, said medical researchers. Since 2012, between 20 and 25 previously healthy children from across California have shown signs of the illness, possibly caused by ... Read More »

Hookah is not harmless, experts say

NEW YORK: Smoking hookah can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. "The cooled and sweetened flavor of hookah tobacco makes it more enticing to kids and they falsely believe it's less harmful," Tracey E. Barnett from the University of Florida in Gainesville told Reuters Health. Barnett has studied the recent rise in teen hookah smoking. She was not involved in the new review, published in Respiratory Medicine. "One-time use can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or other diseases, including but not limited to tuberculosis, herpes, respiratory illnesses including the flu, and long-term use can lead to heart disease and many cancers," Barnett said. Smoking with a hookah, or "shisha," device has become increasingly common in Europe and the Western Hemisphere in recent years. The practice rose to prominence on the Indian subcontinent among Hindus in the 15th Century and subsequently spread through the Ottoman Empire. According to one estimate, about 100 million people worldwide smoke hookah each day. Though the water-pipe device with its series of tubes and mouthpieces looks nothing like a cigarette, it is almost always used to smoke tobacco, and as such carries many of the dangers inherent in cigarette smoking. "While water is a filter, it does not filter out any of the toxins," Barnett said. The new review brings together the results of several studies on addiction, lung damage and health dangers associated with hookah smoking. According to the World Health Organization, one hookah session typically lasts 20 to 80 minutes and a hookah user may inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would from smoking 100 or more cigarettes. The review authors, led by Dr. Ruben Blachman-Braun of Universidad Anahuac in Huixquilucan, Mexico, cite another study which found nicotine levels in the urine of daily hookah smokers were equivalent to levels in people smoking 10 cigarettes per day, more than enough to spark addiction. In the existing scientific literature, hookah has been linked with health problems including chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, oral cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and pregnancy complications similar to those seen with cigarette smoking. It has also been tied to the hepatitis C virus and herpes from sharing mouthpieces. In one 2013 study in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, researchers treated cells from the lining of human lungs with tobacco and non-tobacco smoke from a water pipe smoking machine. They found that smoke from a hookah pipe slows down and stunts lung production regardless of whether the smoke came from a tobacco or tobacco-free product. People don't generally seem to understand just how dangerous hookah smoking can be, said Adrienne J. Heinz. She studies alcohol and drug use patterns at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California and was not involved in the new review. "In casual conversations with friends and patients - folks often appreciate that smoking anything comes with risks," Heinz said. "However, hookah is certainly viewed as more benign, and when you share general facts about toxin exposure in one hookah session, it often shocks and surprises them." Results of an online survey of more than 5,000 college students, also published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research in 2013, indicated that more than 10 percent of college students had recently smoked hookah, which was the most widely used of non-cigarette tobacco products. A similar study using online questionnaires of college students found 13 percent of them tried hookah for the first time in one seven-month period, and those who had less apprehension about the dangers were more likely to try it. It's easy to see why people might be surprised at the dangers of hookah, since there haven't been public health campaigns to raise awareness of hookah risks the way there have been campaigns about cigarette smoking, Heinz said. "There is also the misconception that because hookah sessions tend to be less frequent than smoking a cigarette, and because hookah is smoked through a water chamber, that the practice is safer," she said. Hookah is deemed more socially acceptable than other forms of smoking, Barnett said. But people should not think of hookah as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, she said. REUTERS

NEW YORK: Smoking hookah can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. “The cooled and sweetened flavor of hookah tobacco makes it more enticing to kids and they falsely believe it’s less harmful,” Tracey E. Barnett from the University of Florida in Gainesville told Reuters Health. Barnett has studied the ... Read More »

No case of polio reported in Punjab, says UNICEF

Pakistan:The UNICEF said that no case of polio was reported in Punjab this year so far. “Fifteen cases of polio were reported in Pakistan in 2014”, it added.

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Lots of sitting is dangerous for older adults: study

WASHINGTON: Spending too much time sitting may be particularly dangerous for people over 60, regardless of how much they exercise, according to a US study out Wednesday. The odds of being disabled doubled for each additional hour of sedentary time in seniors, said the research in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.For instance, “if there are two 65-year-old women, ... Read More »

Test could predict which teen boys get depression

Researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in teenage boys and found that ones with high levels coupled with mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer clinical depression later in life than those with low or normal cortisol levels. The test was tried on teenage boys and girls, but found to be most effective with boys. About one in six people suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives, and most mental health disorders start before age 24. There is currently no biological test to spot depression."This is the emergence of a new way of looking at mental illness," Joe Herbert of the University of Cambridge and one of the study authors said at a news conference on Monday. "You don´t have to rely simply on what the patient tells you, but what you can measure inside the patient," he said. Herbert compared the new test to ones done for other health problems, such as heart disease, which evaluate things such as cholesterol and high blood sugar to determine a patient´s risk. Herbert and colleagues at the University of Cambridge observed more than 1,800 teenagers aged 12 to 19 and examined their cortisol levels with saliva tests. The researchers also collected the teens´ own reports of depression symptoms and tracked diagnoses of mental health disorders in them for up to three years later. The boys who had high cortisol levels and mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression when compared to other teens with normal levels, while girls with similarly elevated cortisol levels were only up to four times more likely to develop the condition. The study was paid for by the Wellcome Trust and the results were published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. Experts suggested that cortisol might affect boys and girls differently."All hormones, including sexual hormones, influence brain function and behavior," said Dr. Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King´s College London. He was not linked to the study. Pariante said the gender-specific hormones — androgen for males and estrogen and progesterone for females — might react differently to cortisol and could explain the difference in risk for teenage boys and girls. Pariante said the saliva test was promising and could help target psychological help such as talk therapy for boys at risk of developing depression. Scientists are increasingly searching for physical markers in the body of psychiatric illnesses instead of relying exclusively on a diagnosis based on a patient consultation. "This gives us a biological model to understand mental health problems the way we understand other medical conditions," he said, comparing it to how doctors might diagnose a broken leg based on an X-ray or identify heart disease patients based on high blood pressure or cholesterol readings. "It will help us identify patients at risk so we can try to help them as soon as possible."

Researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in teenage boys and found that ones with high levels coupled with mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer clinical depression later in life than those with low or normal cortisol levels. The test was tried on teenage boys and girls, but found to be most effective with boys. ... Read More »

Effects of bullying may add up in kids: study

NEW YORK: The negative physical and mental effects tied to bullying among children and teens may accumulate throughout the years, according to a new study. Researchers found that teens who had been bullied in the past and those currently being bullied tended to have a lower quality of life, compared to those who were bullied less or not at all. This finding and previous research on the effects of bullying suggest more rigorous work should be done on finding ways to intervene and stop bullying, said the study's lead author. "I think this is overwhelming support for early interventions and immediate interventions and really advancing the science about interventions," Laura Bogart, from Boston Children's Hospital, told Reuters Health. In the past, when researchers have surveyed students at one point in time, children and teens who were being bullied tended to score lower on measures of physical and mental health. But few studies have examined whether the possible effects of bullying accumulate over the years, the researchers write in the journal Pediatrics. They analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed students in Alabama, California and Texas about how much bullying they experienced and evaluated their physical and mental health. Overall, 4,297 students completed the surveys in fifth, seventh and 10th grades. The researchers found that about a third of the students had been regularly bullied at some point during the course of the study. Generally, those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical and mental health, compared to those who were currently being bullied. Teens who were bullied throughout their school career scored the worst. For example, about seven percent of 10th grade students who had never been bullied scored low on mental health measures. That compared to 12 percent who had been bullied in the past, 31 percent who were currently being bullied and almost 45 percent of those who underwent persistent bullying. About eight percent of 10th grade students who were never bullied had poor physical health, compared to 12 percent of those who were bullied in the past, 26 percent who were currently being bullied and 22 percent who were continuously bullied. Poor mental health included traits such as being sad, afraid and angry, according to Bogart. Poor physical health included limitations like not being able to walk far and not being able to pick up heavy objects. "I think one key thing to take from this is that any adult that has any contact with children . . . (should) know what the signs of bullying might be," Bogart said. "This study tells us some of them, but not all of them." "There are physical signs, but they're not always physical," she said. For example, one non-physical sign that a young person is being bullied is that the child doesn't want to go to school. Bogart also said it's important for parents to know if their child falls into one of the groups at high risk for bullying. Those groups include children with physical disabilities, those who are overweight and obese and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning. "I think this says - especially for parents - to be really attuned to what's going on in their kids' lives by paying attention, knowing what's going on during the school day and being aware so they'll notice changes like these," she said. REUTERS

NEW YORK: The negative physical and mental effects tied to bullying among children and teens may accumulate throughout the years, according to a new study. Researchers found that teens who had been bullied in the past and those currently being bullied tended to have a lower quality of life, compared to those who were bullied less or not at all. ... Read More »

Caffeine common in US kids, youths; mainly soda

CHICAGO: Nearly 3 out of 4 US children and young adults consume at least some caffeine, mostly from soda, tea and coffee. The rate didn´t budge much over a decade, although soda use declined and energy drinks became an increasingly common source, a government analysis finds. Although even most preschoolers consume some caffeine-containing products, their average was the amount found in half a can of soda, and overall caffeine intake declined in children up to age 11 during the decade. The analysis is the first to examine recent national trends in caffeine intake among children and young adults and comes amid a US Food and Drug Administration investigation into the safety of caffeine-containing foods and drinks, especially for children and teens. In an online announcement about the investigation, the FDA notes that caffeine is found in a variety of foods, gum and even some jelly beans and marshmallows. The probe is partly in response to reports about hospitalizations and even several deaths after consuming highly caffeinated drinks or energy shots. The drinks have not been proven to be a cause in those cases. The new analysis, by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that at least through 2010, energy drinks were an uncommon source of caffeine for most U.S. youth. The results were published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against caffeine consumption for children and teens because of potentially harmful effects from the mild stimulant, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and worsening anxiety in those with anxiety disorders. Dr. Stephen Daniels, chairman of the academy´s nutrition committee, said caffeine has no nutritional value and there´s no good data on what might be a safe amount for kids. Evidence that even very young children may regularly consume caffeine products raises concerns about possible long-term health effects, so parents should try to limit their kids´ intake, said Daniels, head of pediatrics at the University of Colorado´s medical school. Soda was the most common source of caffeine throughout the study for older children and teens; for those up to age 5, it was the second most common after tea. Soda intake declined for all ages as many schools stopped selling sugary soft drinks because of obesity concerns. The American Beverage Association, whose members include makers of soft drinks and energy drinks, maintains that caffeine has been safely added to drinks as a flavor enhancer for more than 100 years. (AP)

CHICAGO: Nearly 3 out of 4 US children and young adults consume at least some caffeine, mostly from soda, tea and coffee. The rate didn´t budge much over a decade, although soda use declined and energy drinks became an increasingly common source, a government analysis finds. Although even most preschoolers consume some caffeine-containing products, their average was the amount found ... Read More »

Smoking tied to increased risk of common type of breast cancer

NEW YORK: Young women who smoke may have an increased risk of a common type of breast cancer, according to a new study. Researchers found that women between 20 and 44 years old who had smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for at least 10 years were 60 percent more likely than those who smoked less to develop so-called estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Smokers were not more likely to develop a less common form of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to be more aggressive. "I think that there is growing evidence that breast cancer is another health hazard associated with smoking," Dr. Christopher Li told Reuters Health. Li is the study's senior author from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Previous research has found links between smoking and breast cancer, Li and his colleagues note in the journal Cancer. The studies looking at breast cancer among younger women have produced conflicting results, however. They also say there are still questions about whether smoking is linked to an increased risk of some types of breast cancer but not others. "I think there is a growing appreciation that breast cancer is not just one disease and there are many different subtypes," Li said. "In this study, we were able to look at the different molecular subtypes and how smoking affects them." He and his team analyzed data from young women in the Greater Seattle area who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2004 and 2010. Of those women, 778 were diagnosed with the more common estrogen receptor-positive type and 182 had the less common but more aggressive triple-negative type. The researchers also included information from 938 cancer-free women for comparison. According to the National Cancer Institute, about one in every eight American women will eventually develop breast cancer - but the risk is lower at younger ages. Only about one in every 227 30-year-old women - or less than half a percent of them - will develop breast cancer before the age of 40, for example. In this study, young women who had ever smoked were about 30 percent more likely to develop any type of breast cancer, compared to women who had never smoked. When the researchers looked at each type of breast cancer separately, there was no link between smoking and triple-negative breast cancer. But women who were recent or current smokers and had smoked for at least 15 years were about 50 percent more likely to have estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, compared to women who had smoked for fewer years. And those women who reported smoking at least one pack a day for 10 years were 60 percent more likely to have that type of cancer, compared to lighter smokers. It could be that some of the substances found in cigarettes act like estrogens, which would promote estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, the researchers write. "There are so many different chemicals in cigarette smoke that can have so many kinds of effects," Li said. Geoffrey Kabat cautioned that some of the effects found in the new study are small and not clear-cut. Kabat was not involved with the study, but has researched the effects of smoking on breast cancer risk. He is also an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, New York. He told Reuters Health the findings of previous studies are not "very consistent." "We know smoking is bad for you and the earlier you smoke and the more often you smoke the worse off you're going to be in terms of many outcomes, but the role of smoking in breast cancer is not clear," Kabat said. "There may be something going on and it may be a modest effect in some subgroups." REUTERS

NEW YORK: Young women who smoke may have an increased risk of a common type of breast cancer, according to a new study. Researchers found that women between 20 and 44 years old who had smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for at least 10 years were 60 percent more likely than those who smoked less to develop so-called ... Read More »

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