Government Expresses Concern About Plastic Chemical Called Bisphenol A
The federal government's National Toxicology Program is, for the first time, raising concern about bisphenol A, a chemical found in baby bottles, certain water bottles, and some medical devices. "Studies with laboratory rodents show that exposure to high dose levels of bisphenol A during pregnancy and/or lactation can reduce survival, birth weight, and growth of offspring early in life, and delay the onset of puberty in males and females," according to the NTP. And there is "some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures," the group says. (Find tips here on how to limit your exposure to the plastic.) Still, the NTP calls the evidence for adverse effects "limited" and says that more research is needed to better understand the chemical's potential to affect human health. The "level of concern" the group assigned to this chemical is "negligible," which is the lowest of five such categories NTP uses.
Vioxx Manufacturer Faces Allegations Over Research, Promotion of Recalled Drug
Merck & Co. had ghostwriters write studies about Vioxx that were published in top medical journals, and the drug maker paid academics to put their names on the research, industry documents allege. Merck also exaggerated the safety of the Cox-2 pain medication in published clinical trials, the documents suggest, and the academics whose names were used didn't always disclose their drug industry financial ties. Those allegations, published today in two articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are the result of an analysis of 250 documents, including 24 clinical trials, 72 review articles, and several editorials. Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004 because of concerns about the drug's link to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. "These are extraordinary manuscripts, and they reveal the inner workings of the promotion of a drug that ultimately turned out to be a hazard," Steven Nissen told HealthDay. (Nissen, the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, was not involved in the articles.) Merck disputes the allegations.
Medicines Prescribed to Children May Lack FDA Approval for Pediatric Use
About 83 percent of parents surveyed in a recent poll thought that the medicine most recently prescribed for their child was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in kids. But that's not always the case, according to experts at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Just 30 percent of FDA-approved medications are specifically approved for use in children, and not all medicines approved for adults are safe and effective for all ages. Nevertheless, some medicines are prescribed "off label"--that is, for uses not specifically approved by the FDA. "FDA labeling is very important to parents, but that's a problem when only one- third of medicines have FDA approval for use in children," says Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children's Health. "The solution to that is to either get more medicines that are FDA-approved by increasing clinical studies, or working to help physicians and parents negotiate the situation when physicians want to use medicines that are safe and effective, but may not have FDA approval."
Watching The Truth About Cancer
A new documentary, The Truth About Cancer, which airs on PBS tonight, describes a man's battle with a rare cancer called mesothelioma, Sarah Baldauf reports. In it, Linda Garmon and her husband, Larry D'Onofrio, describe his fight with the disease, which began in his right lung and ultimately killed him. Video of their shared intimacies--deliberations over healthcare directives from the comfort of their bed; an embrace in pre-op before a risky surgery--lays the groundwork for the documentary's broader exploration of the war against cancer. Cancer, as pointed out in the documentary, is a collection of hundreds of unique diseases and is diagnosed in an estimated 1.5 million new patients each year. Watch U.S. News Health Editor Bernadine Healy's guest appearance on the program in the On Medicine blog.
--January W. Payne