Health Buzz: Immunosuppressive Drug Warning and Other Health News

Mapping cancer, maintaining a long and healthy sex life, aging and muscle loss.

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FDA Calls for Tougher Safety Warnings on Immunosuppressive Medications

The Food and Drug Administration has asked the manufacturers of Humira, Cimzia, Enbrel, and Remicade—which belong to a class of medications known as tumor necrosis factor alpha blockers (TNF-alpha blockers)—to strengthen the warning for risk of fungal infection. The drugs suppress the immune system and are approved to treat such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn's disease. The drugs already carry black-box warnings related to different safety issues, including fungal infections.

The FDA is also in the midst of a safety review of TNF blockers, including an investigation into whether or not the drugs are linked with the development of cancer, particularly lymphoma, in children and young adults.

What You Need to Know About Mapping the Cancer Genome

Two of the most feared cancer diagnoses are glioblastoma, the most aggressive kind of brain tumor, and pancreatic cancer. Both kill the average patient within months, not years, of diagnosis, so there's special interest in finding the Achilles' heel of those cancers, Katherine Hobson reports. Scientists are now reporting that they've gotten an up-close-and-personal look at the genetic mutations linked to those two cancers, which may—eventually—lead to better matching of appropriate treatments to individual patients, new diagnostic tests, and possibly even entirely new drugs.

Health columnist Bernadine Healy described her own battle with brain cancer in her book Living Time and in an excerpt in U.S. News last year.

Making the Most of the New Sexual Revolution

Today's seniors, their sex lives liberated long ago by one pill and extended indefinitely by another, have every intention of maintaining an active sex life. The scope of the sexual shifts launched by Viagra a decade ago—perhaps as monumental as those triggered by the birth control pill—is now becoming apparent, Deborah Kotz reports. A July study published in the British Medical Journal found that considerably more 70-year-olds are enjoying sex regularly than 30 years ago: 57 percent of men and 52 percent of women today, versus 40 percent and 35 percent back then. About one quarter of those ages 75 to 85 are now sexually active, according to recent research from the University of Chicago.

U.S. News explains how therapy can help your sex life and how to cope with five common sexual problems.

Losing Muscle as You Age

Sarcopenia, or age-related decline in muscle mass and function, contributes to frailty and a loss of independence in people's later years. There are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent its effects and also to improve your condition if you're already feeling its consequences. While the precise causes of sarcopenia aren't fully understood, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, hormonal changes, and bodywide inflammation are potential culprits.

Katherine Hobson offers advice on dealing with sarcopenia.

—January W. Payne