Health Buzz: FDA Blocks Generic Drugs and Other Health News

Bisphenol A's link to heart disease and diabetes, estrogen and your skin, and sex and your health.

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FDA Stops Importation of Generic Drugs From Indian Company

The Food and Drug Administration has blocked the entry of more than 30 generic drugs made by Indian drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories because of quality concerns at two of the company's factories. Ranbaxy is among the largest producers of generic pharmaceuticals in the world. Drugs affected by the new restriction include penicillin, cholesterol-lowering drugs simvastatin and pravastatin, the antibiotic clarithromycin, HIV drugs lamivudine and zidovudine, and the diabetes drug metformin. The FDA says it hasn't received any reports of patients harmed by drugs produced by Ranbaxy, and medications already in the United States from the affected facilities are safe. Drug shortages as a result of the ban are unlikely because other manufacturers should be able to meet demand, according to the FDA. However, Ranbaxy is the only company that supplies capsules of the antiviral drug ganciclovir to U.S. distributors. In order to avoid a shortage of this drug, the FDA will not hold up shipments but will provide stepped-up oversight until the company fixes its problems.

Last year, U.S. News's Nancy Shute explored whether your drugs are safe. In May, Michelle Andrews reported on buying drugs abroad.

Heart Disease, Diabetes Linked to Chemical in Plastics

Adults may be at risk for health problems related to exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical found in hard, clear plastics and most cans containing foods or beverages, according to new research. A landmark study of more than 1,400 people ages 18 to 74, published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that those with the largest amount of BPA in their urine had nearly three times the risk of heart disease and more than twice the risk of diabetes as those who had the lowest levels, Deborah Kotz reports. "Even those with the highest BPA levels still had levels way below the currently established 'safe' level," says David Melzer, an epidemiologist at the University of Exeter in England and coauthor of the study.

Other researchers say there's enough evidence from previous animal studies to suggest that BPA is harmful to adults. BPA levels that are slightly elevated but still just one-fifth the safe dose limit established by the Food and Drug Administration trigger an alarming release of insulin in the pancreatic cells of mice, and higher levels lead to prediabetes or insulin resistance, says Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri. BPA also suppresses the release of a hormone from fat cells that normally protects against diabetes and heart disease.

U.S. News offers tips on how to avoid contact with BPA and provides a list of resources for locating BPA-free products. And Adam Voiland describes why products containing phthalates are also a concern and gives advice for how to avoid exposure to those chemicals.

Estrogen Cream Doesn't Help Skin Exposed to Sunlight

The hormone cream estradiol can repair aging skin, but only if that skin hasn't been damaged by the sun's UV rays, new research finds. Decades of sun damage on the face and arms and other exposed areas seem to undermine the power of the cream, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of Dermatology. "Despite commonly held beliefs, estrogen was not able to raise collagen when the skin was damaged by sunlight," study author Laure Ritti, a research investigator in the department of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, told HealthDay. "Apparently, chronic exposure to sunlight breaks something in the way estrogen increases collagen, which makes damaged skin even harder to repair."

Previously, Adam Voiland described how to spot skin cancer before it kills. Deborah Kotz reported on the health benefits attributed to sunlight, and she provided advice about how much time in the sun is needed for vitamin D. And Matthew Shulman explained why your eyes need UV protection, too.

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