Health Buzz: Statins and ALS and Other Health News

Secondhand smoke and kids, a no-Ritalin-first nation, and handling overcritical parents.


Statins Don't Up Risk of Lou Gehrig's Disease

Statins do not increase the risk of developing a fatal neurodegenerative condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, according to a Food and Drug Administration analysis published yesterday in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. The FDA started the analysis because a higher-than-expected number of reports of ALS in people taking statins had been observed through the agency's Adverse Event Reporting System. The new research showed no higher incidence of ALS in those taking statins than in those taking placebos. The agency plans to continue to look into this issue and expects to have results from another study examining statin use and risk of ALS in six to nine months.

A study released this month found that many clinical trial reports remain unpublished five years after drugs are FDA approved. The FDA also targeted unapproved skin ointments and eyewashes this month.

How Secondhand Smoke Affects Kids

Children exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke by smoking parents may experience symptoms of nicotine dependence, according to a study published this month in the journal Addictive Behaviors. About 1,800 kids, ages 10 to 12, completed questionnaires that probed for nicotine-dependence symptoms and exposure to secondhand smoke. "According to conventional understanding, a person who does not smoke cannot experience nicotine dependence," study lead author Mathieu Bélanger said in a statement. "Our study found that 5 percent of children who had never smoked a cigarette, but who were exposed to secondhand smoke in cars or their homes, reported symptoms of nicotine dependence." Previous research has shown that being exposed to secondhand smoke can cause nonsmokers to experience nicotine-withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, trouble sleeping, depressed mood, restlessness, trouble concentrating, increased appetite, and anxiety.

In June, U.S. News explored whether hypnosis can help snuff out a smoker's cigarette habit.

England's Childhood ADHD Treatment Plan

England has a new plan for helping children with ADHD: Treat the parents first. In response to the United Kingdom's recent trend toward increased use of Ritalin comes a push to give parents training on how to handle kids who are inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, Nancy Shute reports. The news about England's new ADHD treatment standard comes at the same time that a new report says American children are three times more likely to be prescribed stimulant drugs like Ritalin than are children in Europe. There are a lot of reasons for the differences in prescribing among countries, including direct-to-consumer drug advertising, different government restrictions and insurance reimbursements, and, most important, cultural beliefs.

Earlier this year, the American Heart Association recommended that kids taking stimulants for ADHD undergo heart screening. U.S. News's Lindsay Lyon reported in April that behavior management therapy and other types of drugs can help treat ADHD.

How to Handle an Overly Critical Mother

Most of us have some issues with our mothers, even if we consider them our closest friends. Despite all they do for us, moms can be jealous, self-centered, competitive, critical, controlling. In other words, human. Yet some mothers take those behaviors to an extreme, exhibiting a full-blown psychological disorder called narcissism, which often leaves their children feeling inadequate and fearing abandonment—even as adults. Self-obsessed moms are the focus of a recently released book called Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by psychologist Karyl McBride.

U.S. News's Deborah Kotz explains what to do if your mom is a harsh critic.

—January W. Payne