Health Buzz: More on Vioxx, and Other News

Kids and vitamin D, battling diabetes, hospital infections

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Cardiac Risks Tied to Vioxx Lingered for at Least a Year

People taking Vioxx continued to have a doubled risk of stroke, heart attack, and death for at least one year after they stopped taking the drug, according to a new analysis of long-term data from the study that led to Vioxx's withdrawal from the market in 2004. The analysis, published online today in the Lancet, states that a definitive finding isn't possible because of the study's small sample size of 2,587 patients, the Associated Press reports. Merck also urged cautious interpretation of the findings. Thirty-four patients taking Vioxx had heart attacks, compared to 18 in the placebo group, and 19 of those taking Vioxx had strokes, compared with nine people taking placebos.

In 2004, U.S. News explained Merck's decision to pull Vioxx from the market.

Kids Need More Vitamin D, Pediatrics Group Say

The American Academy of Pediatrics's committee on nutrition recently doubled its recommendation for daily vitamin D intake in children from 200 to 400 IU a day. Doctors were concerned that many children, particularly young babies, aren't getting enough vitamin D, which is essential for absorbing calcium from food and building bones. New evidence suggests that vitamin D also plays a vital role in the immune system and might help protect against cancer and diabetes.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute lists three ways to make sure your kids get enough vitamin D.

Techniques That Aim to Battle Diabetes

Diabetes experts from around the world recently gathered in New York City to discuss various techniques that alter patients' digestive systems to help them lose weight and get their blood sugar under control, Michelle Andrews reports. One method, gastric bypass surgery, is approved only for weight loss but also short-circuits diabetes in many cases. Another approach—for now, experimental—involves an implanted "smart" gastric band that senses food in the stomach and tightens or loosens its grip accordingly. But prevention, many agree, is the key to succeeding against diabetes in the long run. Intensive management of the disease through diet and exercise has been shown to work, too.

Also, U.S. News's Adam Voiland reports that despite having diabetes, some athletes push to the limit.

Hospital Infections Can Be Deadly

Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections are killing some 90,000 Americans in healthcare settings, mainly hospitals and nursing homes, every year, Avery Comarow reports. Some of the bugs, such as methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), are shrugging off even potent germ killers; hospital inpatients and residents of acute-care nursing homes are increasingly sicker and weaker than in years past. Children are especially susceptible to outbreaks of respiratory syncytial virus, the elderly to flu viruses. Diarrhea caused by C. difficile can quickly dehydrate infected patients.

Last month, Comarow explained that hospitals now must pay for avoidable complications.

—January W. Payne