Health Highlights: March 24, 2009

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  • Robin Williams Recovering After Heart Surgery
  • FDA Ordered to Re-examine Limits on 'Morning-After' Pill
  • Symbyax Approved for Treatment-Resistant Depression
  • Westco Peanut Products Recalled

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Robin Williams Recovering After Heart Surgery

Actor Robin Williams, 57, was recovering after he had heart surgery to replace an aortic valve on March 13, his publicists said Monday. He's expected to make a complete recovery in the next eight weeks.

Earlier this month, Williams was in Florida when he suffered shortness of breath and had to cancel the remainder of his one-man comedy show, "Weapons of Self-Destruction," the Associated Press reported. He was initially treated at the University of Miami Hospital before being transferred to the Cleveland Clinic, where he had the heart surgery.

"His heart is strong, and he will have normal heart function in the coming weeks with no limitations on what he'll be able to do. A couple of hours after surgery, he was entertaining the medical team and making us all laugh," said Dr. A. Marc Gillinov, a cardiothoracic surgeon, the AP reported.

In a prepared statement, Williams thanked staff at both hospitals and said the experience gave him fresh fodder for his act.

"I got some great new material for the tour and can't wait to get back on the road. I'm thinking the next leg of the tour will be "Weapons of Self-Destruction and Reconstruction!"


FDA Ordered to Re-examine Limits on 'Morning-After' Pill

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the Food and Drug Administration to rethink its plan to limit the non-prescription "morning-after" pill to women who are at least 18 years old, the Washington Post reported Monday.

In 2005, the agency announced that it would limit over-the-counter access to the pill, also known as Plan B, to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman said the FDA must reconsider whether to make the drug available to all women, regardless of age, without a prescription.

The "record is clear that the FDA's course of conduct regarding Plan B departed in significant ways from the agency's normal procedures regarding similar applications to switch a drug from prescription to non-prescription use," the newspaper quoted from Korman's 52-page ruling.

The plan B pill is intended to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after a woman has unprotected sex.

Groups critical of the FDA's original decision praised the judge's ruling.

"The message is clear: The FDA has to put science first and leave politics at the door. We are encouraged that the FDA under new leadership, when they look at the evidence, will remove the unique barriers that have been in place and [Plan B] will finally be available to all women without any barriers," the Post quoted Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, as saying.


Symbyax Approved for Treatment-Resistant Depression

The bipolar depression drug Symbyax has received U.S. approval as a therapy for patients with treatment-resistant depression, Eli Lilly & Co. announced Monday.

The FDA approval applies to use in adult patients who haven't responded to two separate rounds of therapy with different antidepressants, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

"Living with major depressive disorder is difficult and distressing for anyone, but even more so for patients whose symptoms continue despite treatment," Lilly medical director Dr. Sara Corya said in a company news release. "Now, after two failed attempts with other antidepressants, doctors and patients have a new treatment option."

To get this FDA approval, Lilly had to change the drug label information to include stronger language about the risk of weight gain and diabetes.

Symbyax, a combination of Lillys drugs Zyprexa and Prozac in one pill, was approved by the FDA to treat bipolar depression in 2003, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

In related news, the FDA approved the use of Zyprexa and Prozac, in separate pills, to treat bipolar depression and treatment-resistant depression.