Health Highlights: July 20, 2009

HealthDay + More
  • Experimental Lupus Drug Shows Some Promise: Report
  • Walter Cronkite, Legendary TV Journalist, Dead at 92
  • Hepatitis C Investigation Is Widened
  • Praise for NIH Pick Widespread, But Not Unanimous
  • Swine Flu Vaccine Could Get Scarce: Experts

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

Experimental Lupus Drug Shows Some Promise: Report

An experimental drug for the autoimmune disease lupus has produced favorable results in a company-sponsored study. It could potentially become the first new drug for lupus in 50 years, USA Today reported.

The drug, Benlysta, helps to limit the immune system response that attacks lupus patients' tissues, often damaging vital organs.

Each of the 865 patients in the preliminary study were given standard therapy for lupus, which consists primarily of treatment with steroids. The researchers found that 52 percent of patients on a low dose of Benlysta and 58 percent of those receiving a high dose of the drug, in tandem with the standard therapy, experienced significant improvement, compared with 43 percent of those taking standard therapy and a placebo, USA Today reported.

Also, more Benlysta patients were able to reduce their dose of steroid, and with it the bloating and other side effects of steroid use, company officials said.

"All of the investigators we've shown [these results to] are just thrilled. They haven't had a good clinical trials result in years. Lupus patients should have some hope, too," said David Stump of Human Genome Sciences Inc., which developed the drug with GlaxoSmithKline.

Stump said the company plans to release the study results at a scientific meeting later this year, USA Today said.


Walter Cronkite, Legendary TV Journalist, Dead at 92

Walter Cronkite, the iconic television journalist often referred to as "the most trusted man in America" during a tumultuous era that included the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, the U.S. lunar landing, the Vietnam War and Watergate, died Friday evening at his New York City home after a long illness. He was 92.

As a reporter and eventually the anchorman of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, Cronkite -- with his signature sign-off line, "That's the way it is" -- came to dominate television news like few before him and no one since.

"It's hard to imagine a man for whom I had more admiration," Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes said on CNN. "He was a superb reporter and honorable man."

Cronkite was the one who broke the news to Americans that President John F. Kennedy had been shot Nov. 22, 1963, interrupting a live CBS broadcast of a soap opera.

Five years later, Cronkite returned from a trip to report on the war in Vietnam and declared on television: "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is a stalemate." Then-President Lyndon Johnson, hearing that comment, reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America." Soon afterward, Johnson announced he would not seek re-election, CBS News reported.

Cronkite, who also had a passion for the U.S. space program of the 1960s, died just three days before the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, another historic moment linked with his reporting.

"For decades, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted voice in America," said President Barack Obama in a statement. "His rich baritone reached millions of living rooms every night, and in an industry of icons, Walter set the standard by which all others have been judged."


Hepatitis C Investigation Is Widened

An investigation into the spread of the hepatitis C virus by a Colorado hospital worker has been expanded to two other states -- New York and Texas -- where the woman previously worked, the Associated Press reported.

According to Colorado officials, the woman, reportedly addicted to painkillers, took syringes filled with fentanyl, a powerful narcotic painkiller, from operating room carts and replaced them with used syringes filled with saline solution. The action is believed to have contaminated not only the swapped syringes but the containers of saline solution, the AP said.