Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2013

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  • New Breast Cancer Drug Approved by FDA
  • 4 Indicted in Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak
  • Medical Groups Warn About Unnecessary Tests and Treatments
  • New Silicone-Gel Breast Implant Approved by FDA

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

New Breast Cancer Drug Approved by FDA

A new drug for late-stage breast cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Genentech's Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) is for use in patients with HER2-positive, late-stage breast cancer who were previously treated with another anti-HER2 drug called Herceptin (trastuzmab) and a class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes, which are commonly used to treat breast cancer.

"Kadcyla is trastuzumab connected to a drug called DM1 that interferes with cancer cell growth," Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an FDA news relase.

"Kadcyla delivers the drug to the cancer site to shrink the tumor, slow disease progression and prolong survival. It is the fourth approved drug that targets the HER2 protein," he explained.

The FDA's approval of the drug was based on a study of 991 patients. Kadcyla carries a boxed warning that it can cause liver and heart problems and even death. It can also cause life-threatening birth defects, the agency said.

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4 Indicted in Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

Four former employees of a Virginia-based peanut company linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak in the United States have been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The outbreak -- traced to a peanut processing plant in Georgia -- killed nine people and sickened hundreds and led to one of the largest recalls in the nation's history.

The 76-count indictment charges the former employees of Peanut Corp. of America with conspiracy, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and other offenses related to contaminated or misbranded food, the Associated Press reported.

Those facing the charges are company owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and company vice president Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson.

FDA inspectors found numerous problems at the plant in Blakely, Ga., including mold and roaches. The company went bankrupt after the recall, the AP reported.

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Medical Groups Warn About Unnecessary Tests and Treatments

Dozens of types of tests and treatments are too often recommended by doctors when patients don't need them, according to a warning issued Thursday by a coalition of leading medical groups in the United States.

This unnecessary care wastes time and money and sometimes causes harm to patients, according to the organizations that represent more than 350,000 doctors, the Associated Press reported.

The Choosing Wisely Coalition said patients need to ask their doctors, "Do I really need that?" The coalition was formed by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation.

Too many people "think that more is better, that more treatment, more testing somehow results in better health care," Dr. Glen Stream, former president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the AP. "That really is not true."

The academy contributed to this year's list of 90 examples of potentially needless care, which adds to 45 examples included on last year's list. Among the newly-added warnings:

  • Don't screen for a clogged neck artery in healthy people with no stroke signs. It could lead to risky surgery for a blockage that would cause no harm.
  • Don't try feeding tubes in people with advanced dementia. Helping them eat is a better approach.
  • Don't routinely give heartburn medicine to infants with reflux. This treatment hasn't been proven effective in babies and could cause side effects.
  • Don't prescribe opioid painkillers for migraines except as a last resort. Opioids can carry the risk of addiction and can actually worsen migraines. Instead, use more migraine-specific drugs.
  • Don't induce labor if a pregnant woman misses her due date and both mother and baby are doing fine.

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