Review Category : Health

FDA Approves Weight-Management Drug Contrave

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved weight-management drug Contrave on Wednesday to help adults with weight-related health problems.

According to a press release from the FDA, the drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index above 30 (considered obese) or above 27 (considered overweight), or who suffer from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. “Obesity continues to be a major public health concern,” says Jean-Marc Guettier, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “When used as directed in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, Contrave provides another treatment option for chronic weight management.”

Contrave combines two FDA-approved drugs, naltrexone and bupropion. Naltrexone is approved to treat alcohol and opioid depenence, while bupropion is used to treat depression and season affective disorder, and as a smoking cessation aid.

Contrave was expected to receive FDA approval in 2011, but the agency opted to wait for the results of clinical trials to evaluate the cardiovascular risks of the drug. Even after approving the drug, the FDA is requiring several more post-marketing trials to ensure patient safety.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Pledge $50M for Ebola Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday a $50 million pledge to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The foundation will immediately release flexible funds to United Nations agencies and international organizations involved in the response to enable them and national governments to purchase badly needed supplies and scale up emergency operations in affected countries,” it said in a statement.

“In addition, the foundation will work with public and private sector partners to accelerate the development of therapies, vaccines, and diagnostics that could be effective in treating patients and preventing further transmission of the disease,” the statement continued.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 2,296 people and sickened 1,997 more.

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Oregon Girl Dies from E. Coli as Friend Battles Same Bug

Courtesy Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt(OTIS, Ore.) — A 4-year-old girl has died of complications from E. coli while her 5-year-old friend remains in critical condition, also infected with E. coli, a lawyer for the girl’s family told ABC News.

Serena Profitt of Otis, Oregon, was gone in the “blink of an eye,” her aunt said.

Aleasha Hargitt-Profitt said a nurse pulled the family aside and said, “Mother-to-mother, everything should be OK,” but the little girl was brain dead about 12 hours later.

Serena shared a sandwich with a 5-year-old boy during a Labor Day weekend gathering on Saturday, Aug. 30, but it’s not yet clear whether the sandwich carried the deadly bacteria, said Hargitt-Profitt, who explained what happened in the following days.

On Sunday night, Serena began to experience gastrointestinal pain. On Monday, the little boy was sick, too, and they both had diarrhea.

Two days later, Serena’s stools had turned bloody and she wasn’t eating, according to Hargitt-Profitt, so her family took her to a hospital. But she was sent home two more times over the following days without ever being tested for E. coli, Hargitt-Profitt said.

By Saturday morning, Serena’s body was going into shock, so her family took her to a different emergency room, where doctors discovered she had gone into complete kidney failure and put her on dialysis. They also ordered an E. coli test.

“Sunday morning, she woke up and had great color and was able to sit up in bed for the first time” since she’d gotten sick, Hargitt-Profitt said. “She was able to talk to her mom and dad and tell them she loved them.”

By that afternoon, however, Serena had a stroke that paralyzed the right half of her body, Hargitt-Profitt said. At 2 a.m. on Monday morning, she had a massive seizure, and doctors learned that her brain was “covered in blood,” Hargitt-Profitt said.

Although the little girl went into surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, she had no brain activity. They learned that she was brain dead at around noon, and the Profitts knew it was time to say goodbye.

“They said their goodbyes,” Hargitt-Profitt said. “They sat with her and sang her songs.”

Serena died of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a common complication of E. coli, according Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where she died. In hemolytic uremic syndrome, red blood cells are prematurely destroyed and clog the blood-filtering system of the kidneys.

“Serena tested positive for E. coli, but we don’t yet know which strain,” hospital spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley told ABC News. “A sample has been sent to the state lab for further testing.”

Serena’s 5-year-old friend, who has not been named, is at another hospital in critical condition, according to Bob Marler, a food safety lawyer representing the Profitts.

“He’s also in acute kidney failure,” Marler said. “That’s what killed Serena.”

Hargitt-Profitt said the boy has tested positive for a rare and fast-acting form of E. coli called O157.

Although the Oregon state health department says it can’t comment or speculate on Serena’s pending test results, E. coli O157 sources would include “high-risk foods such as undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or juices, restaurants at which [people with E. coli] have eaten, exposure to live animals, recreational water, and exposure to child care centers.”

E. coli is also more dangerous in young children and the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and county health departments are investigating to determine what both children did before they got sick at roughly the same time, according to Marler. He said it’s possible the sandwich is to blame, but it’s also possible they picked up the bacteria on something else.

Hargitt-Profitt said Serena’s family also owned goats, but no one has ever gotten sick from being around them. The gathering took place at the Profitt home and a restaurant, where the two children shared the sandwich, she said.

The Profitt family’s primary concern now is finding the source to make sure no one else gets sick, she said.

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How Other Fitness Wearables Can Fight Off Apple Watch Juggernaut

Apple(NEW YORK) — The newly unveiled Apple Watch should give existing wearable fitness trackers a run for their money, but the tech giant’s competitors in the burgeoning category aren’t about to take the onslaught lying down, industry experts said.

The Apple Watch is vulnerable on three particular fronts, experts note.

1. Price

“It’s a nice-looking piece but the price point is pretty high and the fact that it has to be tethered to an iPhone lessens its appeal,” said Jamison Cush, executive editor of TechTarget, a business technology publishing company.

Cush likes the sleek look of the $349 Apple Watch and praised its healthy dose of fitness monitoring features that will collect basic stats like steps, mileage and calories burned. But those are functions stand-alone trackers already do competently for a lot less money.

“Jawbone, Fitbit and the others do one thing and they do it really well at a good price,” Cush noted.

“Apple Watch does a lot of other things like communication and notifications, which some users may like but could be perceived as ‘feature creep’ by many users,” he said, using a term that is a play on “mission creep,” where the scope of a mission keeps expanding.

The Fitbit Flex costs about $100. The Jawbone UP24 retails for about $150.

2. Still Months from Hitting the Market

The Apple Watch is at least six months away from hitting the stores, Cush noted. And that gives Apple competitors quite some time to come up with new strategies and new products in response to the Apple Watch, he said.

“It’s the big idea now but by the time it comes out, the market will be much more mature and Apple will have some serious competition,” he said.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of the tech consulting firm Moor Insights and Strategies, said because fitness tracking devices serve such a singular purpose, he believes the category won’t be dented too much by the Apple Watch entering the market — at least for now.

Apple unveiled two different apps on Tuesday for its watch that should intrigue both gym rats and casual movers, Moorhead said. The “activity” app will keep track of any movement you do throughout the day. The “workout” app will monitor more intense movement of workouts and sports. And third-party apps are expected to follow.

While the proprietary apps are a differentiator for the watch, Cush isn’t sure they are enough of a draw for anyone except for “fitness nerds.” But, he said, he thought its design — including a sharp display and six interchangeable wristbands — might tempt a few fashion-forward users away from other wearables.

“Most wearables are very techy, very geeky looking,” he noted. “This one is more fashionable and people may want to wear it because it looks good.”

3. Battery Life

Apple Watch’s toughest selling point could be its purportedly short battery life. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sidestepped the question of exactly how long the battery will last, but some tech blogs are reporting that the device will need at least a daily charge.

“Many fitness trackers can go a week or more without a charge,” Cush pointed out. “Battery life is the number-one complaint from users of any wearable and it limits growth in that category.”

But Moorhead noted that the Apple Watch might also drive quite a few new customers into the wearable market.

“Apple seems to have paid a lot of attention to user experience, functionality and ease of use. They’ve removed many of the barriers that were holding consumers back,” he said, adding that this might possibly benefit competitors as well.

Officials at Fitbit, the leading fitness wearable seller, said that far from being worried, they welcome the coming of the Apple Watch.

Company officials noted in a statement to ABC News Wednesday that Fitbit is a “trusted brand” that has a 70-percent market share of what it calls the “Connected Health and Fitness space.”

“Our mission remains empowering and inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives, and to that end we welcome new products and services like Apple Watch into the market that help further that mission,” the company said in its statement.

Apple and Jawbone did not respond to requests by ABC News for comment.

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New Registered Nurses Always on the Move

iStock/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) — Registered nurses may be a more valuable commodity than anyone realized based on a new study conducted by the RN Work Project and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Although a certain amount of turnover at most jobs is pretty common, the study says that 17.5 percent of newly licensed RNs leave their first job within a year. In fact, a third of RNs are on to somewhere different by the end of their second year.

Generally speaking, the turnover occurs more often in health care settings other than hospitals.

Certainly, losing RNs can negatively impact any workplace as high turnovers have been shown to be linked with an increase in physical restraints, pressure ulcers and patient falls.

However, co-author Christine Kovner says that turnovers can actually be helpful when a poorly functioning nurse leaves. On the other hand, things become more complicated if RNs with outstanding work habits seek work elsewhere.

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Breath Test Could Determine Presence of Lung Cancer

Hemera/Thinkstock(FOGGIA, Italy) — It seems too simple to be true but researchers from the University of Foggia in Italy now say that lung cancer can be diagnosed by recording the temperature of exhaled breath.

To reach that conclusion, 82 people who were shown in an x-ray to have possibly contracted lung cancer were given full diagnostic tests. Afterwards, doctors said that half of the diagnoses were correct while 42 patients were deemed cancer-free.

Meanwhile, the breath temperature of all the participants was measured by a thermometer device known as a X-Halo device whereupon those with cancer had the higher temperatures.

Professor Giovanna Elisiana Carpagnano says scientists can accurately prove the presence of lung cancer because of a cut-off value in the measurement of the breath temperature.

Although still in the experimental stages, the professors say doctors hope to one day make the procedure standard in order to provide “patients with a stress-free and simple test that is also cheaper and less intensive for clinicians.”

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Teen Girls with Poor School Habits More Prone to Risky Sex, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) — Getting through high school relatively unscathed is a goal for a lot of teens but what happens when things don’t go well academically?

According to an Indiana University study, poor performance in the classroom can be linked to risky behavior after school, particularly among girls.

Lead author Devon J. Hensel and his fellow researchers went through 80,00 diary entries of 14-to-17-year-old girls to get a better understanding of how a school performance impacts romantic relationships.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were more instances of vaginal sex and fewer condom use on days girls skipped school compared to times they showed up.

Meanwhile, although the outcome of a test, whether pass or fail, did not affect the incidence of sex, condom use did drop dramatically when a girl flunked a test as opposed to when she didn’t.

Overall, Hensel says that on days when girls skipped school or failed a test, they were more inclined to want to have sex and express feelings of love than days when they attended class or did not receive a failing grade.

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Contest Offering $1 Million in Prize Money Asks Researchers to ‘Cure Aging’

shironosov/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PALO ALTO, Calif.) — A California radiologist who heads the Palo Alto Institute is sponsoring a $1 million life science competition aimed at finding a way to “hack the code” of life.

The Palo Alto Prize is a competition dedicated to “ending aging,” according to the website. Sponsored by Dr. Joon Yun, a contributor to Forbes magazine and a board certified radiologist, the competition is offering two $500,000 prizes to teams that can either revert an aging reference animal to the biological equivalent of a young adult, or extend the lifespan of a reference animal by 50 percent of published norms.

The contest judges teams based on their ability to, “hack the code of life and cure aging” and potentially alter homeostatic capacity, or, “the capability of an animal’s systems to self-stabilize in response to stressors.”

The contest launched on Tuesday, and the end of the two prize windows will be on June 15, 2016 for the prize for restoring a mammal to a younger state, and Sept. 9, 2018 for the life extension prize.

The website for the Palo Alto Prize says that the money represents an incentive to, “nurture innovations that end aging by restoring the body’s homeostatic capacity and promoting the extension of a sustained and healthy lifespan.”

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Too Many Students with Chronic Conditions Don’t Have Health Management Plans at School

Wavebreak Media LTD/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Only about 25 percent of students with asthma and about 50 percent of those with food allergies have emergency health management plans in place at school, a new study says.

The study, conducted at Northwestern University, found that too many students are at risk due to not having the “safety net” that is a health management plan. Data was taken from the Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest U.S. school district.

Students who were racial or ethnic minorities or who were from lower-income families were less likely to have a health plan in place, researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, also noted that many students had more than one condition. For example, 9.3 percent of asthmatic students also had a food allergy, and 40.1 percent of students with a food allergy had asthma. A positive note, researchers said, was that those students with both conditions were more likely to have a health management plan.

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Children from Higher-Income Families Suffer More When Parents Split

John Howard/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study found evidence that children from higher-income families suffer more when their parents split up than children from lower-income families.

Researchers looked at a sample of almost 4,000 children from around the country. The study, published in the journal Child Development, found that kids from wealthier families experienced more behavioral problems after a parental split. Researchers speculated that part of the causation for this is that children from lower-income families may feel less of a change, in terms of economic resources, when one parent leaves.

Children also generally exhibited improved behavior when they moved from a one-parent household to a stepparent family.

Researchers also reaffirmed findings from previous studies that changes in family structure have a greater impact on children in the first five years of their lives than in later years.

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