Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2009

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

Calorie Info Reduces Fast Food Consumption: Study

New Yorkers who used calorie information to order lunch at fast-food chain restaurants bought 106 fewer calories' worth of food than people who didn't see or use the information, says a city health department study.

In March 2008, New York City began requiring chain restaurants to post calories on menu boards. Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 lunch customers at 275 fast-food and coffee-chain outlets in spring 2007 and surveyed another 12,000 this spring, USA Today reported.

    • Calorie Info Reduces Fast Food Consumption: Study
    • FDA Lax on Drug Follow-Up Studies: GAO
    • Korean Stem Cell Researcher Convicted, Spared Jail
    • Cell Phones Linked To Brain Tumors: Study
    • Unhealthy Breakfast Cereals Heavily Marketed to Children: Study

The study found that 56 percent of customers saw the calorie information and 15 percent used it. Those who used the calorie information bought an average of 754 calories' worth of food, compared with 860 calories' worth for those who didn't see or use the information.

Compared to other customers, those who saw and used calorie information consumed average of 152 fewer calories at hamburger chains and 73 fewer calories at sandwich chains. The reduction at coffee shops was 23 calories, USA Today reported.

The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society.


FDA Lax on Drug Follow-Up Studies: GAO

The use of several drugs to treat cancer and other conditions has been allowed to continue even though follow-up studies showed they didn't extend patients' lives, says a U.S. Government Accountability Office report to be released Monday.

The GAO also said that the Food and Drug Administration has never ordered a company to take a drug off the market because promised follow-up studies about the drug's benefits haven't been completed. In some cases, that follow-up information is more than a decade overdue, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA also needs to do more to monitor whether drugs approved under its so-called "accelerated approval" program actually fulfill their promise, the GAO said. The accelerated approval program is designed to speed availability of treatments for the most serious diseases.

The GAO said that since 1992, the FDA has requested follow-up 144 studies of drugs approved under the program, but only 64 percent have been completed and more than one-third are still pending, the AP reported.

The GAO report presents an overly-negative assessment of the program and there are no plans to get more aggressive about follow-up, according to the FDA.

"Millions of patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses have had earlier access to new safe and effective treatments," through the accelerated approval program, the agency said, the AP reported.


Korean Stem Cell Researcher Convicted, Spared Jail

Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk has been convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs in connection with a cloning scandal that ruined his career.

In 2004, Hwang and colleagues claimed they'd created the first cloned human embryos and had extracted stem cells from them. But an investigation revealed that the claims were false.

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