Health Highlights: April 23, 2007

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

Generic Ambien Approved by FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Monday the first generic versions of the sleep aid Ambien -- generic name zolpidem tartrate. It's a sedative-hypnotic drug indicated for the short-term treatment of insomnia.

"This approval offers Americans more alternatives when choosing their prescription drugs," said Gary J. Buehler, director of the FDA's Office of Generic Drugs.

Zolpidem tartrate tablets in formulations of 5 milligrams and 10 milligrams are manufactured by a variety of generic drug companies in the United States. The following 13 manufacturers have received FDA approval for zolpidem tartrate tablets: Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.; TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA; Roxane Laboratories Inc.; Watson Laboratories Inc.; Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd.; Dr. Reddys Laboratories Ltd.; Apotex Inc.; Synthon Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Genpharm Inc.; Mutual Pharmaceutical Company Inc.; Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd.; Carlsbad Technology Inc.; and Lek Pharmaceuticals, the FDA said in a statement.

    • Generic Ambien Approved by FDA
    • Free Cervical Cancer Vaccine in Demand in New Hampshire
    • Medical Journal Criticizes Supreme Court Abortion Ruling
    • Asia Faces Dramatic Increase in Cancer Cases
    • Cyclist's 'B' Samples Positive: French Paper
    • U.S. Nursing Homes Standards Not Properly Enforced: Report
    • FDA Knew About Food Problems Before Outbreaks: Report
    • School Food Rules Reduce Number of Overweight Students

In March, the FDA requested that all manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic drug products -- a class of drugs used to induce and/or maintain sleep -- strengthen their product labeling to include stronger warnings about potential risks. Those risks include severe allergic reactions and complex sleep-related behaviors, which may include sleep-driving. Sleep driving is defined as driving while not fully awake after taking a sedative-hypnotic drug, with no memory of the event.

According to the online magazine Drug Topics, in 2006, Ambien was the 13th best selling brand name drug. The sanofi-aventis (formerly Sanofi-Synthelabo, Inc.) patent for zolpidem tartrate expired on April 21, the FDA said.


Free Cervical Cancer Vaccine in Demand in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, demand is outpacing supply of free vaccine to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, the Associated Press reported.

New Hampshire was the first state to approve free distribution of the Gardasil vaccine. The program began in January and state officials expected to vaccinate about 25 percent of eligible girls this year. However, advertising has spurred demand.

New Hampshire is offering the vaccine free to girls ages 9 to 18. The vaccine is approved for use in females ages 9 to 26. The normal cost is about $360 for three shots over six months, the AP reported.

In response to the high demand for the free vaccine, some medical practices have created lists that rank patients according to priority, while others are suggesting that patients find out if their health insurance will pay for the shots, which would help take pressure off the free program.


Medical Journal Criticizes Supreme Court Abortion Ruling

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