Health Highlights: May 3, 2007

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

U.S. Senate Passes Imported Drug Amendment

The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 63-28 in favor of an amendment that proposes changing federal law to permit imports of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries where medicines cost less than they do in the United States.

Supporters of the move say they hope that wider access to less expensive foreign drugs will drive down drug prices in the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

"The fact is, we are paying the highest prices for brand-name prescription drugs in the world and that's not fair. Let's make the global economy work for everybody," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who sponsored the amendment to legislation related to the Food and Drug Administration.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • U.S. Senate Passes Imported Drug Amendment
    • Don't Rely on Masks During Flu Pandemic: CDC
    • FDA Launches New Consumer Web Page, E-Newsletter
    • Link Between Depression and First-Time Alcohol/Drug Use
    • Diabetic Men More Likely to Have Sperm Damage: Study
    • Canada Confirms New Mad Cow Case

While the idea has wide popular support, the White House and U.S. drug industry oppose imports of foreign drugs. President Bush has said he'll veto the final FDA legislation if it includes such a provision, the AP reported.

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Don't Rely on Masks During Flu Pandemic: CDC

Face masks may not offer much protection if a flu pandemic strikes but it may still be wise to wear them in certain situations, according to preliminary flu pandemic guidelines released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avoiding all exposure to germs causing the pandemic is the best way to protect yourself. But, if that's not possible, wearing a simple surgical mask may help if:

  • You're healthy and have to go into a crowded place.
  • You're sick and are going to be in close contact with healthy people.
  • You live with a person who's sick and therefore may be in the early stages of infection, but that person has to go out in public.

At a news conference, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding emphasized that masks don't replace basic precautions such as hand washing and avoiding contact with people who have respiratory infections, the Associated Press reported.

"We are concerned people with think the mask is the magic bullet. It can have a role in personal protection but they are not the only thing," Gerberding said.

Major prevention measures recommended by the CDC include avoiding crowds and steering clear of people who are sick, unless you must care for someone, the AP reported.

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FDA Launches New Consumer Web Page, E-Newsletter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has introduced two new initiatives to enhance its online consumer health information -- a new Web page, "Consumer Health Information for You and Your Family," and a free monthly e-newsletter, "FDA Consumer Health Information."

The Web page will offer information about important public health developments clearly and accurately in easy-to-read language, the FDA said. The page also provides links to information about FDA-regulated products such as food, human and animal drugs, medical devices, and vaccines.

The e-newsletter replaces the FDA's print magazine and is expected to reach far more people. Subscribers to the e-newsletter will receive notice of product approvals, safety warnings and other health news, the agency said.

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