Health Highlights: May 20, 2007

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

FDA Delays Approval of New Anemia Drug

In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's concern about the safety of anemia treatment drugs, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche has announced the federal agency has delayed approving its drug, Mircera.

The Associated Press reports that Roche won't say specifically what questions the FDA wants answered about Mircera, but a company spokesperson said it has received an FDA draft for the drug's labeling. She added that no approval would be given until the FDA met in the fall to discuss the safety of drugs used to combat anemia in patients with kidney disease, for which Mircera was designed.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • FDA Delays Approval of New Anemia Drug
    • Scientists 'Add' an Hour to the 24-Hour Day
    • Where Do People Live the Longest?
    • Son Gets Near-Fatal Infection from Father's Smallpox Vaccination
    • Pill That Would End Periods to Get FDA Blessing
    • Boiling 'Cabbage Family' Veggies Cuts Anti-Cancer Properties

If approved, Mircera would compete with Amgen's Aranesp and Epogen and Johnson and Johnson's Procrit. An FDA advisory panel last week recommended warning labels for Aranesp and Epogen when they are used in treating anemia in cancer patients.

And the agency has already ordered increased warnings for all of the drugs, emphasizing increased risk of blood clots and heat attack when they are taken in high doses, the wire service said.

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Scientists 'Add' an Hour to the 24-Hour Day

If you've ever complained that there weren't enough hours in the day to get things done, be patient. It may not be long before you get some extra time.

According to BBC News, researchers from the United States and France have conducted an experiment that suggests it might be possible to "stretch" our day beyond 24 hours.

The research, which was published in the May 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, had 12 volunteers who were subjected to bright, pulsing light in a controlled environment that blocked out any difference between night and day.

This, in turn, adjusted the natural human circadian rhythm, programmed in many species to match the 24-hour cycle that makes up one day.

According to BBC using the pulses of bright light, the scientists were able to reprogram the study subjects, "adding" an average of an extra hour to their day.

Why would this be necessary? "Jet-lag, shift work and circadian disorders such as advanced and delayed sleep phase syndromes are all associated, to different extents, with a condition where the circadian system is out of synchrony with the light/dark cycle," the BBC quotes the scientists as saying.

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Where Do People Live the Longest?

If you want your son to have a long life -- in fact, statistically the longest life expectancy on earth -- move to San Marino, a small republic on a hill near the Adriatic sea, surrounded by Italy.

And if you have a daughter and want her lifespan to be the longest, you can move across to the Mediterranean to Monaco, or across the sea to Japan.

According to the Associated Press, these countries rank among the best for a person's longevity. The annual list was issued Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO). San Marino's male life expectancy is 80, and Japan and Monaco's (among others) female life expectancy is 86, the wire service reports.

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