Health Highlights: Oct. 17, 2007

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

Children's Care a 'Gap' in U.S. Pandemic Plans: Report

U.S. government plans for a flu pandemic have major gaps in terms of treating and caring for children, says a report released Wednesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Trust for America's Health (TFAH).

The report noted that children ages 0-19 account for nearly 46 percent of all deaths caused by the H5N1 bird flu virus.

"Children are not simply small adults, especially when it comes to medical concerns. The fact the H5N1 has been disproportionately impacting children and adolescents should give us pause," Jeff Levi, TFAH executive director, said in a prepared statement. "As the U.S. prepares for the threat of a possible pandemic flu, we must make caring for our kids a priority, not an afterthought."

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Children's Care a 'Gap' in U.S. Pandemic Plans: Report
    • Diabetes Drug Byetta Linked to Acute Pancreatitis
    • Egg Freezing Shouldn't Be Offered to Healthy Women, Experts Say
    • Average Cost of Having a Baby in U.S. now $7,600
    • FDA Approves New Breast Cancer Drug
    • FDA Panel Supports Earlier Use of Phosphate Binders Against Kidney Disease

The report identified four major areas of concern: child-appropriate doses of vaccine and medications; management and treatment of children who become ill; inclusion of children in strategies to slow the spread of influenza in communities; and caring for and supervising the health of children if schools and childcare facilities are closed for extended periods of time.

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Diabetes Drug Byetta Linked to Acute Pancreatitis

Doctors and patients are being warned that the diabetes drug Byetta may cause acute pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can be fatal, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the alert after it reviewed 30 cases of acute pancreatitis that have been reported since Byetta was approved for sale in the U.S. in 2005.

The drug is marketed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. of San Diego and Eli Lilly & Co. of Indianapolis. Amylin has agreed to update Byetta's label to provide clear advice on the signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis that doctors should look for, the Wall Street Journal reported. Those signs include persistent, severe abdominal pain that can radiate to the back and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Tests are needed to confirm the condition, the FDA said.

Patients should stop taking Byetta if pancreatitis is suspected, the agency said. If the condition is confirmed, patients shouldn't start taking the drug again until the cause of the pancreatitis is found.

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Egg Freezing Shouldn't Be Offered to Healthy Women, Experts Say

Egg freezing shouldn't be marketed or offered to healthy women who want to delay having children until later in life, says a joint statement issued Tuesday by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies.

The statement said the procedure is still too experimental and healthy women seeking egg freezing should receive counseling that clearly explains the many downsides of the procedure, including the fact that only two to four percent of frozen eggs produce a live birth, the Canadian Press reported.

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