Health Highlights: Oct. 30, 2007

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

More Young Adults Take Cholesterol, Blood Pressure Drugs

The number of young American adults taking cholesterol and blood pressure medications is increasing rapidly, even faster than rates among seniors, says a study released Tuesday by prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc.

Between 2001 and 2006, the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among Medco clients ages 20 to 44 went from 2.5 percent to 4 percent, a 68 percent increase. Translated nationally, that means about 4.2 million Americans in that age group now take cholesterol-lowering drugs, the Associated Press reported.

    • More Young Adults Take Cholesterol, Blood Pressure Drugs
    • Concurrent Sexual Partnerships Common Among U.S. Men
    • U.S. Nursing Home Monthly Rates Increased 3 Percent in 2007
    • Wyeth Recalls Several Cold Medicines
    • Transplant Drug May Cause Birth Defects, Miscarriages, FDA Warns
    • Impaired Driving Common Among High School Seniors

The study also found that the use of blood pressure medicines by people in that age group went from 7 percent in 2001 to more than 8 percent in 2006, a 21 percent increase. That suggests that about 8.5 million Americans ages 20 to 44 take blood pressure drugs.

Among Americans 65 and older, the use of cholesterol drugs increased 52 percent and the use of blood pressure drugs increased by 9.5 percent over the same period, the AP reported.

Higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol among young adults, along with more aggressive preventive treatment by doctors, are likely behind that age group's increased use of these drugs, according to experts.


Concurrent Sexual Partnerships Common Among U.S. Men

Over a one-year period, about 11 percent of 4,928 men included in a study had concurrent sexual relationships, say University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers. They said this type of behavior may be an important contributing factor to the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Rates of concurrent sexual partnerships were higher among black and Hispanic men than in other groups, according to the study. The study also found that men with concurrent partners were more likely: to be unmarried; to have been in jail in the past year; to have had sex while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol; to have had sex with other men; and to have female sex partners who also have concurrent sexual partners.

"All of these findings are cause for concern, because each by itself increases the risk of HIV transmission," lead author Dr. Adaora Adimora, an associate professor in the schools of medicine and public health, said in a prepared statement. "By connecting more people to each other and to people with these risky behaviors, concurrent partnerships may be an important factor in the spread of HIV infection in the United States and in continuing the epidemic transmission of HIV among blacks and Hispanics."

The study is published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.


U.S. Nursing Home Monthly Rates Increased 3 Percent in 2007

In 2007, the cost of private and semi-private nursing home rooms in the United States increased an average of three percent, says a survey released Tuesday by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

The average cost of a private room in 2007 was $213 a day ($77,745 a year), compared with $206 a day in 2006. A semi-private room cost $189 a day in 2007, compared to $183 a day the previous year.

Alaska had the highest nursing home rates ($510 daily) in 2007, while Baton Rouge, La., had the lowest rates ($123 daily).

Assisted living rates remained virtually unchanged, from $2,968 monthly in 2006 to $2,969 a month ($35,628 yearly) in 2007. Assisted living rates were highest in the Washington, D.C., area ($5,031 monthly) and lowest in Indianapolis ($1,963 monthly).


Wyeth Recalls Several Cold Medicines

Due to a dosing cup problem, New Jersey-based drug maker Wyeth on Monday announced a U.S.-wide voluntary recall and replacement program of several nonprescription cold medicines.

The products -- Robitussin Cough DM, Robitussin Cough & Cold CF, Robitussin Cough & Congestion, Robitussin Head & Chest Congestion PE, Robitussin Cough Sugar Free DM, and Children's Dimetapp Cough & Congestion -- come with dosing caps that don't mark the half-teaspoon level recommended for children ages 2 to 5, the Associated Press reported.

Wyeth said consumers with children ages 2 to 5 should not use these products until replacement products with a new dosage cup are available. These products will start appearing on store shelves in early November but it will take a few months to replace the several million products currently in circulation.

No injuries related to the dosing cup issue have been reported and there is no reason for consumers to seek a refund, Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus told the AP.


Transplant Drug May Cause Birth Defects, Miscarriages, FDA Warns

CellCept -- an immune system-suppressing drug used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients -- may cause birth defects and miscarriages, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Monday. The drug is also prescribed to some lupus patients who can't tolerate chemotherapy.

The FDA also said CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil), made by Roche Holding of Switzerland, may also lower blood levels of hormones in birth control, which may reduce their effectiveness at preventing pregnancy, the Associated Press reported.

Women of childbearing age should have a negative pregnancy test within a week of starting to take CellCept, and must use effective contraception and receive birth control counseling, the FDA said.


Impaired Driving Common Among High School Seniors

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of American high school seniors said they'd driven after heavy drug or alcohol use or had been in a car with an impaired driver at least once within the previous two weeks, according to a 2006 survey funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

"These findings are another wake-up call that we cannot afford to be complacent about this great public health risk. This study shows that not only are too many teens putting themselves at risk by driving under the influence of drugs, but that there has been little improvement in the past six years," Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a prepared statement.

Rates of impaired driving among teens declined from 35 percent to 31 percent between 2001 and 2003, and leveled off at just under 30 percent between 2004 and 2006.

The survey appears in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"Most teens are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, yet many ignore it. And many don't seem to recognize the dangers of drinking and driving after using illicit drugs, including marijuana," NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a prepared statement. "Educational efforts need to be targeted to include the dangers of both drinking and drugged driving."