Health Highlights: Jan. 21, 2008

So far this season, 26 states have reported moderate flu activity. There are about 40 million doses of flu vaccine still available and parents should get themselves and their children vaccinated, said Dr. Matthew M. Davies, director of the National Poll on Children's Health.

"National efforts to prevent an influenza epidemic in the U.S. hinge on broad flu vaccination of the public before flu season hits," David said in a prepared statement.


Cell Phones May Disrupt Sleep: Study

Talking on a cell phone before bedtime may disrupt your sleep. So says a cell phone industry-funded study conducted by researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

They found that radiation from a cell phone can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion and may reduce the amount of deep sleep, thus interfering with the body's ability to refresh itself, BBC News reported.

The study included 35 men and 36 women, ages 18 to 45. Some were exposed to radiation equivalent to that received when using a cell phone, while others received only "sham" exposure.

The volunteers exposed to radiation took longer to enter the first of the deeper stages of sleep, and spent less time in the deepest stage, than those not exposed to radiation, BBC News reported.

The findings "strongly suggest that mobile phone use is associated with specific changes in the areas of the brain responsible for activating and coordinating the stress system," said researcher Professor Bengt Arnetz, BBC News reported.


Off-Label Use of Biliary Stents to Treat PVD Increasing: Study

Off-label use of biliary stents is increasing and the majority of adverse events and device malfunctions involving such stents occur during off-label use, says a U.S. study published Monday in the American Journal of Therapeutics.

In the United States, biliary stents are approved as a palliative treatment for cancer patients who've developed bile duct obstructions. But these stents are often used for off-label treatments, especially for peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

"Our study found that more than one million patients received biliary stents for off-label treatments between 2003 and 2006," study senior author Dr. William Maisel, a cardiologist and director of the Medical Device Safety Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a prepared statement. "We also found that more than 80 percent of the reported adverse events and device malfunctions associated with these products have occurred during off-label use."

Between 2003 to 2006, the use of biliary stents in PVD patients increased 21.4 percent, from 227,145 to 275,795.

There is little data supporting the clinical effectiveness and safety of biliary stents in PVD patients, the researchers noted.

"Our analysis raises several important issues," Maisel said. "The frequent off-label use of biliary stents for treatment of peripheral vascular disease implies an unmet need in the management of these patients. With the aging of the U.S. population, the number of patients with vascular disease can be expected to grow. Efforts should be directed at improving the evaluation of devices used to treat peripheral vascular disease in order to better identify those patients that will most benefit from this promising therapy."


FDA Review: Sale of OTC Cholesterol Drug Poses Risks

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