Health Highlights: April 10, 2008

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

Organ-Rejection Drugs Linked to Nervous System Disorder: FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is reviewing data involving a link between two drugs used to prevent organ rejection after transplant and a rare central nervous system disorder called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

Use of CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) and Myfortic (mycophenolic acid) may lead to the sometimes fatal disorder, the FDA said. PML usually affects people with weakened immune systems.

Roche, the maker of CellCept, has provided the agency with data showing that PML can be a rare side effect, and the company is recommending that an advisory be added to the drug's label. The FDA said it also has asked the maker of Myfortic, Novartis, to provide any PML data associated with the drug's use.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Organ-Rejection Drugs Linked to Nervous System Disorder: FDA
    • Suicide Leading Cause of Violent Death in U.S.
    • U.S. Postpartum Depression Rates Vary
    • Chocolate-Covered Almonds and Peanuts Recalled
    • U.S. Wastes $1.2 Trillion in Health-Care Spending Each Year: Report
    • Global Study Examines Osteoporosis Management
    • Intestinal Nerves May Play Role in Blood Sugar Control

PML's symptoms may include vision changes, loss of coordination, memory loss, difficulty speaking or understanding others, and leg weakness.

The FDA said during the ongoing review, patients shouldn't change the way they use either medication.

In October, the agency warned that CellCept could cause birth defects and miscarriages, and could also weaken the effectiveness of certain birth control drugs.

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Suicide Leading Cause of Violent Death in U.S.

In 2005, violent deaths claimed the lives of 15,962 people in 16 states, according to data collected by the National Violent Death Reporting System. The study was included in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The majority (56.1 percent) of these deaths were suicides, followed by homicides and deaths involving legal intervention (29.6 percent), deaths of undetermined intent (13.3 percent), and unintentional firearm deaths (0.7 percent).

The study also found that intimate partner violence and relationship problems, mental health problems, and drug and alcohol use at the time of death were common precipitating factors. In nearly 87 percent of cases where homicide was followed by the suicide of a suspect, a personal crisis occurred in the two weeks prior to the incident.

Former or current military personal accounted for 20 percent of all suicides.

Each year in the United States, about 50,000 people (137 per day) suffer a violent death. Programs to enhance social problem-solving and coping skills, and skills for dealing with stressful life events, may help reduce violence, the study authors said.

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U.S. Postpartum Depression Rates Vary

The prevalence of postpartum depression in 17 U.S. states in 2004-2005 ranged from 11.7 percent in Maine to 20.4 percent in New Mexico, a new study concludes.

It also found that younger women, women with less education, and women who received Medicaid benefits for their deliveries were more likely than other women to report postpartum depression. State and local health departments should assess the effectiveness of targeting mental health services to these mothers, the study authors said.

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