Health Highlights: May 2, 2008

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

FDA Cautious About Expanding Use of Painkiller Fentora

Granting wider approval for the powerful cancer painkiller Fentora could lead to potentially fatal misuse of the drug, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is considering whether to approve the drug to treat pain in non-cancer patients.

An FDA advisory panel will meet Tuesday to discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the agency, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA's cautious attitude is reflected in a review of the suggested new use. Granting approval for wider use of Fentora could encourage "abuse and misuse, and increase the incidence of accidental exposures which ... could potentially have devastating effects," the agency noted.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • FDA Cautious About Expanding Use of Painkiller Fentora
    • FDA Panel to Assess Abuse-Resistant OxyContin
    • In Vitro Fertilization Doesn't Affect Menopause: Study
    • Children's Storage Bins Recalled for Lead Hazard
    • Psoriasis Drug Enbrel Gets Black Box Label Warning
    • Antidepressants May Help Treat Bowel Disorder

Fentora was approved by the FDA in 2006 for treatment of cancer pain in adults who are already taking opioid drugs, which include morphine, codeine and Fentora, the AP reported. But the drug has frequently been used outside those guidelines, resulting in harmful side effects and death in some cases. Drug maker Cephalon has reported five deaths due to improper use of Fentora, the news service said.

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FDA Panel to Assess Abuse-Resistant OxyContin

A new version of the painkiller OxyContin, designed to be harder to abuse, will be evaluated Monday by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel to determine if the reformulated version should be allowed on the market before long-term studies determine if it actually reduces abuse.

The new version has a plastic-like coating that makes it harder to crush and turns it into a gooey mess if someone tries to inject it, according to drug maker Purdue Pharma LP, the Associated Press reported.

After OxyContin was introduced in 1996, abusers quickly found they could get a heroin-like high if they snorted or injected crushed tablets.

In a letter to the advisory panel, Dr. Bob Rappaport, the FDA's chief of painkilling drugs, wrote that "there is no perfect formulation that can resist all forms of tampering." If approved, the label on the new version of OxyContin "would have to be carefully crafted so as to avoid the publication of a road map describing how to defeat these changes," he said.

An abuse-resistant gelatin-like form of the drug is being developed by two other companies, Pain Therapeutics Inc. and King Pharmaceuticals, the AP reported.

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In Vitro Fertilization Doesn't Affect Menopause: Study

Women who have in vitro fertilization (IVF) don't experience early menopause or more severe menopause symptoms, says a British study that's one of the first to examine the long-term effects of the fertility treatment.

The study included about 200 women, average age just over 50, who were among the first to undergo IVF in the 1980s. The age at which they started menopause was comparable with the national average and there was no increase in menopausal symptoms associated with the number of IVF treatments, BBC News reported.

The findings were published online in the journal Reproductive Bio Medicine.

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