Health Highlights: May 4, 2008

Keeping in mind the expected large influx of people from other countries for the 2008 Olympics in August, the Chinese government said preventing the spread of EV-71 was necessary "to guarantee the smooth staging of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics and to practically preserve social stability," the A.P. reported.


Medical Society to Review Lyme Disease Antibiotic Treatment Guidelines

It took the Connecticut attorney general's office to negotiate an agreement, but a national professional medical group has agreed to review guidelines that currently regard long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease to be untested, uncertain and probably unnecessary.

The reason this is important, the Associated Press reports, is that most health insurers will pay only for short-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, ironically named after Lyme, Conn., where it was first identified in 1975.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America has agreed to review its guidelines after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office conducted an antitrust investigation that found some of the 14 experts who approved the 2006 guidelines for short-term only antibiotic treatment were paid as consultants or had stock in drug companies associated with Lyme disease treatment, the wire service reported.

The professional society agreed to review its Lyme disease guidelines, its president told the A.P., because doctors would comprise the review panel. "We are confident that our guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease represent the best advice that medicine currently has to offer ... and we look forward to the opportunity to put to rest any questions about them," Dr. Donald Poretz, told the wire service.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of a tick, usually a deer tick, and is diagnosed by the appearance of a round rash and causes joint aches and fever. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

Most professional medical groups say short-term (30 days) heavy antibiotic treatment can treat Lyme, but many victims maintain the drugs are needed for a much longer period of time to make the condition manageable.

Connecticut continues to lead the nation with most reported Lyme disease cases each year, the A.P. reports. About 20,000 cases are reported nationally.


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.

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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