Health Highlights: May 4, 2008

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.

Doctors long ago dismissed fears that stimulating the ovaries to generate eggs required for IVF treatment may speed up the ovaries' decline. This study provides needed clinical evidence, the researchers said.

The study findings weren't surprising, but it "nonetheless is a very helpful study indeed," Laurence Shaw, spokesman for the British Fertility Society, told BBC News.

"This is a question patients often ask -- and it's very useful to finally have a scientific study to point to which offers them reassurance that IVF will not affect the timing or severity of the menopause," Shaw said.

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