Health Highlights: June 16, 2008

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

FDA Wants New Warnings for Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug: Report

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants an updated label for Amgen Inc.'s Enebrel to include warnings that the rheumatoid arthritis drug can be deadly when taken by children, and that the drug can cause serious infections in adults, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

In documents posted on its Web site, the FDA said infections, malignancies and neurological problems have been reported among children who have used the drug. These problems are similar to those experienced by some adults, the newspaper reported.

    • FDA Wants New Warnings for Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug: Report
    • Naltrexone May Help Problem Gamblers: Study
    • Group Urges End of Shower Curtains Containing Harmful Chemical
    • Pilot Project Tests Cell Phones in TB Fight
    • Care of Female Veterans Lags at Some VA Hospitals: Report

Enebrel is used to treat RA in adults and children and the skin disorder psoriasis in adults. While the drug's use in children is thought to be limited, the FDA said the number of life-threatening pediatric reactions disclosed to the agency's adverse event reporting database was "concerning," the Journal said.

Amgen has applied to the FDA to expand Enebrel's approved usage to include treating children with moderate-to-severe psoriasis. An expert panel advising the agency is set to consider whether to recommend the application when it meets Wednesday, the newspaper said. The full agency isn't bound to follow the suggestions of its advisory panels, but usually does.

"Given these considerable risks associated with [Enebrel], the benefit of this therapy in children with plaque psoriasis would need to be substantial in order to justify its approval and usage in the pediatric plaque psoriasis population," the agency said.


Naltrexone May Help Problem Gamblers: Study

The drug naltrexone, widely used to treat alcohol addition, may also help people with a gambling problem, according to a University of Minnesota study of people who gambled for six to 32 hours a week.

The researchers had 58 men and women take doses between 50 milligrams and 150 milligrams of naltrexone every day for 18 weeks, while 19 others took a placebo. Of the 49 people in the treatment group who completed the study, 40 percent quit gambling for at least one month, compared with 10 percent of those in the placebo group, United Press International reported.

Participants who took the drug also reported a significant decline in the intensity and frequency of their urge to gamble. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Naltrexone isn't a cure for gambling, but does offer hope to problem gamblers, said study author Dr. Jon Grant, UPI reported.

"This is good news for people who have a gambling problem. This is the first time people have a proven medication that can help them get their behavior under control," Grant said in a prepared statement.


Environmental Group Urges End of Shower Curtains Containing Harmful Chemical

For most of us, the only association we make between a plastic shower curtain and death is the memorable scene with Janet Leigh in the shower right before she meets a very bad end in the movie Psycho.

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