Health Highlights: June 18, 2008

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

FDA Approves Breathing Aid Used By Christopher Reeve

A device that helps people with spinal cord injuries breathe without a ventilator for at least four hours at a time has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency said Wednesday.

Actor Christopher Reeve, who died in 2004, first used the then-experimental device a number of years ago, the Associated Press reported. He had been paralyzed below the neck after a horseback riding accident in 1995.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • FDA Approves Breathing Aid Used By Christopher Reeve
    • Tiger Woods Facing Knee Surgery, Out for Season
    • Americans Have to Wait Until 2011 for Generic Lipitor
    • Certain Gene Variants Boost Levels of Good Cholesterol
    • Obese Women Less Likely to Have Cervical Cancer Screening
    • AMA Mum on Menthol Cigarette Exemption

The NeuRX DPS RA/4 Respiratory Stimulation System uses four electrodes to stimulate the diaphragm, a lower abdominal muscle that's essential for breathing. People who are paralyzed due to spinal cord injury often lose control of the muscle, which contracts when a person inhales and relaxes when a person exhales.

"While the NeuRx RA/4 does not cure paralysis of the diaphragm, allowing patients to be free from a mechanical ventilator for at least four hours a day may enhance their quality of life," Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

The device is manufactured by Synapse Biomedical Inc., in Oberlin, Ohio.

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Tiger Woods Facing Knee Surgery, Out for Season

Golf legend Tiger Woods will miss the remainder of the 2008 season to have reconstructive surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

Woods tore the ligament last summer while running near his Orlando, Fla. home, he said on his Web site. In April, he had arthroscopic surgery on the area, and while recovering, sustained a double stress fracture of the left tibia, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The announcement came two days after Woods' dramatic victory at the U.S. Open in San Diego after a 19-hole sudden death playoff. Despite the win, he had a noticeable limp and often winced after making shots.

Woods said he had hoped to avoid reconstructive surgery until after the season ended. There had been no prior mention of an ACL injury, the newspaper said.

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Americans Have to Wait Until 2011 for Generic Lipitor

Generic versions of the cholesterol drug Lipitor won't be available in the United States until Nov. 30, 2011, under the terms of a patent dispute agreement reached between Pfizer Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. of India.

"The agreement provides patients with access to a generic product much earlier than if Ranbaxy were unsuccessful in obtaining approval for its product and overcoming the relevant patents," Ian Read, president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations for Pfizer, said in a prepared statement, the Associated Press reported.

Along with giving more certainty to the timing of generic versions of Lipitor, the agreement gives Pfizer more time to develop replacements for Lipitor before generic versions of the drug go on the market.

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