Health Highlights: June 30, 2008

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

Experimental Alzheimer's Drug Ineffective

The experimental Alzheimer's drug Flurizan produced disappointing results in a late-stage clinical trial and development of the drug will be halted, Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics announced Monday.

Compared to a placebo, the drug didn't improve thinking ability by a statistically significant amount, nor did it improve patients' abilities to do daily activities, The New York Times reported.

The drug -- designed to prevent the buildup of toxic amyloid plaques in the brain believed to cause Alzheimer's -- was one of the first of its kind to reach late-stage testing. The failure of Flurizan may raise doubts about the role of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's and about other experimental drugs designed to combat the plaques.

    • Experimental Alzheimer's Drug Ineffective
    • Personal Characteristics Often Used to Determine HIV/STD Risk
    • England's Smoking Ban Could Save 40,000 Lives in a Decade: Study
    • Glaucoma Could Blind 8.4 Million Asians by 2010
    • White House Delays Medicare Fee Cuts
    • Hospital Offers Workers Free Weight Watchers Programs
    • BMI Not Effective for Tracking Children's Exercise

Two such drugs are currently in late-stage testing, the Times reported.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Nature suggested that gamma-secretase modulators such as Flurizan showed potential for treating Alzheimer's. The study said these drugs reduce the production of long pieces of amyloid beta protein that stick together and form clumps, while increasing production of shorter amyloid beta that blocks longer amyloid beta from sticking together, HealthDay News reported.


Personal Characteristics Often Used to Determine HIV/STD Risk

The length of time a person has known someone is often used to determine a sexual partner's risk of having HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, says a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The researchers had 317 people at Canadian STD clinics complete questionnaires. All the participants were questioned on their first clinic visit and hadn't been diagnosed with an STD, United Press International reported.

Knowing or trusting a partner was found to influence a person's beliefs about their partner's STD-related risk. People who were well-educated and had higher incomes were more often considered "safe," said the study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

The researchers said their findings suggest that many people rely on partner/relationship characteristics when considering a partner's STD/HIV status, and reliance on these factors is associated with a decreased perception of personal STD/HIV risk, UPI reported.


England's Smoking Ban Could Save 40,000 Lives in a Decade: Study

Since England banned smoking in public places last July, more than 400,000 people have quit smoking, says a study that estimates the smoking ban will save 40,000 lives over the next decade.

Researchers with the Smoking Toolkit Study interviewed more than 32,000 smokers and ex-smokers during the nine months before the ban and nine months afterward, Agence France Presse reported.

In the nine months preceding the ban, there was a 1.6 percent decline in smoking in England, compared to a 5.5 percent decline in the nine months after the ban took effect.

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