Health Highlights: Aug. 8, 2008

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

Interaction Between Cholesterol, Heart Meds May Cause Muscle Damage

People who take the anti-cholesterol drugs Zocor (generic: simvastatin) or Vytorin along with a medication to control irregular heartbeat are at increased risk of severe muscle damage, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Friday.

Zocor and Vytorin, which contains the active ingredient in Zocor, are statins, and muscle damage is a known but rare side effect of the drugs. The heart rhythm drug is called either Cordarone or Pacerone (generic: amiodarone). The danger rises among those who take more than 20 milligrams daily of the cholesterol drugs, according to the agency warning cited by the Associated Press.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Interaction Between Cholesterol, Heart Meds May Cause Muscle Damage
    • Pandemic Flu Biggest Threat to U.K.: Report
    • Study Examines Possible Link Between Gluten/Dairy and Autism
    • Fertility Treatments Offer Little Benefit For Some Couples
    • Circumcision May Reduce Risk of HIV Infection by 65 Percent
    • Gum Disease May Increase Risk of Diabetes

The FDA first warned in 2002 about an interaction between the two types of medications, but that hasn't prevented the problem, the AP reported. Over the past six years, the agency has gathered 52 reports of serious muscle damage among people who took both medicines.

Most of those injuries required hospitalization, the wire service said.

The FDA warned that people who are taking the heart rhythm drug should switch to a different statin to control cholesterol.

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Pandemic Flu Biggest Threat to U.K.: Report

The most serious danger facing the U.K. over the next five years is pandemic flu, not terrorism, according to a national threat assessment released Friday by Britain's Cabinet Office.

The document's authors assessed the level of risk posed by a number of threats, including terrorism, extreme weather, climate change and pandemic flu, the Associated Press reported.

The document doesn't actually rank the threats in order of seriousness, but does say that pandemic flu is considered the most pressing concern, according to a Cabinet Office spokeswoman.

Previous government assessments concluded that a pandemic flu outbreak could kill as many as 750,000 people in Britain and that it could take as long as several months to develop vaccines to deal with a specific strain of the virus, the AP reported.

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Study Examines Possible Link Between Gluten/Dairy Products and Autism

A study to investigate whether gluten or dairy products contribute to autistic behavior is being conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston.

The double-blind clinical study will include 38 autistic children, ages 3 to 9. All of them will be taken off gluten (a protein in wheat) and dairy products before the start of the four-week study. When the study begins, half the children will be given gluten/milk powder and half will be given a placebo powder, United Press International reported.

Some parents of autistic children believe casomorphin (a peptide in milk) and gliadomorphin (a peptide in gluten) affect their children's behavior.

"There's a lot of misinformation, so that's why this study is so important. Hundreds and hundreds of parents think [changing diet] works but we need serious evidence," lead investigator Dr. Fernando Navarro said in a news release cited by UPI.

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