Health Highlights: Aug. 18, 2008

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

2 Deaths Reported Among Users of Byetta, a Diabetes Drug

Two deaths have resulted from six recent cases of pancreatitis among users of the diabetes drug Byetta, marketed by drug makers Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The other four pancreatitis patients are recovering, the Associated Press reported. The FDA is working on stronger labeling for the drug after the recent deaths, which came despite earlier government warnings about users' increased risk of acute pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

    • 2 Deaths Reported Among Users of Byetta, a Diabetes Drug
    • Video Games Help Players Acquire Skills
    • Expectations Affect College Students' Self-Esteem
    • Honest University Students Braver Than Cheaters
    • New Drug May Prevent Fibrosis
    • Australian Doctors Call for Gardasil Review
    • Barracks for Wounded Soldiers Full of Mold

The injected drug is marketed for people with type 2 diabetes. It has been used by more than 700,000 people since being approved in June 2005, the AP said.

The drug companies issued a statement warning that among people taking Byetta there are "very rare case reports of pancreatitis with complications or with a fatal outcome." Diabetics are already at greater-than-normal risk of pancreatitis, the companies said.

Monday's FDA announcement was preceded last October by its warning that there had been 30 reports of pancreatitis among Byetta users. In that announcement, the FDA warned that people should stop taking the drug if they developed symptoms of acute pancreatitis, including nausea and abdominal pain.


Video Games Help Players Acquire Skills

Video games may provide many benefits, ranging from improving youngsters' problem-solving abilities to improving surgeons' skills, suggest studies presented at the American Psychological Association meeting in Boston.

One study of 122 students in Grades 5, 6 and 7 found that playing video games seemed to encourage the younger students' planning and problem-solving abilities, the Associated Press reported.

Another study found that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors than their non-gamer colleagues.

A third study looked at the popular online fantasy game World of Warcraft, in which players who work together have more success. The researchers concluded the game encourages scientific thinking, such as using math and testing to investigate problems, the AP reported.

However, other studies presented at the meeting did confirm that those who play violent games tend to be more hostile, less forgiving and more likely to believe that violence is normal than those who don't play violent games.


Expectations Affect College Students' Self-Esteem

College students and their parents often have differing perceptions of expectations, which can cause self-esteem problems for students, says a University of Central Florida study.

Researchers surveyed 174 students and 230 of their parents about their perceptions of personal maturity, academic achievement, dating and communication, United Press International reported.

While most students were meeting or exceeding their parents' expectations, many of the students believed they were falling short. These students reported lower self-esteem and more difficulty adjusting to college, said the study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

In a related study, University of Central Florida researchers found that students who said they had at least one authoritative parent (who combines a demanding nature, warmth and democracy) adjust better to college than those with parents who are too authoritarian, neglectful or permissive, UPI reported.

The findings were published in the Journal of Family Issues.


Honest University Students Braver Than Cheaters

The "bravest" students are least likely to cheat, according to two U.S. studies of more than 400 students at Ohio State University.

The researchers found that students who didn't cheat scored higher than cheaters in tests of courage, empathy and honesty. These "academic heroes" have a more positive view of others, noted study leader Professor Sara Staats, BBC News reported.

"Students who don't cheat seem to be in the minority, and have plenty of opportunities to see their peers cheat and receive the rewards with little risk of punishment," she said. "We see avoiding cheating as a form of everyday heroism in an academic setting.

The study was presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Boston.

The honest students "probably have stronger personalities and are less likely to give into temptation," Dr. Paul Seagar, spokesperson for the British Psychological Society, told BBC News.

Previous studies found that 50 percent to 80 percent of university students admitted to cheating.


New Drug May Prevent Fibrosis

Australian scientists say they've developed a drug that may prevent fibrosis, a potentially fatal build-up of scarring on internal organs that's caused by diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Currently, there are no treatments on the market for fibrosis.

The researchers said the drug, called FT-11, prevented fibrosis in rats, and human clinical trials could begin within 12 months, Agence France Presse reported.

The drug wouldn't prevent diabetes, but could prevent diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease and heart disease.

"We are hoping to delay or prevent those complications which would basically keep those patients off dialysis -- which would have a huge benefit for their lifestyle," Professor Darren Kelly, of the University of Melbourne, told AFP.

He said about 45 percent of diseases in the developed world are associated with some form of pathological fibrosis.


Australian Doctors Call for Gardasil Review

A major review of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil needs to be conducted, a group of Australian doctors urged after three women developed pancreatitis soon after receiving the vaccine, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Two of the women are well and the third remains under the care of a gastroenterologist.

"We suggest that pancreatitis be considered in cases of abdominal pain following HPV vaccination," the doctors wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Their concerns prompted Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to investigate if the vaccine does pose a threat to patients.

Gardasil maker CSL is confident the vaccine is safe and effective but will investigate the reported cases of pancreatitis, said company spokeswoman Rachel David, the Morning Herald reported.


Barracks for Wounded Soldiers Full of Mold

Barracks set up a year ago at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., to improve treatment of wounded soldiers are infested with mold, a group of soldiers told USA Today. They said their complaints about mold and other problems were ignored for months.

The 20 soldiers also said they'd been ordered not to speak about the conditions in the barracks, which were established after poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center prompted a wide-ranging overhaul of the U.S. Army's wounded-care system. As part of that effort, Warrior Transition Units were created to expedite the care and treatment of soldiers.

Last week, officers at Fort Still ordered the replacement of ventilation ducts in two barracks and said soldiers should be surveyed about any concerns, USA Today reported.

It was "inappropriate" for soldiers to be ordered not to talk about the mold, said commanding officer Gen. Peter Vangjel.