Health Highlights: Oct. 19, 2008

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

Canada to Ban Baby Bottles Made With Bisphenol A

Canada has moved to ban plastic baby bottles containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used around the world in hundreds of household items, food can linings, and eyeglass lenses, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

The ban, which makes Canada the first country to classify the chemical as toxic, takes effect six months after its health ministry labeled BPA as dangerous. That report found BPA can leach from products into the environment and into people, especially newborns and infants. BPA is used in infant bottles, for example, to harden the plastic, making it more shatterproof, according to AP.

    • Canada to Ban Baby Bottles Made With Bisphenol A
    • Democratic Fundraiser Gets Unapproved Multiple Myeloma Drug
    • Psoriasis Drug Raptiva Gets Black Box Warning on Infections
    • Recalled Cribs Pose Suffocation and Entrapment Hazard
    • 'Stayin' Alive' May Help Save Lives
    • Social Security Benefits to Rise 5.8% in 2009

Several U.S. states are considering restricting BPA use, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is awaiting an independent risk assessment from a scientific panel later this month, the wire service said. Both the European Union and the FDA currently say the chemical is safe.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the world's largest trade group representing makers of food, beverage and consumer products, said Canada's action on BPA use was disproportional to the risk determined by public health agencies, the AP reported. But advocates of a ban on BPA use note that traces of the chemical can be found in more than 90 percent of Americans, and that previous studies have linked it to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive and hormonal problems, and hyperactivity in lab animals.


Democratic Fundraiser Gets Unapproved Multiple Myeloma Drug

Despite a drug maker's refusal to grant permission, a prominent Democratic fundraiser is being treated with a drug that's unapproved to treat multiple myeloma.

A "legal basis" was found that cleared the way for the drug Tysabri to be given to 61-year-old Fred Baron, who has late-stage multiple myeloma, his son Andrew Baron said in an email to the Associated Press. The drug was obtained through the Mayo Clinic, which consulted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Biogen Idec Inc, which makes Tysabri, didn't approve Baron's use of the drug because the regulatory risks of giving him special access to the drug are too great, said company spokeswoman Naomi Aoki.

Tysabri has been approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis. The drug's use to treat multiple myeloma is in the early clinical trial stage, the AP reported.


Psoriasis Drug Raptiva Gets Black Box Warning on Infections

The psoriasis drug Raptiva must now carry a black box warning -- the most serious kind -- about the risk of life-threatening infections, including a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

Earlier this week, California-based drug maker Genentech said a 70-year-old patient taking Raptiva died after developing PML. A Genentech spokeswoman told Bloomberg news it was the only confirmed case of PML in a patient taking Raptiva.

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