Health Highlights: Dec. 17, 2008

"As a result, hospitals have little choice but to pay Ovation's price," the FTC said in the lawsuit. "The artificially high prices that hospitals are forced to pay ultimately raise costs for families, tax-supported programs such as Medicaid, and other public and private insurers."

Ovation disputed the FTC's allegations, the AP reported.


Gene Mutation Effects Should Be Listed on Cancer Drug Labels: Lilly, Amgen

Instructions on the cancer drugs Erbitux and Vectibix should include information on a gene mutation that affects whether the medicines will work, drug makers Eli Lilly & Co. and Amgen Inc. told U.S. regulators Tuesday.

Recent research showed that a mutation in the KRAS gene renders the drugs ineffective in colon cancer patients. Overall, the drugs reduced by 30 percent the risk of a patient's colon cancer worsening. However, more detailed analyses showed that patients with KRAS mutations fared much worse than those with a normal KRAS gene, Bloomberg news reported.

An FDA advisory panel met Tuesday to discuss data on the KRAS gene mutation. The advisers said new types of analyses may be required to better screen people for gene mutations, and they also suggested larger clinical trials may be necessary to determine other biochemical influences on drug performance.

"Two companies have come to us to try to create a situation where they sell less products. This is the first time I've seen this at the FDA," said advisory panel member Derek Raghavan, director of the Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, Bloomberg reported.

The FDA is currently working to identify genes that interact with medications. The agency already requires patients to undergo genetic testing before they're prescribed certain drugs.


Actor Peter Falk Has Alzheimer's, Daughter Says

Actor Peter Falk, best known as the disheveled TV detective Columbo, whose "Just one more thing" became a household phrase, has developed Alzheimer's disease and no longer recognizes people, according to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Associated Press reported.

The papers were filed by the 81-year-old Falk's daughter, Catherine Falk, requesting a conservatorship of his assets. A hearing has been scheduled for late January, the AP said.

People magazine's online edition quoted Catherine Falk's petition as saying that her father "requires full-time custodial care for his health and safety," and that she was worried he could "easily be deceived into transferring away property."

Falk, who has won five Emmys and a Golden Globe award, also has been an Academy Award nominee twice. He lives in Beverly Hills with his wife, actress Shera Danese.


Cleveland Clinic Announces First U.S. Face Transplant

The United States' first almost total face transplant was done a few weeks ago at the Cleveland Clinic, it was announced Tuesday.

About 80 percent of a woman's face was replaced with that of a dead female donor. The procedure was performed by reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Associated Press reported.

The Cleveland Clinic did not release the name or age of the transplant recipient, and has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday.

The world's first face transplant was conducted three years ago on a French woman who'd been mauled by her dog, the AP reported. Since then, two other face transplants have been performed: on a Chinese farmer attacked by a bear, and on a European man disfigured by a genetic condition.

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