Health Highlights: Jan. 10, 2009

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

CDC Director Gerberding Submits Resignation

The first woman to head the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has submitted her resignation, the Associated Press has learned.

The wire service reports it obtained a copy of Dr. Julie Gerberding's resignation e-mail to employees at the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC's parent agency. William Gimson, the CDC's chief operating officer, will be interim director after Barack Obama becomes president, the AP reports, but no permanent successor has been announced.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • CDC Director Gerberding Submits Resignation
    • FDA Delays Decision on Gardasil Approval for Older Women
    • Consumers Union Urges Expanded Testing of Infant Formula

Gerberding became CDC director in July 2002, after joining the agency in 1998 as an infectious disease specialist. There had been some speculation she would remain as the agency's director, the AP reports, but her resignation, effective Jan. 20, was accepted by the Obama transition team.

The CDC investigates disease outbreaks and is the official government record-keeper of U.S. health statistics.

Gerberding has been considered an effective communicator, the wire service reports, but a number of problems occurred during her time in office.

These included a shortage of flu vaccine in 2003 and 2004; the departure of a number of CDC scientists during a reorganization she ordered; the CDC's response time to complaints about formaldehyde levels in trailers being provided to Hurricane Katrina survivors, and what was explained as a "computer glitch" when Gerberding reported that obesity had surpassed smoking as the top cause of death in the United States.

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FDA Delays Decision on Gardasil Approval for Older Women

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asked drug maker Merck & Co. for more information before it decides whether to expand approval for Gardasil, a human papillomavirus vaccine, Merck said Friday.

Gardasil is currently approved for females ages 9 to 26. Merck has asked the FDA to widen approval for its use in women aged 27 to 45, the Associated Press reported. The drug is designed to guard against HPV, which is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

The FDA wants additional data from an ongoing 48-month study of Gardasil, the wire service said. The agency's action does not affect currently approved uses or Merck's application to approve the drug for use in males ages 9 to 26.

The vaccine costs about $360 for the three required doses, and some experts have said it's not cost-effective for older women, Dow Jones news service reported. A Harvard study funded by the U.S. government and published last year, found the vaccine was cost-effective for girls, but not for females in their 20s, the AP said.

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Consumers Union Urges Expanded Testing of Infant Formula

Consumers Union urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday to expand testing of infant formula for melamine and related compounds, and to recall all contaminated products.

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