Health Highlights: Jan. 26, 2009

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

Heartburn Drugs May Neutralize Plavix

U.S. health officials are studying reports that the action of the popular blood thinner Plavix can be neutralized by some heartburn medications, the Associated Press reported.

Plavix, used to prevent deadly blood clots, has been prescribed to more than 90 million people worldwide. Because it can upset the stomach, Plavix (generic name clopidogrel) is often prescribed with heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors.

A few months ago, researchers reported that patients taking Plavix and these heartburn drugs had a significantly increased risk of hospitalization for chest pain, heart attack or stroke. The heartburn drugs may interfere with a liver enzyme need to metabolize Plavix, the researchers suggested.

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In a statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it's important to fully understand the interaction between Plavix and proton pump inhibitors. The FDA also said there's no evidence that another family of heartburn drugs called H2 blockers interfere with Plavix, the AP reported.

For now, patients should continue taking Plavix but doctors should be cautious when prescribing heartburn drugs to patients taking the blood thinner, the FDA said.


Imported Diet Pills May Contain Amphetamines: Study

Consumers and doctors need to know that illegal diet pills from South America may contain amphetamines, warns a U.S. physician.

The majority of amphetamine-based diet suppressants have been banned in the United States, but many are still prescribed in South America and other parts of the world, said Dr. Pieter Cohen, of Cambridge Health Alliance and the Harvard Medical School, United Press International reported.

He said many American doctors aren't aware of these diet pills and need to know about the number of serious side effects they can cause in order to identify and treat patients with unexplained symptoms, such as chest pains, palpitations, headaches and insomnia.

In his study, Cohen reviewed two case reports of patients who took illegal diet pills that contained amphetamines. In one case, a woman's mysterious symptoms stopped after she stopped taking imported diet pills. The second case involves a man suspended from work after testing positive for amphetamines he ingested while taking imported diet pills, UPI reported.

The study appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


Drug Giant Pfizer to Buy Rival Wyeth

Pfizer Inc., the world's largest pharmaceutical company, has announced an agreement to buy one of its rivals, Wyeth, for $68 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Wyeth's biggest over-the-counter seller is the pain medication Advil (ibuprofen), which is the largest OTC ibuprofen brand sold in America. Its prescription drugs include the anti-depressant Effexor, acid reflux inhibitor Protonix, the pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar and the female hormone replacement drug Premarin.

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