Health Highlights: June 2, 2009

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

FDA to Warn of Antidepressants' Impact on Tamoxifen: Report

The U.S. government plans to warn doctors that the interaction between the breast-cancer drug tamoxifen and popular antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft increases the risk of breast-cancer recurrence, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A study that included about 1,300 women found that the drug combination increases the risk of breast-cancer recurrence from the normal rate of 7.5 percent to 16 percent. As a result of the findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would alert doctors to the negative interaction, the Journal said.

    • FDA to Warn of Antidepressants' Impact on Tamoxifen: Report
    • Slower Growth in Health Spending Would Boost U.S. Economy: Report
    • Experts Concerned About Popularity of Electronic Cigarettes
    • Possible Link Between Air Pollution and Abdominal Pain: Study

The study, led by researchers at Medco Health Solutions Inc., found that tamoxifen does not have this negative association with all antidepressants. Women who took drugs such as Celexa, Lexapro and Luvox didn't have a statistically higher rate of breast-cancer recurrence.

The findings were released last weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Tamoxifen is used to prevent the return of estrogen-dependent tumors, one of the most common types of breast cancer.


Slower Growth in Health Spending Would Boost U.S. Economy: Report

The national economy would benefit if growth in health-care spending slowed from 6 percent per year to 4.5 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by President Obama's chief economic advisers.

The Council of Economic Advisers said such a change would create as many as 500,000 jobs a year and boost annual income for the average annual family of four by $2,600 over the next decade, the Washington Post reported.

In addition, cutting costs while extending coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans would remove "unnecessary barriers" to job mobility, improve the federal budget outlook and benefit the nation's overall economic well-being by about $100 billion a year, the council predicted.

However, they offered few details about how those goals would be achieved and didn't discuss any increased federal spending required to implement health reform, the Post reported.


Experts Concerned About Popularity of Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, but the unapproved and virtually unstudied products have government officials and medical experts worried, The New York Times reported.

Safety claims about e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine, are unfounded since their components have never been tested.

"We basically don't know anything about them. They've never been tested for safety or efficacy to help people stop smoking," Dr. Richard D. Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic, told the Times.

Novelty, ease of access and enticing flavors may tempt children to use e-cigarettes, public health officials worry.

"It looks like a cigarette and is marketed as a cigarette. There's nothing that prevents youth from getting addicted to nicotine," Jonathon P. Winickoff, an associate professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, told the Times.


Possible Link Between Air Pollution and Abdominal Pain: Study

Air pollution may be to blame for many cases of non-specific abdominal pain, say Canadian researchers who compared data on 120,000 patients and levels of air pollution such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

The study found that nearly two-thirds of hospital visits for non-specific abdominal pain were by women, the majority ages 15-24. Young women were more likely to seek treatment for non-specific abdominal pain on days when there were elevated levels of air pollution, United Press International reported.

Young women may be most susceptible because they're at increased risk for functional motility disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, the researchers said.

The study was to be presented Wednesday at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago, UPI reported.