Health Highlights: Nov. 1, 2008

Nov. 2 -- Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

FDA OKs New Drug for Overactive Bladder

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new drug to help people who struggle with an overactive bladder.

The drug, Toviaz (fesoterodine fumarate), made by German manufacturer Schwarz Pharma, works by relaxing the smooth muscle tissue of the bladder, reducing frequent urination, the urge to urinate, and sudden urinary incontinence, the Associated Press reported.

"Patients who suffer from overactive bladder face quality of life issues that can hamper their ability to enjoy life to its fullest," Dr. George Benson, deputy director of the FDA's Division of Reproductive and Urologic Products, said in a news release. "This new drug will provide an additional treatment option to help them manage problems with an overactive bladder."

Toviaz, to be taken once a day by adults only, will be available by prescription only.

The FDA said it approved Toviaz based on the results of two studies involving more than 1,000 people with the disorder. Common side effects were dry mouth and constipation; less frequently reported side effects were dry eyes and trouble emptying the bladder, the AP said.

-----

Consumer Group Questions Safety of Nanoparticles in Sunscreens

Four out of five mineral-based sunscreens that claim not to contain nanoparticles actually do contain them, says a report released Friday by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

The organization urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct a full-scale safety review of nanoparticles in sunscreens.

"The widespread use of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreen is involving consumers in a vast experiment as to the safety of these products," Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, said in a news release.

"These very tiny nano-sized particles are known to have different properties than the conventional versions of these chemicals and could be harmful to health. The FDA should require safety data for all these nanoparticles, and at the very least, they should require companies to be truthful about whether or not they are using nano-ingredients," Hansen said.

According to Consumers Union, the four sunscreens that claimed not to contain nanoparticles, but did contain them, were: Aubrey Organics Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen; Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen; Kiss My Face SPF 30+ Sun Screen with oat protein complex; and Mexitan SPF 30 Sunscreen. Zinka Colored Nosecoat was the only one of the five that contained no nanoparticles, the group said.

-----

China Widens Melamine Investigation

The investigation into melamine-contaminated food in China is being widened, Chinese officials said Friday as there was more evidence that the toxic industrial chemical is widespread in the nation's animal feed supplies.

Earlier this week, food safety tests showed the eggs produced in three different provinces were contaminated with melamine, which has been blamed for causing kidney stones and renal failure in infants who consumed milk products tainted with the chemical. The egg test results triggered recalls and consumer warnings, The New York Times reported.

Hong Kong officials announced earlier this week that a wide variety of Chinese-produced foods -- including vegetables, flour and meat products -- would be tested for melamine.

The reports of contaminated Chinese foods are causing concern worldwide, the Times reported.

Also Friday, BBC News reported that the addition of melamine to animal feed in China is likely routine and an "open secret," according to reports published in several state newspapers.

As a whole, the animal feed industry in China seems to have decided to use melamine to reduce production costs while maintaining the protein count for quality inspections, said an editorial in the state-run China Daily.

The Nanfang Daily said the practice of mixing melamine into animal feed was an "open secret."

Experts noted that the articles in the Chinese newspapers were unusual and may amount to a tacit government admission that melamine contamination could affect a large portion of the nation's food supply, BBC News reported.

Melamine-tainted milk killed at least four babies in China and sickened tens of thousands.

-----

Light Drinking During Pregnancy OK, Study Suggests

Drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy doesn't increase the risk of cognitive or behavioral problems in children, according to a study by researchers at University College London in England.

They looked at 12,500 three-year-olds and found that boys born to light drinkers (a range of one drink every so often to two drinks per week) were 40 percent less likely to have conduct problems and 30 percent less likely to be hyperactive than those born to abstainers. Boys born to light drinkers also scored better on vocabulary tests and on identifying colors, shapes, letters and numbers, BBC News reported.

Girls born to light drinkers were 30 percent less likely to have emotional problems than those born to abstainers. The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers said their findings raise questions about recommendations for complete abstinence during pregnancy and suggest the need for further research.

But some experts were alarmed by the study.

"We are concerned that the findings from the UCL study may lull women into a false sense of security and give them the green light that there is no problem with drinking during pregnancy This is not the case," Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, told BBC News. "The BMA believes the simplest and safest advice is for women not to drink alcohol during pregnancy."