Sunday, June 07, 2009

Health Headlines - June 7

FDA Considers New Psychiatric Drugs for Children

The U.S. government is considering clearing three blockbuster psychiatric drugs currently taken by adults for use in children and adolescents, the Associated Press reported.

The drugs are now approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar mania, also known as manic depressive disorder, in adults.

The Food and Drug Administration said the drugs appear to work in adolescents, but reviewers worry about exposing youngsters to the medications' side effects, which include weight gain, high blood pressure and sleepiness.

"These risks are of particular concern because of the lifelong nature of these disorders," Dr. Thomas Laughren, the FDA director for psychiatric products, wrote in documents posted online, the AP reported.

The issues will be discussed at a meeting Tuesday, when outside experts will voice their opinions about the drugs' risks and benefits. The FDA usually follows its advisory panels' advice, the AP said.

The drugs -- made by Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly & Co. and AstraZeneca -- are currently approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar mania in adults. Together, they accounted for $7.4 billion in sales last year, according to IMS Health, the AP said.

Many physicians already prescribe these drugs to children and teens. While it is permissible for doctors to prescribe as they see fit, pharmaceutical companies can only promote the drugs for FDA-approved uses, the APadded.


Susan Boyle Leaves Mental Health Clinic

Susan Boyle, the British talent-show sensation, has left a London mental health clinic and is feeling better, according to her brother, the Associated Press reported.

Boyle, a frumpy-looking 47-year-old, won worldwide attention after her blockbuster performance on the television show "Britain's Got Talent."

Last week, after finishing a surprise second to a dance group, she collapsed and was whisked to the Priory Clinic. News reports said Boyle, a humble church volunteer who was living a quiet life in Scotland until six weeks ago, had cried for 24 hours following her defeat.

Her brother, Gerry Boyle, said his sister suffered an anxiety attack but now seems "a lot more like herself," the AP report said.


Puerto Rico Has High HIV Infection Rate: Study

In 2006, the rate of new HIV infections in Puerto Rico was 45 per 100,000 people, two times higher than in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to a study published Thursday.

Injection drug use was the primary cause of transmission among the 1,440 people in Puerto Rico newly infected with HIV in 2006. The infection rate was 2.1 times higher among males than females. People ages 30-39 had the highest rates of infection, said researchers from the Puerto Rico Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the 50 states and Washington, D.C., most new HIV infections occur among gay and bisexual men and among younger adults. The differences noted in Puerto Rico highlight the need to tailor HIV-prevention efforts to meet local needs, the researchers said.

The study appears in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the CDC.


Big Differences Among States in Drug Abuse, Mental Illness: Report

Levels of substance abuse and mental illness vary widely among states, according to a U.S. government analysis.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration examined interviews with 135,672 people in 2006 and 2007. Among the findings:

  • The highest rate of marijuana use among those 12 and older was in Vermont (2.5 percent) and the lowest was in Utah (1.6 percent).
  • The highest rate of cocaine use among those 12 and older was in the District of Columbia (5.1 percent) and the lowest rate was in Mississippi (1.6 percent).
  • The highest rate of underage drinking was in North Dakota (40 percent) and the lowest was in Utah (17.3 percent).
  • The rate of people 18 and older who had experienced major depression in the past year was highest in Tennessee (9.8 percent) and lowest in Hawaii (5 percent).
  • In Iowa, the rate of current illicit drug use among those 12 and older was 5.2 percent, compared to 12.5 percent in Rhode Island. However, Iowa had one of the highest rates of people reporting alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year (9.2 percent).

"This report shows that while every state faces its own unique pattern of public health problems, these problems confront every state," Dr. Eric Broderick, acting administrator of SAMHSA, said in a news release. "By highlighting the exact nature and scope of the problems in each state, we can help state public health authorities better determine the most effective ways of addressing them."

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