Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants farm animals to stop getting antibiotics to help them grow. The FDA this week asked drug makers to sell these drugs to farmers only when needed for health reasons. An Arkansas judge this week fined Johnson & Johnson $1.1 billion for fraud against the state Medicaid program. A jury found the drug maker guilty of hiding potential risks of Risperdal. This drug is used to treat schizophrenia. A study published this week found that the most common type of brain tumor occurs more often among people who have had frequent dental X-rays. The type of tumor, meningioma, is usually not cancerous. Other new research found higher rates of autism for children whose mothers were obese while pregnant. And a study released in time for tax filing day found that the rate of fatal traffic accidents goes up on tax days.
This Issue: FDA Pushes to Reduce Antibiotic Use in Animals J&J Fined $1.1 Billion over Risks of Risperdal Study Links Dental X-Rays with Brain Tumor Risk Study: Autism Risk Higher for Kids of Obese Mothers Tax-Filing Day May Be a Road Hazard
In the News:
FDA Pushes to Reduce Antibiotic Use in Animals
U.S. officials this week called on drug makers to stop selling antibiotics to help farm animals get bigger. About 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used on farms, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Much of the total is used to help animals grow, not to prevent or treat disease. Excess use is thought to increase resistance of bacteria to the drugs. Some diseases have become hard to treat because of resistance. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to reduce this problem by limiting antibiotic use in animals. The industry has argued that antibiotics are needed in the modern meat production system. They reduce illness and costs. The new FDA guidelines say that antibiotics should be used only when needed to keep animals healthy. Drug makers would need to change their labels and stop marketing the drugs for non-medical purposes. The FDA also wants a veterinarian to prescribe the drugs. Farmers now can buy them without a prescription. All of the guidelines are voluntary. Some public health activists told AP they don't trust the drug industry to comply. But FDA officials said the drugs can't be banned for these uses without hearings for each drug. That could take many years.
J&J Fined $1.1 Billion over Risks of Risperdal
A drug company was fined more than $1.1 billion this week for Medicaid fraud. An Arkansas Circuit Court jury found that Johnson & Johnson deceived the Medicaid program about risks of a schizophrenia drug. The drug, Risperdal, is marketed by J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. The fine was equal to $5,000 times 240,000 prescriptions of Risperdal issued to state Medicaid patients. Added to this was another $11 million fine.This was for 4,500 violations of the state's deceptive practices act. Risperdal and similar drugs have been linked to increased risk of strokes and death in elderly dementia patients. They also have been linked to a greater risk of seizures, weight gain and diabetes. Other states also have sued J&J. In Arkansas, the company argued that risks were spelled out in a package insert. It said the state did not prove patients were harmed. J&J is seeking a new trial. The company said it will appeal if the request is denied. The Associated Press wrote about the verdict.
Study Links Dental X-Rays with Brain Tumor Risk
People who get frequent dental X-rays are more likely than others to develop the most common type of brain tumor, a study suggests. The research, released this week, looked at the risk of meningioma. This type of tumor is usually not cancerous. Researchers surveyed 1,433 people who had been diagnosed with a meningioma at some point in their adult life. They were compared with 1,350 people who never had a meningioma but were similar in other ways. Everyone was asked about how often they had dental X-rays in the past. People with the brain tumors were twice as likely as the others to say they ever had received a bite-wing X-ray. This is the most common type of dental X-ray. Higher risks also were seen for people who had other types of dental X-rays. Risks were highest for those who had the X-rays more often or started at younger ages. The study does not prove that X-rays cause brain tumors. One limit of this study is that it was based on people's memory of when they had X-rays. The journal Cancer published the study online. The New York Times News Service wrote about it.
Study: Autism Risk Higher for Kids of Obese Mothers
Obese women have a greater risk of having a child with autism, a study released this week found. The study does not prove that obesity caused autism in the children. But researchers said it's worth more study because of the growth of obesity in the U.S. population. About 1 out of 3 women of child-bearing age is obese. The study focused on about 1,000 preschool children and their mothers. Women who had been obese during pregnancy were 67% more likely to have a child with autism than women of normal weight. An estimated 1 out of 88 U.S. children has autism. The higher risk for obese women would increase that rate to 1 out of 53. The journal Pediatrics published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Tax-Filing Day May Be a Road Hazard
Add another to the list of reasons not to like tax-filing days -- a higher risk of fatal traffic accidents. That's the finding of a new study that looked at 30 years of U.S. traffic data. Researchers analyzed deaths that occurred on tax day (usually April 15) and the days 1 week before and after tax day. In all, there were 6,783 traffic-related deaths on those days. The average was 226 on tax days and 213 on the other days. That's a difference of about 6%. Researchers say they can't explain it. Maybe it's the result of stress, or stress-related drinking. Maybe people are rushing to get to a post office. But since the first years studied, electronic filing has become common. About 3 out of 4 personal tax returns are filed that way now. And electronic filing has not reduced traffic deaths on tax days, researchers said. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it April 11.
Used with the permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. The above summaries are not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters, nor are they intended to be a substitute for consultation with a physician.