Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Members of Congress sought answers this week about a meningitis outbreak caused by a fungus. People who were infected had used steroid drugs from a compounding pharmacy with a troubled history. The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testified before a House committee. She said that the FDA let state officials enforce compliance with rules. The reason is that the FDA lacks clear authority over compounding pharmacies. Researchers said this week that they have found a tripled risk of Alzheimer's disease for people with one form of a gene. In a survey, government researchers found that U.S. adults. Americans get nearly as many calories from alcohol as from soda.
This Issue: FDA Seeks Power over Compounding Pharmacies Gene Linked to Higher Alzheimer's Risk Booze Just Behind Soda for Adult Calories
In the News:
FDA Seeks Power over Compounding Pharmacies
The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took heat from Congress this week over a company linked to a recent meningitis outbreak. The Associated Press wrote about the hearing. Members of the House Energy and Commerce committee asked why the FDA did not crack down sooner on the New England Compounding Center. A fungus in steroid shots made by the pharmacy has been linked to 440 infections and 32 deaths. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg called for a new law to clarify the agency's role. Compounding pharmacies mix drugs for individual prescriptions. But the New England Compounding Center had expanded into making large batches. It had a long history of problems, a report from the House committee found. But the FDA had deferred to the Massachusetts pharmacy board to enforce rules. Hamburg said court decisions have not given clear guidance on when the FDA can regulate large compounding pharmacies. Hamburg asked for authority over companies that make large batches and do a lot of interstate business. In related news this week, the FDA released a report about Ameridose. This is the New England Compounding Center's sister company. An inspection found many problems. Leaks, cracks and insects were found in or near areas that were supposed to be sterile.
Gene Linked to Higher Alzheimer's Risk
Having one form of a gene called TREM2 appears to triple a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease, new research shows. About 1% of people have this different version, or variant, of TREM2, researchers said. The gene helps to control inflammation in the brain. It is involved in clearing brain deposits found in Alzheimer's. Further research will explore whether the variant form of the gene is less able to perform these functions. That could point the way to future treatments for Alzheimer's disease. The TREM2 variant already had been linked to a higher risk of other forms of dementia. The new research included genetic tests on 3,550 people with Alzheimer's. More than 110,000 people without dementia also were tested. The variant gene was 3 to 4 times as common in the Alzheimer's group as in the comparison group. Researchers also did gene tests on more than 1,200 people over age 85 who did not have Alzheimer's disease. People with the variant gene had lower scores on mental function tests than people without the variant. The New England Journal of Medicine published the research this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Booze Just Behind Soda for Adult Calories
U.S. adults get almost as many calories from alcohol as from sugar-sweetened drinks, a new government study found. The study was based on interviews with more than 11,000 people. They were asked detailed questions about what they ate and drank in the last 24 hours. Sugar-sweetened drinks accounted for about 6% of calories and alcohol added about 5%. One-third of men and one-fifth of women had consumed some form of alcohol on the day in question. The average was about 150 calories a day -- equal to a beer -- for men. For women, the average was about 50 calories a day, roughly half a glass of wine. Men drank mostly beer. Women drank beer, wine and liquor, with no clear favorites. Younger adults drank more than older ones. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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