Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
U.S. drug regulators said this week that they will require label changes for popular cholesterol drugs. The drugs, known as statins, will list two new potential side effects seen in some people. A report released this week says that more Americans are seeking dental care in emergency rooms instead of at the dentist. U.S. officials announced the arrests of 7 people in what was described as a major Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme. There was also new research reported this week. Scientists said they have found a way to make new eggs from stem cells in the ovaries of young women.
This Issue: Statin Labels to Add Possible Side Effects More Seek Dental Treatment in Emergency Rooms 7 Charged in Alleged Medical Fraud Scheme Study Says Stem Cells Can Grow New Eggs
In the News:
Statin Labels to Add Possible Side Effects
U.S. labels for statin drugs now will list warnings about two new possible side effects. These drugs are used to lower LDL cholesterol. Some people taking statins have had a temporary loss of short-term memory. Some people have shown a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The new labels will mention these potential risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the changes this week. Statins include drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor). They are used to lower LDL cholesterol and to help prevent heart attacks. The FDA says the memory problems have not been serious and went away when people stopped taking statins. Recent research has found that the increased risk of diabetes is small but real for people taking higher doses of statins. The new labels also will drop previous advice to have people taking statins get regular blood tests for liver enzymes. Now people should get only one test before they start taking a statin. Liver problems sometimes occur in people taking statins. But the FDA says they are rare, and the blood tests have not helped to predict them. The Associated Press wrote about the label changes.
More Seek Dental Treatment in Emergency Rooms
More Americans are turning to emergency rooms for dental care, a report released this week says. ER visits for dental problems went up 16% from 2006 to 2009. A new report from the Pew Center on the States suggests that the numbers are still growing. The center is part of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Much of the increase has occurred among Medicaid patients, the report says. Few dentists accept this insurance because of low payments. For example, the report says that 40% more Medicaid patients in Florida made dental visits to the ER in 2010 than in 2008. In Oregon, the increase for this group was 31%. In many cases, people's complaints, such as toothache, could have been prevented or easily treated with regular dental care. But ERs can do little other than treat pain and infections. That's because most of them don't have a dentist. People often can't afford follow-up treatment, Pew found. So they end up back in the ER. In Minnesota, for example, 20% of ER dental visits are return trips. The Pew report included numbers from the 24 states that keep track of ER dental visits. The Associated Press wrote about it.
7 Charged in Alleged Medical Fraud Scheme
More children are seeking support and treatment for gender identity disorder, research published this week finds. These children are at high risk of psychological illness, the articles say. The journal Pediatrics published the articles online. One reports that Children's Hospital in Boston is treating 19 patients a year for gender identity disorder. This compares with about 4 per year in the late 1990s. In a commentary, a doctor from Galveston, Texas, reports a similar increase. Treatment includes counseling. Children also can take drugs to stop puberty from occurring. Later, they can get hormones for the opposite sex. This can continue until they are old enough to decide whether to make the sex change permanent with surgery. The Boston study took a close look at 97 patients. Before entering the program, 45% had been treated for a psychological disorder. About 20% had harmed themselves, such as by cutting. About 9% had attempted suicide. The Associated Press wrote about the research.
Study Says Stem Cells Can Grow New Eggs
Researchers say they have found a way to grow new eggs from stem cells in the ovaries of young women. The study challenges the long-held belief that women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have. If proven, the new finding someday might lead to treatments for infertility. But other experts are skeptical and urge caution and more research. Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital did the study. He had reported in 2004 that stems cells in mice could produce eggs. For the new study, he worked with Saitama Medical University in Japan. That hospital had frozen ovaries available for study. They were donated by healthy young women who had sex-change operations. Researchers first removed stem cells from the ovaries. The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, said the stem cells produced eggs. First researchers allowed the eggs to grow in a laboratory dish. Then they tried putting stem cells into ovary tissue. This was placed under the skin of mice to provide a blood supply. Within 2 weeks, the cells produced eggs, researchers said. The Associated Press wrote about the study.
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