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This Week in Health
July 18, 2014

 

Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.

Niacin lowers cholesterol. But it doesn't reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, a study published this week found. And niacin may increase the risk of major side effects, the study showed. A Florida man is the first person to acquire chikungunya in a U.S. state, health officials said this week. The disease is a viral infection. It is spread by mosquitoes. People taking generic heart medicines are more likely to quit if the shape or color of the medicine changes. That's the conclusion of a study published this week. Generic drugs may look different if a switch occurs to a different supplier. New research has found a 28% drop in early deaths for people infected with HIV since 1999. The study covered the United States, Europe and Australia. Another study published this week found that using an automated telephone or Internet service to record symptoms can improve pain management. Other researchers looked at sleep-related death for babies. They found that the most common causes were different for older and younger babies.

Stay well.

 

This Issue:

Study: No Benefit, More Side Effects with Niacin
Fla. Man Has 1st U.S. Mainland Case of Chikungunya
People Quit More Often if Pills Look Different
Deaths Drop Sharply in HIV Population
'Telecare' May Improve Pain Management
Sleep-Death Risks Vary by Baby's Age

 

In the News:

Study: No Benefit, More Side Effects with Niacin
Niacin, sometimes given to lower cholesterol, doesn't reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, a large new study has found. And it may lead to serious side effects, the study found. The study included nearly 26,000 older adults. All had a history of heart disease, stroke or other blood vessel problems. People were randomly divided into 2 groups. Everyone took simvastatin to lower LDL ("bad cholesterol"). One group also took niacin. It was combined with laropiprant to reduce flushing, a side effect of niacin. The second group took identical placebo pills. After almost 4 years, the niacin group had lower LDL and higher HDL ("good cholesterol") levels than the placebo group. But they had similar rates of heart attack, stroke and other major events. People taking niacin had more serious side effects. Among diabetics, 11.1% of the niacin group lost blood sugar control, compared with 7.5% of the placebo group. Usually this led to a hospital stay. Another 5.7% of the niacin group and 4.3% of the placebo group were diagnosed with diabetes during the study. The niacin group also had more bleeding, infections and other problems. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study this week. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

Fla. Man Has 1st U.S. Mainland Case of Chikungunya
Chikungunya has arrived in the continental United States, health officials said this week. A Florida man has become the first person to acquire the virus in a U.S. state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the confirmed case. The virus is spread by mosquito bites. It causes a painful illness that is seldom fatal. It is common in parts of Asia and Africa. In recent months, it has spread to many Caribbean countries. Last month, cases were reported that had been acquired in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Two species of mosquito carry chikungunya: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both species are found in the southeastern United States and parts of the southwest. Aedes albopictus is also found in the Mid-Atlantic and lower Midwest, CDC officials said. HealthDay News wrote about the announcement.

 

People Quit More Often if Pills Look Different
People may be more likely to stop taking generic drugs if the color or shape changes, a study published this week suggests. Generic medicines may change color and shape if made by different manufacturers. This is more likely to occur if pharmacies switch suppliers or people switch pharmacies. In the new study, researchers looked at health insurance records for 11,500 people. All of them had heart attacks between 2006 and 2011. Each person received a new prescription for at least one generic heart drug. The four types were beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers and statins. During the next year, 29% of those in the study had at least one pill change to a different shape or size. People were 34% more likely to stop taking a medicine if the color changed. They were 66% more likely to quit if the pill shape changed. If a pill's appearance changes, people should not just stop taking it, the study author told HealthDay News. It's better to call the doctor or pharmacist to make sure it's the same drug, he said. The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the study. HealthDay wrote about it.

 

Deaths Drop Sharply in HIV Population
People infected with HIV in wealthier countries are 28% less likely to die early than they were in 1999, a new study shows. AIDS, the disease caused by HIV, is still directly responsible for most deaths. But at 29%, this is one-third lower than the proportion of AIDs deaths 12 years earlier. The study authors looked at medical data on about 50,000 HIV-infected people. They lived in Australia, Europe or the United States. The study covered the years 1999 through 2011. During these years, HIV medicines improved so much that many infected people who get regular treatment can live a normal life span. About 4,000 people in the study died. The rates of death from heart disease, stroke and related causes dropped by about two-thirds during the study period. Deaths from liver disease were cut in half. Death rates from cancers not linked with AIDS remained stable. These cancers were the leading cause of non-AIDS death, with 23% of all deaths. Most of these (15% of all deaths) were caused by lung cancer. About 13% died from liver disease, mainly hepatitis, and 11% from heart disease. The journal Lancet published the study this week. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

'Telecare' May Improve Pain Management
An automated program to monitor symptoms may improve pain treatment more than typical care, a study suggests. The study included 250 people who had long-term muscle or joint pain. They were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group was asked to report symptoms and answer other questions at regular intervals. This was the "telecare" group. People filed their reports using an automated telephone or Internet system. Based on this information, a nurse called from time to time with adjustments to the treatment plan. Doctors changed prescriptions and doses according to a set of rules based on research. The other group received usual care from their primary care doctors. After a year, more than half of the telecare group and one-quarter of the usual-care group reported at least a 30% improvement in pain levels. About 19% of the telecare group and 36% of the usual-care group reported that pain got worse. About three-quarters of the telecare group said their medicines were good to excellent. Half of those in the usual-care group described their medicines this way. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

Sleep-Death Risks Vary by Baby's Age
Sleep-related deaths of younger babies occur most often when they are sharing a bed, a study published this week finds. But older babies are more likely than younger ones to die when there are pillows, toys or other objects in bed with them. Doctors advise parents to place babies on their backs to sleep. This can help to prevent SIDS and other sleep-related deaths. This new study looked at how a baby's environment, as well as sleeping position, affects the risk of death. The study focused on 8,200 sleep-related deaths. Nearly 70% of the babies were sharing a bed at the time of death. About one-third were sleeping with an object, such as a pillow or toy. Researchers looked separately at deaths of babies younger and older than 4 months of age. Younger babies were twice as likely to be sharing a bed at the time of death. They were also more likely to be sleeping in an adult bed or on a person. Older babies were more likely to have objects in bed with them. They also were more likely to die after rolling from back or side onto their stomachs. The journal Pediatrics published the study. HealthDay News wrote about it.

 

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.

 


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