Britain opens sales of drug for the heart
By Wire services
Published May 13, 2004
LONDON - In a bid to prevent heart attacks and strokes, Britain will be the first country to permit nonprescription sales of a cholesterol-lowering drug, the government said Wednesday.
Some expert groups welcomed the decision, but others said people taking such drugs needed supervision and risk assessment.
Health officials said a low-dose version of simvastatin, marketed as Zocor by Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., will be available without a prescription at pharmacies across the country starting later this year.
Simvastatin belongs to a class of drugs called statins, considered a powerful weapon against the buildup of fat deposits that clogs arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Pharmacists will ask people a series of questions and, if needed, will offer a range of optional health tests to ensure it is safe to take the drug, said Health Secretary John Reid. Pharmacists will have the power to refuse to sell the drug.
Colon surgery study finds less invasive form works
A decadelong study comparing conventional colon cancer surgery with "keyhole" surgery found identical success rates, disproving fears that tumors would be more likely to return if surgeons did not open up the patient's belly.
In conventional surgery, doctors remove a cancerous colon segment through an eight-inch cut down the abdomen. In keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery, they operate with a laparoscope, or tiny video camera, and miniaturized surgical instruments that are inserted through half-inch incisions.
The biggest comparison of the two procedures to date, involving 48 U.S. and Canadian hospitals, found the same rates of survival, tumor recurrence and surgical complications. However, patients who had laparoscopic surgery had less pain and less hospital time.
Experts predicted the results will end the virtual moratorium on such surgery that began in 1994. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.
Vaccine shows promise for U.S. black children
A vaccine that prevents pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections is reducing those conditions among black children and closing a long-existing health care gap, public health experts reported Wednesday.
Historically, the incidence of infections with the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae has been significantly higher in black children than in white. The microbe causes a range of illnesses from pneumonia to blood infections. Some infections are lethal.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention targeted children between 6 weeks and 23 months of age in seven states, putting emphasis on black children.
The analysis, begun in 1998, demonstrated that something as simple as immunization can greatly impact public health in reducing disparities in medical care. Doctors administered a vaccine called Prevnar, approved for general use in 2000.
[Last modified May 13, 2004, 02:20:18]
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