Monday, July 19, 2010

Two women seriously ill after drinking aloe vera juice they bought at school fair which was laced with horse tranquilliser

Medical chiefs issued a warning today after two women who bought a health drink contaminated with a horse tranquilliser were left seriously ill in hospital.
The women, one aged 60 and the other in her 40s, suffered a severe reaction when they drank the aloe vera juice that they purchased at a school fair.
One of the victims collapsed into a 'vegetative state' according to her daughter and had to be revived by paramedics.
Both women, who have not been named, were said to be in a 'satisfactory' condition in the Leicester Royal Infirmary.
It has now been confirmed the drink was contaminated with Ketamine, an anaesthetic agent which slows the breathing. It is used by vets treating horses, but is also popular with recreational drug users.
Dr Philip Monk, a public health consultant with the Health Protection Agency, said: 'The Ketamine was probably neat.  
'In the small doses such as these, it is unlikely to prove fatal but could cause serious damage.'
The women, who are suffering from respiratory problems, are believed to have bought it at the Abbey Mela in Leicester last Saturday, an Asian carnival put on by the city's Abbey Primary School.
The 60-year-old victim collapsed 'within seconds' of drinking a small amount of the juice and complaining of a burning sensation in her throat.

Her daughter said: 'It happened about 9.30pm last Wednesday. I received a panicked phone call from my father and arrived about five minutes later.
'When I got there, I thought she was going to die. My dad was crying as the paramedics were trying to revive her. It was awful.
'She was basically in a vegetative state. They thought she might have bleeding on the brain. I thought "that's it".'
Aloe vera juice is used for consumption and relief of digestive issues such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
Leicester City Councillor Rashmi Joshi, who is a friend of one of the woman, said: 'Her family are extremely worried about her.
'Her husband thought she had gone. But he worked on her until the paramedics arrived and they treated her for 20 minutes before she was taken to hospital.
Health officials have said that anyone who has recently bought the drink, made by Indian-based company Gayatri Herbals, should avoid consuming it and hand it over to police.
Dr Tim Davis, from the Leicester City Primary Care Trust, speaking on behalf of the Health Protection Agency, said: 'We are unaware how many bottles were sold. It was in a white plastic bottle, and is normally sold like a health product.'
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Police said: 'We are working with the Health Protection Agency to look into how the drinks consumed came to be potentially contaminated.
'We are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances.'
Adrian Russell, the city council's director of environmental services, said he did not think the product was widely sold. However, one shop has already been completely cleared of it's stock.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Experimental diet pill shows promise, little risk

An experimental diet pill helped about half the people who tried it lose some weight and keep it off a year later, without the heart problems that some earlier drugs caused, a study found.
Arena Pharmaceuticals' lorcaserin is one of three drugs that are boosting hope for a new generation of more effective weight-loss medicines. One gets a Food and Drug Administration review on Thursday and the others, later this year.
In the study, lorcaserin (lore-KASS-ah-rin) caused more people to lose at least 5 percent of their body weight over one year, more than twice the rate achieved by those on dummy pills.
Most people don't stick to diets. And diet pills have had bad side effects or can't be taken long-term. A low point came in 1997 when the popular "fen-phen" was pulled from the market after it was tied to heart valve problems.
But now comes lorcaserin, a round blue tablet that would be the first truly novel weight-loss pill in a dozen years if it wins approval. The drug targets the same appetite pathway fen-phen did but in a more selective, and perhaps safer, manner.
Results of a large company-funded study of it are in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
The study involved more that 3,100 obese or overweight people given either the drug or dummy pills.
After a year, nearly 48 percent of the lorcaserin group had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight - about 13 pounds on average. Just 20 percent of the placebo group lost that much weight.
Only about half of those in the study stuck with it a year. That's not unusual; diet studies typically have lots of dropouts. But more of the people on lorcaserin stayed in than those on placebo, suggesting that side effects were not a problem.
A second phase of the study began after one year with the original participants who remained. Those on dummy pills kept taking them, while the people on lorcaserin were assigned either to keep getting it or to switch to dummy pills. Neither they nor their doctors knew which treatment they were receiving.
Of those in the lorcaserin group who had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight in the first year of the study, about 68 percent who kept taking the drug kept the weight off, versus 50 percent of those switched to dummy pills.
Except for headaches and dizziness, side effects were essentially no worse with the drug than placebo. There was no higher rate of heart valve problems - a key concern. However, larger studies are needed to conclusively rule out this risk.
Unlike some other obesity drugs, lorcaserin did not raise heart rates or blood pressure. In fact, cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease improved in those on the drug.
"It looks very safe at this point," said study leader, Dr. Steven Smith of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando.
Some experts described the drug's effectiveness as moderately good, and its safety as apparently very good. The findings are probably sufficient to meet FDA benchmarks and win approval, they predicted.
Current diet pills include the appetite suppressant phentermine; sibutramine, an appetite suppressant sold as Meridia; and orlistat, a drug that blocks fat absorption and is sold as the prescription drug Xenical or the over-the-counter Alli.
They are all problematic. Phentermine has been linked to heart palpitations and higher blood pressure. Sibutramine has been tied to heart risks and has been removed from the market in Europe; the FDA will review its risks and benefits later this year. And orlistat can cause stomach pains, gas, and bowel leakage.
San Diego-based Arena hasn't put a price on lorcaserin. But it could be especially useful for obese patients with heart problems.
"There's a whole group of individuals we cannot use these current medications on," said Dr. Robert Kushner, a weight-loss expert at Chicago's Northwestern University who advises a company that makes another experimental diet drug.
The two other drugs before the FDA are combinations of medicines already on the market.
Vivus Inc.'s Qnexa is up for review Thursday. It combines phentermine and topiramate, a drug used for migraines and epilepsy that has raised safety concerns. Topiramate carries warnings about possible suicidal tendencies.
Contrave, made by Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., combines bupropion and naltrexone. The first is used to help people quit smoking and deal with depression. The second is used to decrease cravings for alcohol and illegal drugs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good news for fast food addicts

Washington (IANS)- Here's some good news for fast food addicts. Five major US food chains, including McDonald's and Burger King, have cut down on trans fats in their food.

Trans fats can elevate the risk of heart disease by increasing "bad" cholesterol and decreasing "good" cholesterol levels.

The latest findings from University of Minnesota School of Public Health suggest that major fast food chains may have been responsive to public health concerns.

Researchers relied on the School of Public Health proprietary database, comprising nutritional values of more than 18,000 foods, to look at levels of trans fat and saturated fat in french fries from chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen.

They found that three of the restaurants - McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's - significantly decreased the trans and saturated fatty acid composition of French fries between 1997 and 2008, says a university release.

"While it took time for major fast food chains to decrease trans fats in their foods, I'm pleased to see that they have done it," said Lisa Harnack, associate professor of epidemiology at the school, who led the research.

"I'm also pleased to see that they haven't raised levels of saturated fats to replace trans fats," Harnack added.

The findings were presented at the National Nutrient Database Conference in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Many doctors don't blow whistle on colleagues

Your doctor could be drunk, addicted to drugs or outright incompetent, but other physicians may not blow the whistle.
A new survey finds that many American physicians fail to report troubled colleagues to authorities, believing that someone else will take care of it, that nothing will happen if they act or that they could be targeted for retribution.
A surprising 17% of the doctors surveyed had direct, personal knowledge of an impaired or incompetent physician in their workplaces, said the study's lead author, Catherine DesRoches of Harvard Medical School.
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One-third of those doctors had not reported the matter to authorities such as hospital officials or state medical boards. The findings, appearing in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a 2009 survey of 1,891 practicing U.S. doctors.
Reporting a problem doctor can trigger important changes. Twenty-one years ago, a colleague smelled alcohol on a young physician's breath and anonymously reported him to the head of the residency program. A now-sober Dr. A. Clark Gaither is grateful.
"I wish I knew who reported me," Gaither said. "I'd like to give them a big ol' hug and thank them for saving my life."
Programs exist for retraining doctors with weak skills and getting addicted ones into treatment. But the survey results suggest doctors are not confident in the system, DesRoches said.
The American Medical Association and other professional groups say doctors have an ethical obligation to make such reports. And many states require doctors to tell authorities about colleagues who endanger patients because of alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness.
Despite that, many doctors do not know what to do or where to start, DesRoches said.
In an accompanying editorial, one ethics expert called the findings "jarring."
"I don't think there's any excuse for less than 100% of physicians holding true to these ideals," said Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the AMA Institute for Ethics.
He called for better protections for whistle-blowers and more education for doctors on how to report a colleague.
The survey did not specify the type or severity of the impairment or incompetence, asking: "In the last three years, have you had direct, personal knowledge of a physician who was impaired or incompetent to practice medicine in your hospital, group, or practice?"
Most states have programs that not only get doctors into treatment but also advise their colleagues how to intervene. Most will keep reports anonymous. Some use the threat of medical board sanction to persuade doctors to go to rehab.
For Gaither, the first confrontation with concerned colleagues was in medical school. He reassured his fellow students he was fine. Even the second confrontation, from the program head who had heard the report of Gaither's alcohol-scented breath, did not take. Gaither signed a contract promising to stay sober, go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and submit to testing.
"I went home and drank that night," he said. "I was thinking with an addicted brain, and I was an alcoholic."
Finally, a third confrontation and the temporary loss of his training license forced Gaither into what he calls "a state of surrender." With help from the North Carolina Physicians Health Program, he got into a residential rehab program.
His last drink was Jan. 21, 1990. Gaither, now 55, finished his residency and became a family doctor. He practices in Goldsboro, N.C., where he started a free mobile clinic for the uninsured.
In 2002, the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians named him Physician of the Year. He thanked AA and all the colleagues who confronted him and supported him in his acceptance speech.
He now urges others to report what they know. "It is our duty," he said.
Dr. Warren Pendergast runs the North Carolina program, which cooperates with the state medical society and state disciplinary board. About 200 doctors a year are referred for alcoholism, drug addiction, anger-management problems and depression.
Ninety% of addicted doctors who've been through the program remain clean and sober five years after treatment, Pendergast said.
"They're motivated. They have a lot to lose," he said. Their reputations and careers depend on their participation in treatment. Colleagues of troubled doctors "can feel comfortable getting peers help rather than sticking their head in the sand," he said.
Gaither, who speaks publicly about the program, said doctors worry that their troubled colleagues will lose their licenses and livelihoods if reported.
"I ask them, 'Would it be better if they lost their money, their marriage, their home, their cars, their license and then their life?'" he said. "Does that sound better than getting them the help that they need?"