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Health & Fitness (239)

   WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation's at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking.
   The federal agency said Tuesday it is launching a $115 million multimedia education campaign called "The Real Cost" that's aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.
   Advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least one year beginning Feb. 11. The campaign will include ads on TV stations such as MTV and print spots in magazines like Teen Vogue. It also will use social media.
   "Our kids are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit each day," said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "And that's why we think it's so important to reach out to them — not to lecture them, not to throw statistics at them — but to reach them in a way that will get them to rethink their relationship with tobacco use."
   Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation time in the early 2000s, called the new campaign a "compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way" of grabbing the attention of more than 10 million young people ages 12 to 17 that are open to, or are already experimenting with, cigarettes.
   According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by age 18 and more than 700 kids under 18 become daily smokers each day. The agency aims to reduce the number of youth cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 within three years.
   "While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "We'll highlight some of the real costs and health consequences associated with tobacco use by focusing on some of the things that really matter to teens — their outward appearance and having control and independence over their lives."
   Two of the TV ads show teens walking into a corner store to buy cigarettes. When the cashier tells them it's going to cost them more than they have, the teens proceed to tear off a piece of their skin and use pliers to pull out a tooth in order to pay for their cigarettes. Other ads portray cigarettes as a man dressed in a dirty white shirt and khaki pants bullying teens and another shows teeth being destroyed by a ray gun shooting cigarettes.
   The FDA is evaluating the impact of the campaign by following 8,000 people between the ages of 11 and 16 for two years to assess changes in tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
   The campaign announced Tuesday is the first in a series of campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.
   In 2011, the FDA said it planned to spend about $600 million over five years on the campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco, which is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
   Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.
   Future campaigns will target young adults ages 18-24 and people who influence teens, including parents, family members and peers. Other audiences of special interest include minorities, gays, people with disabilities, the military, pregnant women, people living in rural areas, and low-income people.
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 01:52
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CHICAGO (AP) — Gay and bisexual teen boys use illicit steroids at a rate almost six times higher than do straight kids, a "dramatic disparity" that points up a need to reach out to this group, researchers say.
 
Reasons for the differences are unclear. The study authors said it's possible gay and bi boys feel more pressure to achieve a bulked-up "ideal" male physique, or that they think muscle-building steroids will help them fend off bullies.
 
Overall, 21 percent of gay or bisexual boys said they had ever used steroids, versus 4 percent of straight boys. The difference was similar among those who reported moderate use — taking steroid pills or injections up to 40 times: 8 percent of gay or bi teens reported that amount, versus less than 2 percent of straight boys. The heaviest use — 40 or more times — was reported by 4 percent of gays or bi boys, compared with less than 1 percent of straight teens.
 
The study is billed as the first to examine the problem; previous research has found similar disparities for other substance abuse.
 
"It's a bit sad that we saw such a large health disparity," especially among the most frequent steroid users, said co-author Aaron Blashill, a psychologist and scientist with the Fenway Institute, the research arm of a Boston health center that treats gays and lesbians.
 
"Given the dramatic disparity ... it would seem that this is a population in which greater attention is needed," the authors said.
 
Their research was released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
 
The nationally representative study is an analysis of government surveys from 2005 and 2007. It involved 17,250 teen boys aged 16 on average; almost 4 percent — 635 boys — were gay or bisexual. Blashill said it's likely more recent data would show the disparities persist.
 
Dr. Rob Garofalo, adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, said the differences aren't surprising, since it is known that gay youth often have "body image issues." But he said, "It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates."
 
The Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update in November warning that teens and steroids are "a dangerous combo," citing government data showing that about 5 percent of high school boys and 2 percent of high school girls use steroids — more than a half-million kids.
 
Steroids include synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. Users take them to promote muscle growth, strength and endurance. Side effects can include heart and liver problems, high blood pressure, acne and aggressive behavior. With their still-maturing bodies, teens face a heightened risk for problems that may be permanent, the FDA update.
 
Steroids are legally available only by prescription. There are few FDA-approved uses, including replacement of hormones in men who have unusually low levels.
 
Potential signs of abuse include mood swings, speedy muscle growth and even breast development in boys.
 
Garofalo said some of his gay and bi patients have admitted using steroids. Those patients sometimes have acne, high blood pressure, anxiety, or aggression related to steroid use, but those symptoms usually go away when the drug use stops, he said.
 
Kids are often less open about using steroids than about drinking or smoking marijuana, but the study helps raise awareness and the results suggest it's a topic physicians should be raising with their patients, especially gay and bi kids, Garofalo said.
 
___
 
Online: Pediatrics: http://www.pediatrics.org
Monday, 03 February 2014 01:38
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LONDON (AP) -- Russian men who down large amounts of vodka - and too many do - have an "extraordinarily" high risk of an early death, a new study says.

Researchers tracked about 151,000 adult men in the Russian cities of Barnaul, Byisk and Tomsk from 1999 to 2010. They interviewed them about their drinking habits and, when about 8,000 later died, followed up to monitor their causes of death.

The risk of dying before age 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-liter bottles of vodka a week was a shocking 35 percent.

Overall, a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7 percent of men in the United Kingdom and less than 1 percent in the United States. The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years - placing it among the lowest 50 countries in the world in that category.

It's not clear how many Russian men drink three bottles or more a week. Lead researcher Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University said the average Russian adult drinks 20 liters of vodka per year while the average Briton drinks about three liters of spirits.

"Russians clearly drink a lot, but it's this pattern of getting really smashed on vodka and then continuing to drink that is dangerous," Peto said.

"The rate of men dying prematurely in Russia is totally out of line with the rest of Europe," he said. "There's also a heavy drinking culture in Finland and Poland but they still have nothing like Russia's risk of death."

Alcohol has long been a top killer in Russia and vodka is often the drink of choice, available cheaply and often homemade in small villages. Previous studies have estimated that more than 40 percent of working-age men in Russia die because they drink too much, including using alcohol that is not meant to be consumed like that in colognes and antiseptics.

Drinking is so engrained in Russian culture there's a word that describes a drinking binge that lasts several days: "zapoi."

Peto said there was some evidence of a similar effect in Russian women who also drank heavily but there was not enough data to draw a broad conclusion.

The study was paid for by the U.K. Medical Research Council and others. It was published online Thursday in the journal Lancet.

Other experts said the Russian preference for hard liquor was particularly dangerous.

"If you're drinking vodka, you get a lot more ethanol in that than if you were drinking something like lager," said David Leon, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has also studied the impact of alcohol in Russia but was not part of the Lancet study.

He said changing drinking patterns in Russia to combat the problem was possible but that it would take a significant cultural adjustments.

"It's not considered out-of-order to drink until you can't function in Russia," Leon said. "It just seems to be part of being a guy in Russia that you are expected to drink heavily."

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Friday, 31 January 2014 10:37
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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Drugmaker Merck & Co. is joining two dozen other pharmaceutical companies and contract laboratories in committing to not use chimpanzees for research.

The growing trend could mean roughly 1,000 chimps in the U.S. used for research or warehoused for many years in laboratory cages could be "retired" to sanctuaries by around 2020.

That's according to Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society of the United States, which seven years ago began urging companies to phase out all chimp research.

The trend is driven by improved technology, animal alternatives and pressure from animal rights groups, the National Institutes of Health and Congress.

Last June, reacting to an Institute of Medicine study Congress had requested that concluded nearly all chimp research is unnecessary, the NIH announced it would retire and send about 90 percent of government-owned research chimps to the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La. It's now home to about 160 chimps, with nearly 60 more to arrive soon.

After several years, the NIH plans to decide whether the remaining chimps in government labs can also be moved to sanctuaries. Roughly 450 other chimps are owned by private labs that do research under contract for drugmakers and other companies.

"It's been a long road in trying to end the use of chimpanzees in research, and we're now at a turning point," Conlee told The Associated Press Thursday. "We're going to keep on (advocating) until the chimpanzees in laboratories are all in sanctuaries."

Merck spokeswoman Caroline Lappetito said the company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., decided late last year to stop research on chimpanzees and switch to alternative types of testing.

"The science has advanced, and we don't really need it," Lappetito said.

Merck, the world's third-biggest drugmaker, is the largest to make the switch.

Companies that develop medicines and consumer products such as cosmetics have long used animals to test safety and effectiveness. In the case of experimental medicines, drugmakers must test on animals before the Food and Drug Administration will let them do the human testing needed for approval of a new therapy.

Nearly all animal experiments in the U.S. involve mice, rats and guinea pigs, although some are done on dogs and great apes, almost always chimpanzees.

But animal research, particularly on primates and pet species such as dogs and rabbits, has long drawn criticism from animal rights groups, including protests outside laboratories and at annual shareholder meetings. Besides calling the practice inhumane, activists often have alleged - and sometimes proven - that animals were being abused.

Many companies previously said it was necessary to test potential medicines and vaccines on nonhuman primates because they needed an animal in which the anatomy and disease course were very similar to that in humans.

That thinking changed as technology allowed researchers to do initial testing via computer simulations, in bacteria or cells, and in animals as small as fish. Many drugmakers also found ways to do testing on far fewer animals and to limit the discomfort of experiments by using painkillers and tranquilizers. And many of the companies pledging not to use chimps in the future never did so.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC was one of the first to stop research in chimps, back in 2008.

"Research we did on nonhuman primates was kept to a minimum" even before that, said spokeswoman Melinda Stubee.

Because chimpanzees used for commercial medical research generally are confined in the labs of contract testing companies, Conlee said the Humane Society is trying to convince them that there's no longer enough demand to continue warehousing chimpanzees for potential future work. She hopes they'll pay to support those chimpanzees in one of five U.S. accredited sanctuaries for former research chimps.

----

Online:

HTTP://WWW.HUMANESOCIETY.ORG/ISSUES/CHIMPANZEE-RESEARCH/

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Friday, 31 January 2014 10:37
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One of every 10 clinical trials for adults with cancer ends prematurely because researchers can't get enough people to test new treatments, scientists report.
 
The surprisingly high rate reveals not just the scope and cost of wasted opportunities that deprive patients of potential advances, but also the extent of barriers such as money, logistics and even the mistaken fear that people won't get the best care if they join one of these experiments.
 
"Clinical trials are the cornerstone of progress in cancer care," the way that new treatments prove their worth, said Dr. Matthew Galsky of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
 
When an experimental drug or other treatment fails to make it to the market, people often think it didn't work or had too many side effects, but the inability to complete studies can doom a drug, too, Galsky said.
 
He helped lead an analysis of 7,776 experiments registered on Clinicaltrials.gov, a government web site for tracking medical experiments, from September 2005 to November 2011. All were mid- or late-stage studies testing treatments for various types of cancer in adults.
 
About 20 percent of the studies were not completed for reasons that had nothing to do with the treatment's safety or effectiveness (legitimate reasons for ending a study early). Poor accrual — the inability to enroll enough patients in enough time to finish the study — led to nearly 40 percent of premature endings.
 
Company-sponsored studies were less likely to be completed than those sponsored by the government or others. Late-stage cancer trials can cost companies "tens to even hundreds of millions of dollars," and that money is wasted if no clear answer on the drug's value is gained, said Dr. Charles J. Ryan, a cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.
 
He heads the program for a conference later this week in San Francisco where Galsky's study will be presented. It was discussed Tuesday in a telebriefing by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, an organization for doctors who treat cancer.
 
Ryan and Galsky said they hoped the study would spur more research on why more patients don't participate. In most cases, the treatment being tested is provided for free, but there can be other costs such as lab tests. Some states require insurers to cover these additional costs, but others do not, so money may be one hurdle for patients.
 
Some doctors do not strongly encourage patients to participate in studies, and sometimes patients fear they'll get a dummy treatment instead of real medicine. However, in cancer clinical trials, ethical standards require that all patients get the current best care, plus a chance at an experimental treatment.
 
"Patients still have concerns about getting a placebo, but they're always going to get at a minimum the standard of care," said Shelley Fuld Nasso, head of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, a patient advocacy and education organization.
 
Doctors need to encourage more patients to participate, and clinical trial designers need to make sure they are testing key questions and treatments to honor the contributions of study participants, she said.
 
___
 
Online:
 
Cancer patient info: http://www.cancer.net
 
Decision-making guide: http://bit.ly/L67zkT
 
Clinical trials: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov
 
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:11
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Families shopping for health insurance through the new federal marketplace are running into trouble getting everyone covered when children are eligible for Medicaid but their parents are not.

Children who qualify for Medicaid, the safety-net program for the poor and disabled, can't be included on subsidized family plans purchased through the federal marketplace, a fact that is taking many parents by surprise and leaving some kids stuck without coverage.

A California man says he was given false assurances that his children could be covered by the same plan he picked for his wife and himself, and a Florida father says his daughter is going without coverage while he waits for answers.

And in New Hampshire, some parents who've enrolled in private plans for themselves alone are finding out later that their children aren't eligible for Medicaid after all, leaving their kids with no options.

"The children are getting stuck in this spot where we've enrolled the parent, but we can't bring the children back on the family plan," Maria Proulx, senior legal counsel for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, told a state advisory board panel this month.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to say how the system is supposed to work for families and what problems have emerged. But a regional manager for CMS acknowledged the problem at the same New Hampshire meeting and said the agency is working on it, as did Proulx in a later interview.

"This is an important issue, and we're not taking it lightly," she said. "Even if this impacts only one family ... it's a big deal and we want to get it resolved as quickly as possible."

The federal government sets minimum guidelines for Medicaid eligibility, but states can choose to expand coverage beyond that. In some states, parents must have significantly lower incomes to gain Medicaid coverage for themselves than they would to get coverage for just their children, either through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program - also known as CHIP - the low-income health insurance program for children who don't qualify for Medicaid.

In North Port, Fla., Russell Clouden was thrilled to find a better, cheaper family plan through the new marketplace, then stunned to realize his 14-year-old daughter wouldn't be enrolled because she might qualify for Florida Healthy Kids, the state's version of CHIP. The federal government still hasn't transferred roughly 90,000 Medicaid files over to Florida officials, including Clouden's daughter's, so she still doesn't have insurance.

"Based on your income, they'll separate your kids from your primary policy and they shift them off to Medicaid or Healthy Kids and there's no way you can bring them back," said Clouden, whose daughter is an accomplished equestrian jumper.

"I'm kind of in limbo with her because I'm just hoping she doesn't get injured or sick," said Clouden, 53, who runs a restaurant franchise. "Without insurance, you've kind of got a knot in your stomach watching her jumping."

Insurance broker Matthew Dinkel in Fort Myers, Fla., said he has about 15 clients in Clouden's position.

"I have worried parents literally calling and texting me every day asking for an update," said Dinkel. "They canceled their old plans that covered their entire family and now they have coverage but their kids don't."

Jessica Waltman of the National Association of Health Underwriters said her group has raised the problem, and others, with federal officials and asked for a dedicated hotline or email address for insurance brokers to get answers.

"It's a nationwide issue that we've heard time and again, and it could have very significant coverage issues for families," she said.

Marc Jobin, a construction consultant in southern New Hampshire, said the process has been so confusing, he's put off a decision for himself, his wife and their two children, even though he's seen premiums that are significantly lower than what they pay now.

"We've been hesitating for two months now because the information is not clear," he said. "Around the holidays, we were thinking, `let's do this, let's sign up,' and then the latest problem is now our children will probably be thrown into the state health care system, but nobody knows what that means."

Mary Ann Cooney, associate commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, urged those awaiting Medicaid decisions to call their state offices directly. She said her office has been getting incomplete application information from the federal government, making it harder to contact people to determine their Medicaid eligibility, but situations are improving and the office is reaching out to hundreds of people each day.

"There's a real light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

But in the meantime, children are going without coverage. In California, Robert Clark said when he applied by phone through the Covered California marketplace, he was assured that his two children would be on the plan he picked. But he later got separate notices from the insurance company and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

He called Covered California again and was told the person he'd previously talked to there was wrong and that his children had to be enrolled in Medi-Cal. Clark, the president of a Menlo Park technology company, doesn't like that prospect because the doctors his children have seen since their births don't take Medicaid.

"It's pretty frustrating," he said. "We've probably spent several days' worth of time on hold."

Instead, he's exploring whether he can enroll his children in individual, unsubsidized plans through Covered California. He recently found out his original application was "hung up," so he plans to resubmit a fresh application, but in the meantime has lost out on coverage for January.

"My daughter is in gymnastics," he said. "If she falls on her head, we need to be covered."

---

Associated Press Writer Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

 

 

Monday, 27 January 2014 10:44
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