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Latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay

FDA Rejects New Diet Pill

A new prescription diet pill called Contrave has failed to win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, drug developer Orexigen Therapeutics announced Tuesday.

The FDA told the San Diego company it must conduct a long-term study to prove that the drug does not increase the risk of heart attacks, The New York Times reported.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks for companies trying to get prescription diet pills onto the U.S. market.

Last year, the FDA rejected lorcaserin from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Qnexa from Vivus. It also forced Abbott Laboratories’ Meridia off the market, The Times reported.


Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Narcolepsy: Finnish Study

Swine flu shots appear to increase the risk of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy in children and teens, says Finnish health officials. Narcolepsy is a rare condition that causes people to suddenly fall asleep.

A preliminary study found that patients ages 4 to 19 who received the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine were more likely to experience narcolepsy than youngsters in the same age group who didn’t receive the vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

The “most likely explanation is that the increase in narcolepsy is by joint effect of the vaccine and some other factor,” said the National Narcolepsy Task Force. The study was published Tuesday by Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare.

The European Medicines Agency said last summer that it was investigating a possible connection between the swine flu vaccine and narcolepsy, the AP reported.


Researchers Track How Flu Spreads Among Children

Flu spreads predominately from girls to girls and from boys to boys, according to a new study that examined how H1N1 swine flu spread among 370 children, ages 6 to 18, in a rural Pennsylvania community.

The researchers found that children are about three times more likely to pass the flu to children of the same gender, likely because girls tend to mix with girls and boys tend to mix with boys, the Los Angeles Timesreported.

Rates of flu transmission were five times higher between classmates than among children in the same grade but in different classes. The highest infection rate was among children ages 6 to 10, followed by those age 5 and younger.

The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tracking how flu spreads “could help us better understand whether and when it would be appropriate to close a school, or whether it might be better to close individual classes or grades,” lead author Dr. Simon Cauchemez, a researcher at Imperial College London in the U.K., said in a news release, the Timesreported.


Too Few People Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs: Study

The majority of people worldwide with high cholesterol are not receiving cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, according to a new study for the World Health Organization.

High cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, which kills 17 million people a year and is the world’s leading cause of death, BBC News reported.

For this study, researchers analyzed a decade’s worth of data from 147 million people in England, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Scotland, Thailand and the United States. They found that many at-risk people in middle-income and western nations are not taking statin drugs.

“These findings support the growing recognition that cardiovascular diseases are not merely ‘diseases of affluence’ and that some middle-income countries are beginning to face a double burden of both chronic and communicable diseases,” wrote the study authors, BBC News reported.


Chinese Drywall Not Linked to Deaths: CDC

There is no link between tainted Chinese-made drywall and the deaths of 11 people living in homes with the defective drywall, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All of the 11 people in Louisiana, Florida and Virginia died due to “preexisting chronic health conditions unrelated to imported drywall exposure,” according to a CDC report released Monday, said the Associated Press.

The CDC conclusion supports a previous finding by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The defective Chinese-made drywall has been linked to corrosion in thousands of homes in the U.S., mostly in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, the AP reported. The drywall was imported during a past housing boom and after a series of Gulf Coast hurricanes five years ago.


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