Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
E. Coli in German Outbreak is Rare, Lethal Strain
Fifteen Germans and a Swedish woman have died, and more than
1,500 others have been made ill by a deadly strain of E. coli that
is usually rare, German authorities say.
The New York Times, nearly 500 infected Germans have come down with a typically rare condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can stop kidney function.
The newspaper says that intensive care units in German cities
are struggling to deal with very ill patients, even as authorities
try to trace the source of the bacteria.
While tests conducted in Germany had cited some E. coli on
cucumbers imported from Spain, it is not the virulent strain
wreaking havoc in Germany, the
Times reported. "There is no proof at this point in this time
that the Spanish cucumbers are the cause of this contamination in
Germany," John Dalli, the European Union's health commissioner,
told the newspaper.
Nevertheless, the news has prompted a number of European
countries to block importation of Spanish cucumbers. In Spain,
authorities in Andalusia said on Tuesday that all 13 production
sites of cucumbers had been shut down while tests on water, soil
and produce were carried out. Lab results from those tests are
expected on Thursday, the
Clot Risk Spurs FDA Review of Birth Control Pills
U.S. regulators will assess the safety of Bayer birth control
pills as a result of two new studies suggesting they pose a
higher-than-expected risk of serious blood clots.
Expressing concerns about the hormone drospirenone -- found in
Bayer's Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz and Safyral products -- the Food and
Drug Administration said in a statement Tuesday it has commissioned
an 800,000-person study to review the risks . Drospirenone is a
type of progestin used in combination with another female hormone,
Women taking the drospirenone-containing birth control pills had
a two to three times greater risk of blood clots compared with
women taking pills containing a different type of progestin,
according to the studies published in
BMJ, the FDA said. Because other studies have had conflicting results, the agency said it wants to conduct its own review. It expects to have the results this summer.
All birth control pills carry some clotting risk. Symptoms
include leg or chest pain or sudden shortness of breath. Women with
concerns should talk to their doctor, the FDA said.
In Europe last week, regulators announced they would update the
contraceptives' prescribing information to include the new
Bayer's analysis of the overall body of available scientific
evidence continues to support its current assessment about the
safety of its oral contraceptives, Bayer said in a statement,
Hospitals Facing More Drug Shortages
Medication shortages in the United States tripled over the past
five years, reaching a high of 211 last year and delaying or
altering treatment for illnesses such as cancer, infertility and
heart attack, the
Associated Press reported Tuesday.
"It's just a matter of time now before we call for a drug that we need to save a patient's life and we find out there isn't any," Dr. Eric Lavonas of the American College of Emergency Physicians told the AP.
The problem is getting worse, experts said. In the first three
months of this year, 89 shortages occurred, with injectable
medications used in emergency rooms, cancer treatment and intensive
care units most often in short supply, according to the University
of Utah's Drug Information Service, which tracks drug availability
for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
Causes of the shortage include difficulty importing raw
materials, increased demand, and recalls of contaminated products.
Also, fewer pharmaceutical companies make the cheaper, older
generic drugs, especially the injectable ones, leaving fewer drug
makers available to fill any gaps, Valerie Jensen, who heads the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's shortage office, told the
A shortage of a sedative used for executions has been widely
publicized, but other drugs in short supply include: injectable
nutrients needed by some premature babies and critically ill
patients; thiotepa, used for bone marrow transplantation;
norepinephrine injections for septic shock; the cystic fibrosis
drug acetylcysteine; injections for certain types of cardiac
arrest; and leuprolide hormone injections used to treat
infertility, the news service said.