Health Updates 14 February 2012

  • Cancer drug shortage threatens children’s lives: “A shortage of the childhood leukemia drug methotrexate in the United States means that hospitals across the country may run out of the medicine within the  next two weeks.  If that happens, cancer doctors and federal officials say that hundreds and perhaps thousands of children will be at risk of dying from a largely curable disease….Methotrexate is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which is the most common in children ages 2-5.  One of the nation’s largest supplier of injectable preservative-free methotrexate was Ben Venue Laboratories.   But in November, the company suspended operations at its plant in Bedford, Ohio due to what it called ‘significant manufacturing and quality concerns’.  ‘This is a crisis that I hope the FDA’s hard work can help to avert,’ Dr. Michael P. Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told The Times.  ‘We have worked very hard to take what was an incurable disease and make it curable for 90 percent of the cases.  But if we can’t get this drug anymore, that sets us back decades’.” (HealthDay)
  • More evidence big football players face heart risks: “Pro football players may generally enjoy a longer-than-average lifespan – but the biggest players may be more likely than others to die of heart disease, a US study suggests.  The study….followed more than 3,400 NFL players who were active between 1959 and 1988.  It found that 334 had died by 2007 – only about half the rate that would be expected based on US norms.  But certain players – the ones who were biggest during their careers – had higher risks of dying from heart disease or stroke.  Defensive linemen, in particular, had a 42 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared with US men in general….The findings build on evidence that football players’ big bodies can become a health liability in the long run…”. (Reuters/MedlinePlus)
  • Overeating may double risk of memory loss: “Older people who eat too much are at risk for memory impairment, a new study contends.  People 70 and older who eat between 2,100 and 6,000 calories a day may be at double the risk of these deficits in memory, which can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, the study authors said.  ‘Excessive daily caloric consumption may not be brain-health friendly’, said lead researcher Dr. Yonas Geda, an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.   ‘It may sound like a cliché, but we need to be mindful of our daily caloric consumption,’ he said.  ‘The bottom line is that eating in moderation, not in excess amount, may be good for your brain’.” (
  • Air pollution tied to stroke, cognitive slide: “Airborne pollution can have serious consequences for the brain and the heart even at typical levels of exposure, according to the results of two studies published in the Feb. 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. In one analysis, researchers led by Gregory Wellenius, ScD, of Brown Univeristy…found that short-term exposure to fine particulate matter – even at levels allowed by the EPA – can increase the risk of ischemic stroke.  In the other study, a team…found that long-term exposure to particulate matter speeded up cognitive decline in older women.”  The researchers noted that the full breadth of the health burden brought on by particulate matter is not understood, and that “controlling particulate matter is technically feasible but needs ‘increased efforts to assess exposure at the community level, more stringent and creative regulatory initiatives and political support’.” (Michael Smith,  Medpage Today)

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