Health Updates 18 June 2012

  • CDC study finds universal motorcycle helmet laws increase helmet use, save money: “Annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without these comprehensive laws, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Universal helmet laws require that motorcycle riders and passengers wear a helmet every time they ride.  Annual costs saved from helmet use, in terms of medical, productivity and other costs, ranged from a high of $394 million in California (which has a universal helmet law) to a low of $2.6million in New Mexico (which has a partial law).  Partial helmet laws require that only certain riders, such as those under age 21, to wear a helmet.  Universal helmet laws result in cost savings by increasing helmet use among riders and passengers, which reduces crash-related injuries and deaths.  According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets.  In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.  ‘Increasing motorcycle helmet use can save lives and money’, said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH.  ‘In 2010, more than $3 billion in economic costs were saved due to helmet use in the United States.  Another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.”   Helmets prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among riders and 41 percent among passengers.  They also prevent 13 percent of serious injuries and 8 percent of minor injuries to riders and passengers.” (CDC  Press Release, 6/14/2012)
  • Research solves how fetus is shielded from immune system: Pregnant women‘s immune systems do not attack their developing babies because embryo implantation in the uterus triggers a process that affects the ability of immune cells to reject foreign bodies, new research shows.  The investigators from the NYU Langone Medical Center found a key immune system pathway is turned off following implantation, so immune cells are not called in to harm a fetus.  Without this process, the researchers noted, preterm labor, miscarriage or a dangerous medical condition called preeclampsia could result.  The study was published recently in the journal Science.  According to lead investigator Dr. Adrian Erlebacher, an associate professor of pathology at the medical center, the study ‘addresses a fundamental question…namely, how do the fetus and placenta, which express antigens that are disparate from the mother, avoid being rejected by the maternal immune system during pregnancy?’  The answer, he explained in a center news release, ‘was completely unexpected at every level’….During pregnancy…a woman’s immune cells come into contact with the foreign antigens of their developing fetus and placenta, but this rejection response does not take place….The findings showed that when a woman becomes pregnant, the genes responsible for calling immune cells are turned off …protecting the fetus….In addition to pregnancy, the study authors said their findings could also have implications for autoimmune disease, organ transplantation and cancer.” (HealthDay)
  • FDA goes after products with DMAA: “The FDA has issued warning letters to 10 manufacturers of dietary supplements that contain dimethylamylamine (DMAA) for failing to verify the safety of their products.   DMAA is marketed in these products as a ‘natural’ stimulant…’DMAA is known to narrow the blood vessels and arteries, which can elevate blood pressure and may lead to cardiovascular events ranging from shortness of breath and tightening in the chest, to heart attack,’ the statement said.  No adverse events related to DMAA have yet been reported, the agency said in the latest release.  But in March, two Army soldiers died suddenly during fitness exercises after both reportedly took DMAA products.  The FDA noted in its warning that, under current law, companies selling products with certain dietary ingredients, which were not marketed as a dietary supplement before Oct.  15, 1994, must notify the FDA that the new dietary ingredient in the product is safe.  The agency added that no current evidence exists showing DMAA is a safe ingredient and the companies who were sent warning letters had not met this requirement.  The agency warned that synthetically produced DMAA is not considered a dietary ingredient, as defined by the Dietary Supplement and Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, and is not eligible for use as an active ingredient in a dietary supplement.”  (Cole Petrochko, MedPage Today)
  • Dialysis company’s failure to warn of product risk draws inquiry: “The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether the nation’s largest operator of dialysis centers violated federal regulations by failing to inform customers of a potentially lethal risk connected to one of its products, an FDA official said.  The company, Fresenius Medical Care, treats more than a third of the estimated 400,000 Americans receiving dialysis.  It also is the leading supplier of dialysis machines and disposable products, which are used by many clinics in addition to its own.  Last November, Fresenius’s medical office sent an internal memo to doctors practicing in the company’s dialysis centers, warning them that failure to properly use one of the company’s products appeared to be contributing to a sharp increase in the risk of patients dying suddenly from cardiac arrest.  ‘In light of these troubling findings,’ the memo said, doctors should take corrective action.  ‘This issue needs to be addressed urgently,’ the memo added later.  But Fresenius, which is based in Germany, did not immediately warn other centers that use the product, which is known as GranuFlo.  It did so only late March after the FDA received, anonymously, a copy of the internal memo and questioned the company about it.” (NY Times)

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