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New York Times: Bush Appointee Obstructed Scientists at Interior Department

New evidence is mounting that President Bush’s political agenda is interfering with and altering scientific reports issued by the federal government. The New York Times reports that, according to an Interior Department investigation, a “top-ranking official overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Interior Department rode roughshod over agency scientists.”

The official, Julie MacDonald, stands accused of, among other improprieties, “aggressive advocacy for industries’ views of the science that underlies agency decisions.” The Interior Department report also claims that MacDonald modified field reports about endangered species in order to minimize their protection (in favor of private landowners) and also may have violated federal rules by disclosing confidential internal information to various business-related entities.
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FDA Identifies Chemical in Contaminated Pet Food

In a bizarre twist to the pet-food-contamination story, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has identified a chemical known as melamine as the agent that has sickened or killed thousands of dogs and cats in North America. The FDA also raised the possibility for the first time that the melamine contamination might have spread to dry pet food in addition to the wet-style pet food previously indicated, although they haven’t yet named any brands or companies that may be affected.

However, the FDA’s testing did not reveal the presence of aminopterin, an ingredient in rat poison that was identified last week as the culprit by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. New York state officials are questioning the FDA’s findings and remain confident that aminopterin was present in the contaminated food.
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FDA Announces Withdrawal of Parkinson’s Drug from Market

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week that all pergolide products are being removed from the market due to serious safety concerns. Pergolide drugs, which are used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, have been connected with an increased risk of severe heart-valve damage.

The products being withdrawn are Eli Lilly’s Permax (marketed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals) and its generic counterparts made by Par and Teva. Pergolide is a dopamine agonist and is used in conjunction with levodopa and carbidopa to manage the symptoms (tremors, slowness of movement) of Parkinson’s disease. Last year, roughly 12,000 patients in the United States received prescriptions for pergolide products.
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Pregnant Women’s Beef Consumption May Affect Sperm Count of Sons

In an intriguing new study, researchers have determined that a woman’s level of beef consumption during pregnancy may have adverse effects on their sons’ sperm levels and fertility. Scientists believe that the increased presence of growth hormones in beef products may be responsible for the problem. The results of the study are to be published in Human Reproduction, which is a monthly journal of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

According to a report by the ESHRE, “New research has shown that women who ate a lot of beef while pregnant had sons who were more likely to suffer from poor sperm quality as adults, and it suggests that the growth promoters used in cattle may play a role in these men’s reduced fertility.”
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American Cancer Society Recommends Annual MRIs for Those at High Risk of Breast Cancer

In a significant announcement, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has amended its breast-screening guidelines to include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests for high-risk individuals.

According to the ACS announcement, “Certain women with an especially high risk of developing breast cancer should get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans along with their yearly mammogram, according to a new American Cancer Society guideline. The two tests together give doctors a better chance of finding breast cancer early in these women, when it is easier to treat and the chance of survival is greatest.”
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Sanofi Issues Warning Letter About Ketek

This week, drug maker Sanofi-Aventis sent a letter to healthcare professionals outlining the various warning and prescription changes related to their antibiotic Ketek. The changes, mandated last month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), include a revision of approved indications for usage along with a variety of health-risk warnings.

According to the company, “The prescribing information has been revised to add a boxed warning and contraindication for myasthenia gravis patients. In addition, the indications for the treatment of acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (AECB) and acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) have been removed from the labeling. These revisions follow discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its decision to follow recommendations of a December 2006 Advisory Committee that the balance of the benefits and risks no longer support continued marketing of Ketek for these two indications. It is important to note that Ketek continues to be indicated only for the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) of mild to moderate severity.”
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Study: Heart Stents Often Not Worth the Risk or Cost

A highly anticipated new study has called into question the long-term effectiveness of stents in the treatment of stable coronary artery disease. Researchers have determined that the use of drug therapy (including blood-pressure and cholesterol drugs) is just as effective in preventing heart attacks or death when compared to a combination of drug therapy and stent implantation. The study results were shared this week at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) annual Scientific Session and will be published next month in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) study included 2,287 angina (acute chest pain due to poor blood flow) patients with at least a 70 percent artery blockage in the U.S. and Canada and assigned each patient into one of two study arms: percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) and optimal medical therapy (OMT) together or OMT alone. Researchers, led by cardiologist Dr. William Boden of Buffalo General Hospital in New York, followed patients for two-and-a-half to seven years, and results of the study showed a similar rate of death, heart attack, or stroke. “As an initial management strategy in patients with stable coronary artery disease,” the authors concluded, “PCI did not reduce the risk of death, myocardial infarction, or other major cardiovascular events when added to optimal medical therapy.”
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NIH: Early Child Care Affects Child Development

A large, ongoing studied by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that there are links between the quality of early child care and the child’s vocabulary development. In addition, however, the study has also determined that children who spent more time in child-care centers at a young age are more likely to develop behavioral issues. The latest study report appears in the new issue of Child Development.

The study, known as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, examined more than 1,300 children to determine the effects of early child care on children’s functioning from 4½ years through the end of 6th grade. According to the authors of the latest report, which is being led by Dr. Jay Belsky of Birkbeck University in London, “The results indicated that although parenting was a stronger and more consistent predictor of children’s development than early child-care experience, higher quality care predicted higher vocabulary scores, and more exposure to center care predicted more teacher-reported externalizing problems.”
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Candy Eggs Sold at Macy’s Recalled Due to Labeling Inaccuracies, Allergy Fears

Harry London Candies Inc. has announced a recall of several of its products due to inaccurate labeling information. The confections in question contain the presence of eggs and/or milk, neither of which is declared on the products’ label. The company is recalling the products due to fears of allergic reactions by consumers who were unaware of the inclusion of these ingredients.

The recall includes Frango® Cheggs-branded Mint Chegg, Double Chocolate Chegg, Marshmallow Chegg, Peanut Butter Chegg, Caramel Chegg, and Toffee Chegg all of which were sold by Macy’s Department Stores. The four- and eight-ounce packages may also contain corn starch, dextrose, Red #40, Yellow #6, and Blue #2.
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Recall Expanded for Arsenic-Tainted Mineral Water

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a second warning about Jermuk mineral water due to the presence of arsenic in their products. The FDA noted that their sampling of the Armenian-produced water found that it contained 454-674 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water, which is significantly greater than the 10 micrograms per liter allowed by the FDA.

The agency also announced that the related recall has expanded to include Jermuk products distributed in the United States by Andreas Andreasyan DBA Arnaz & Nelli Co. The product is called Jermuk Natural Mineral Water Fortified with Gas from the Spring, and the label also includes the tags “Produced by Sam-Har Co. Republic of Armenia” and “Exclusive Distributor in USA: Arnaz & Nelli Inc.”
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