Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2011Last Updated: October 31, 2011.
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Vytorin Helps Reduce Heart Problems in Kidney Disease Patients: FDA
The cholesterol pill Vytorin helps reduce heart problems in kidney disease patients, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review.
The pill, a combination of the cholesterol drugs Zocor and Zetia, is already approved for treating high cholesterol levels. Merck & Co. has asked the FDA to approve the pill to reduce heart attack, stroke and related problems in kidney disease patients, the Associated Press reported.
The FDA review found that Vytorin reduced kidney disease patients' risk of heart problems by 16 percent compared to placebo. It found no safety concerns with the pill.
On Wednesday, an independent panel of FDA advisers will discuss the proposed new use of Vytorin and vote on whether to recommend approval, the AP reported.
Gene-Tweaked Mosquitoes May Lower Dengue Fever Cases
A new study suggests that genetically modified (GM) male mosquitoes might help reduce human cases of dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases.
The GM males -- who are modified so their offspring die before they can reproduce -- mated successfully with wild female mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands, BBC News reported.
This is the first time that this type of mating -- which could reduce the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes -- has been proven in the wild, according to the researchers.
The study appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and the World Health Organization says there may be 50 million cases of the disease a year, BBC News reported. There is no vaccine against dengue fever.
Obama to Tell FDA to Tackle Drug Shortages
President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Monday directing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action to reduce drug shortages, according to a White House official.
The FDA says there were 178 drug shortages in 2010 and the problem has become worse this year, putting patients at risk and potentially leading to price gouging, the Associated Press reported.
Anesthetics, cancer drugs, emergency medicine drugs and electrolytes required for intravenous feeding are among the drugs that tend to be affected by shortages.
Quality or manufacturing problems, or drug makers experiencing delays in receiving components from suppliers, are major reasons for the drug shortages, according to the FDA. In some cases, drug companies discontinue older drugs in favor of newer ones that make more profit, the AP reported.
Also on Monday, Obama is scheduled to announce his support for Senate and House legislation that would compel drug companies to notify the FDA six months in advance of a potential drug shortage. Currently, notification of shortages is voluntary.
Teens 16-18 Should Have HIV Tests: Pediatricians
All teens ages 16 to 18 should receive regular, routine HIV tests if they live in an area of the United States where the HIV rate is higher than 0.1 percent of the population, according to new American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines released Monday.
The AAP also said HIV tests should be given to adolescents of any age who are tested for other sexually transmitted diseases, CNN reported.
The routine HIV testing should be conducted using a rapid response test that provides a diagnosis within about 20 minutes, the AAP said.
Previously, the academy recommended HIV testing only for teens who said they were sexually active, CNN reported.
Of the more than 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States in 2006, about 5 percent were teens and young adults ages 13 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one of every two HIV-infected teens doesn't know he or she has the virus that causes AIDS.
World Population Reaches 7 Billion
A baby girl born in the Philippines was the first of a number of babies chosen by the United Nations as symbols of the world's population reaching 7 billion people.
Danica May Camacho weighed 5.5 pounds when she was born at two minutes before midnight Sunday at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. Her birth was celebrated with a chocolate cake marked "7B Philippines," a gift certificate for free shoes, and speeches by local officials, the Associated Press reported.
Danica, born about a month premature, is the second child for mother Camille Galura and partner Florante Camacho, a driver who supports the family on a small salary.
Because it is impossible to pinpoint the actual arrival of the world's 7 billionth person, the U.N. chose Monday to hold celebrations worldwide and a series of symbolic 7-billionth babies being born in different countries.
But the occasion raises serious questions, according to Dr. Eric Tayag of the Philippines' Department of Health.
"Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply," he told the AP. "We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child. If the answer is 'no,' it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion."
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