Statins no benefit with Alzheimers

From Times wire reports
January 21, 2008

Statins fail to affect Alzheimer’s

Cholesterol drugs, such as Pfizer’s Lipitor, don’t prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study of 929 Catholic clergy.

Using the cholesterol pills at any time during the 12-year study didn’t have any effect on changes in memory or cognitive function associated with the disease, researchers said. Brain scans and autopsies showed no relationship between the drugs and the disease’s progression, according to an online report from the journal Neurology.

Previous studies had suggested that cholesterol drugs known as statins may cut levels of sticky plaques in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s, a degenerative condition that affects as many as 5 million Americans, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Negative drug trials unreported

Nearly one-third of antidepressant drug studies are never published in the medical literature, and nearly all happen to show that the drug being tested did not work, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

And in some of the studies that are published, unfavorable results have been recast to make the medicine appear more effective than it really is, said the research team led by Erick Turner of the Oregon Health & Science University.

Even if not deliberate, they wrote in their report, “Selective publication can lead doctors to make inappropriate prescribing decisions that may not be in the best interest of their patients.”

The Turner team studied a Food and Drug Administration registry in which companies are supposed to log details of their drug tests before the experiments are begun.

Of the 74 studies approved between 1987 and 2004 for 12 antidepressants, 38 produced positive results for the drug. All but one of those studies were published. However, when it came to the 36 studies with negative or questionable results, as assessed by the FDA, only three were published, and 11 were turned around and written as if the drug had worked.

Circumcision remains common

More than half of newborn boys, or 1.2 million infants, were circumcised in 2005, making it the third most common inpatient surgery performed in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Rates were highest in the Midwest, where 75% of boys were circumcised. The lowest rates were in the West, where only 31% of boys underwent the procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis.

The national circumcision rate has stayed relatively unchanged for a decade after peaking at 65% in 1980, the HHS said in a report. Circumcision is often performed for religious or cultural reasons, although some organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics say the operation isn’t medically necessary.

Device fragments flagged by FDA

Fragments left inside patients from medical devices may injure or kill when the pieces shift on their own or are pulled by magnets in imaging machines, U.S. regulators warned.

Reports of harm include infections, tissue reaction, perforations and obstructed blood vessels, the Food and Drug Administration said in a notice posted on its website.

About 1,000 incidents caused by medical device fragments, involving more than 200 devices, are reported each year, the FDA said. The most common were catheter guide wires to the heart, followed by bone screws.

“Medical technology companies are committed to providing patients and physicians with safe and effective medical devices,” said Janet Trunzo, executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Assn., a Washington trade group for medical device makers. “We agree with the agency’s recommendations.”

Doctors should inspect devices for damage before using them and check again after removal from a patient for signs that a fragment may have been left behind. The risk of injury may depend on where in the patient’s body a fragment is situated, where it might migrate and the patient’s anatomy.

For people with device fragments in their bodies, procedures with magnetic resonance imaging machines “may cause metallic fragments to migrate, and radiofrequency fields may cause them to heat, causing internal tissue damage and/or burns,” the FDA said.

Excess iron absorption linked to diseases

Liver cancer, arthritis and other complications caused by excessive iron in the blood may develop in more than one-quarter of men with hemochromatosis, the most common inherited blood disorder, researchers in Australia found.

Left untreated, 28.4% of men with hemochromatosis will develop disorders caused by iron overload, according to doctors at Melbourne’s Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The finding suggests hemochromatosis leads to more diseases than previous studies showed. It also supports evidence that genetic screening can enable those with the disorder to start therapy earlier to prevent harmful iron accumulation that usually appears in midlife. The most common treatment is to remove blood.

The research, published in the Jan. 17 New England Journal of Medicine, is based on a study of 1,438 randomly selected, healthy adults followed for an average of 12 years. Of those, 108 women and 95 men inherited a defective gene known as HFE from both parents, making them susceptible to absorbing too much iron from food, potentially leading to iron overload.

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