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Health Highlights: March 15, 2006

Health Highlights: March 15, 2006

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

6 Men Hospitalized in Clinical Drug Trial

Two men are in critical condition and another four men are in serious but stable condition in a London hospital after they all suffered serious side effects while taking part in a clinical trial of an experimental drug.

The men were taking part in a clinical trial, conducted by Massachusetts-based Parexel International Corp., involving a monoclonal antibody called TGN 1412, which is being developed to treat conditions including leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis. The United Kingdom's Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency halted trials of the drug and has launched an investigation, Bloomberg news reported.

All the men were admitted to North West London Hospital, which refused to reveal their identities.

But Ganesh Suntharalingam, clinical director of intensive care at the hospital, said, "The drug, which is untested and therefore unused by doctors, has caused an inflammatory response which affects some organs of the body."

News reports said the six victims were among eight volunteers involved in the trial. The other two men in the group had been given a placebo and were unharmed.

TGN 1412 is being developed by TeGenero AG of Germany. Clinical trials of the drug had started only in England ,but TeGenero had received approval to test the drug in Germany, Bloomberg news reported.

In an e-mailed statement, Herman Scholtz, head of clinical pharmacology at Parexel, said: "Since our unit is located within the hospital, we have immediate access to world-class medical care and we did everything possible to get the patients treated as quickly as possible."

Paraxel's clinical trial site in London specializes in testing the effects of drugs given to humans for the first time.

Black Women Unaware of Colorectal Cancer Risk: Survey

Even though they have the greatest risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer, 96 percent of black American women don't consider themselves to be at high risk for the disease, according to a new national online survey of 505 black women aged 40 and older.

This misconception means that 70 percent of black women over age 45 do not get potentially life-saving screening for colorectal cancer.

The survey found that only 6 percent of black women over age 45 discussed colorectal cancer the last time they saw their health-care provider because: they didn't think they were at particular risk (27 percent); their doctor didn't bring it up (15 percent); or they didn't think there was a reason to discuss the matter (16 percent).

Most black women over age 40 said they would be more likely to get screened for colorectal cancer if: they believed they were at risk (94 percent); if they had symptoms (95 percent); if they were not afraid to find out the results (70 percent); if the tests were not so unpleasant (71 percent); and if the side effects of cancer treatment were not so bad (73 percent).

The Harris Interactive survey was conducted for the National Women's Health Resource Center and the Black Women's Health Imperative, which have launched an educational campaign to increase colorectal cancer screening among black women. It's called African-American Women Dare to Be Aware.

"Colorectal cancer is not color blind and it has a penchant for African-American women. Our mission is to let every African-American woman in this country know why it's so critical for them to get screened early," Lorraine Cole, president of the Imperative, said in a prepared statement.

Plastic Surgery Increased 11 Percent in 2005

There were more than 10.2 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures done in the United States in 2005, an increase of 11 percent from 2004, according to the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

The top five surgical cosmetic procedures in 2005 were: liposuction (324,000); nose reshaping (298,000); breast augmentation (291,000); eyelid surgery (231,000); and tummy tuck (135,000), the ASPS said.

Minimally invasive cosmetic procedures increased by 13 percent to nearly 8.5 million in 2005. The top five were: Botox injections (3.8 million); chemical peels (1 million); microdermabrasion (838,000); laser hair removal (738,000); and sclerotherapy (590,000).

Reconstructive surgery remained relatively stable in 2005, at 5.4 million. The top five were: tumor removal (3.9 million); laceration repair (344,000); scar revision (181,000); hand surgery (172,000); and breast reduction (114,000).

Health-Care Costs Chewing Into Family Budgets

Rapidly rising health-care costs are cutting into the budgets of American families, suggest new statistics from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Data from the agency's Medical Panel Expenditure Survey show that the percentage of Americans under age 65 whose family-level out-of-pocket spending for health care (including insurance) exceeded $2,000 increased from 37.3 percent in 1996 to 43.1 percent in 2003.

There was an even larger increase -- from 9.1 percent to 14.3 percent -- in the number of people whose out-of-pocket spending for health care was more than $5,000 a year. That's a 57 percent increase.

The proportion of non-elderly people living in families whose out-of-pocket health-care expenses exceeded $10,000 increased from 1.6 percent to 2.8 percent -- a 75 percent increase from 1996 to 2003, the agency said.

The 2003 data showed that non-elderly Americans with private, non-group health coverage were most likely to have high family-level health-related spending -- a reflection of the high premiums and high deductibles common to such policies. Nearly 78 percent of these people had family-level out-of-pocket spending of more than $2,000 a year, compared to 55.7 percent of people with private group insurance, 15.9 percent of the uninsured, and 14 percent of people with Medicaid or other public insurance, the report said.

Sweden Confirms First Case of Bird Flu

Sweden has confirmed its first cases of H5N1 bird flu in two dead wild ducks and Denmark is testing a wild bird to see if it's the first case of H5N1 in that country, BBC News reported.

The dead ducks were found at the end of February in Oskarshamm, on Sweden's southeastern coast. Since then, an H5 bird flu virus subtype has been found in other wild birds. Tests are being conducted to determine whether those birds also had the H5N1 virus. So far, there are no reports of bird flu in domestic fowl in Sweden. The H5N1 virus has already been found in birds in a number of European countries. It has also been found in cats in Austria and Germany.

Along with Europe, the virus is currently present in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. So far, more than 100 people have been killed by H5N1, which can be caught through direct contact with infected birds.

While it's believed that the virus has not yet been passed from human to human, experts fear H5N1 will mutate into a form that can be transmitted between people. This could trigger a flu pandemic that could kill millions, BBC News reported.