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FDA approves first OTC weight-loss drug

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          HEALTH TIPS - Monday, February 12, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"


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          FDA approves first OTC weight-loss drug

WASHINGTON, -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for 
the first time, has approved a drug as an over-the-counter 
weight-loss medication. The FDA says GlaxoSmithKline's 
orlistat was initially approved as a prescription drug to 
treat obesity in 1999 and will continue to be available 
by prescription under the brand name Xenical in 120 milli-
gram capsules. The newly approved 60 mg OTC capsules will 
be sold under the brand name Alli (AL-eye) for use by 
people ages 18 years and older, along with a reduced-
calorie, low-fat diet, and exercise program. "We know that 
being overweight has many adverse consequences, including 
an increase in the risk of heart disease and type 2 dia-
betes," said Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director of 
the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "OTC 
orlistat, along with diet and exercise, may aid overweight 
adults who seek to lose excess weight to improve their 
health." The FDA said orlistat helps produce weight loss 
by decreasing the intestinal absorption of fat. The FDA 
says the 60mg capsule can be taken up to three times daily 
with each fat-containing meal.

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            Scientists observe DNA 'sunburn'

COLUMBUS, Ohio, -- U.S. and German scientists say they 
have, for the first time, observed DNA being damaged by 
ultraviolet light. Ohio State University chemists and 
their German colleagues at the University of Munich used 
a special technique to observe the most common chemical 
reaction among a family of reactions on the DNA molecule 
that are linked to sunburn. They discovered the key 
reaction occurs in less than 1 picosecond, or 1 millionth 
of 1 millionth of a second. "The speed of this reaction 
has important consequences for understanding how DNA is 
damaged by UV light," said OSU Associate Professor of 
chemistry Bern Kohler. "In this study, we didn't see any 
evidence that long-lived energy states are responsible 
for damage. Now it seems more likely that short-lived 
states cause the most common chemical damage to DNA." 
The study was conducted by Kohler and Carlos Crespo-
Hernandez, a former postdoctoral researcher at Ohio 
State, in collaboration with Wolfgang Schreier, Tobias 
Schrader, Florian Koller, Peter Gilch, Wolfgang Zinth, 
Vijay Swaminathan, and Thomas Carell of the University 
of Munich. The study appears in the journal Science.

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              Why flu is big threat to elderly

BONN, Germany, -- European Union scientists are trying to 
determine why respiratory diseases, such as influenza, are 
a special threat to elderly people. Not only is viral in-
fluenza particular dangerous for older people, but flu 
vaccines are not as effective as they are for younger 
people The international EU project led by the University 
of Bonn is, among other things, focusing on the question 
by examining tens of thousands of blood samples. The 
objective is also to develop medicines that inactivate 
most of the viruses and enable the immune system to deal 
with the small number of residual viruses. "Normally res-
piratory diseases are dangerous for children and the over-
60s," project coordinator Oliver Schildgen said. "What's 
more, in the case of the elderly, the flu vaccine 
unfortunately only prevents the disease in six out of 10 
cases." By contrast, with young adults, the success rate 
is as high as 90 percent. As part of the $2.3 million 
(1.8 million euros) three-year study, Italian scientists 
at the University of Siena will investigate how the 
immune response changes on a cellular level in elderly 
people.

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