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Genetics play role in hearing loss

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, November 15, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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       Patients receive HIV-infected transplants

CHICAGO, -- Four transplant recipients in Chicago contracted
HIV from a high-risk donor whose infection went undetected, 
hospital officials said. Health officials said the infect-
ions were the first documented cases of HIV being transmit-
ted by donated organs in the United States in more than 20 
years, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday. The transplants
occurred at three Chicago hospitals in January. Officials 
said patients didn't learn of their infections with HIV and 
the hepatitis C virus until two weeks ago. Authorities said 
the infections were caused by a rarely encountered flaw in 
the test used to detect hepatitis C and the virus that caus-
es AIDS. A screening questionnaire determined the organ don-
or engaged in risky behavior, said officials of Gift of Hope
Organ & Tissue Donation, the organ procurement agency that 
tested and approved the donated organs. The tests were nega-
tive, likely because the donor became infected during a win-
dow when conditions wouldn't be detected, officials said.
"Every patient in need of an organ has a significant medical
condition that in most circumstances limits life expectancy"
said Alison Smith, Gift of Hope vice president for operat-
ions. "The question becomes what degree of risk is appropri-
ate in that situation."           

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           Genetics play role in hearing loss

WALTHAM, Mass., -- Genes play a significant role in age-rel-
ated hearing loss, a study at Brandeis University in Massa-
chusetts showed. The research, published in the Journal of 
Gerontology: Medical Sciences, considered genetic and envir-
onmental factors affecting hearing loss with regard to sp-
eech recognition, the university in Waltham said Wednesday 
in a news release. "This research confirms the importance 
of genetic factors in age-associated hearing loss, and the 
need for vulnerable individuals and their families to take 
extra care to prevent further hearing damage," said Arthur 
Wingfield, lead author and a neuroscientist at Brandeis.
The study examined 179 identical and 150 fraternal male 
twin pairs, ages  52 to 60, as part of the Vietnam Era Twin 
Study of Aging. About two-thirds of the hearing loss in the 
subjects' better ears could be attributed to genetic fact-
ors. In the subjects' poorer ears, about one-half of the 
hearing loss was genetic, the study concluded. Wingfield 
said even mild hearing loss can indirectly lead to drop-offs
in cognitive performance because intellectual energy norm-
ally used for higher-level comprehension must be re-directed
toward efforts to accurately hear someone talk. 


       Doctors cool to herbal tea diabetes remedy

SAN ANTONIO, -- Some doctors in Texas are throwing cold 
water on a Mexican herbal tea some claim is a remedy for 
diabetes. Dibepan is a diabetes herbal remedy that some 
swear changed their lives, San Antonio television station 
KENS reported. Doctors, however, said they aren't so sure.
"We looked on the Web about this (and) these people are very
clever, there is nothing on the Web about this. It just says
that it works," Dr. Sherwyn Schwartz, an endocrinologist and
diabetes researcher in the San Antonio area, told the tele-
vision station. The herbal product from Mexico went on sale 
in San Antonio six months ago. Made from the root bark and 
leaves of a tree that grows in the tropics of Mexico, dibe-
pan's maker said it helps the pancreas process glucose norm-
ally reducing blood sugar levels. "I feel a lot better. I 
have a lot more energy, and it really controls my sugar 
level," tea drinker Richard Sepulveda said to KENS. Others 
said they've stopped taking their insulin without ill effe-
cts so far, the television station reported. "I'm not saying
it doesn't work if it does work," Schwartz said. "I don't 
know the side effects. I don't understand it; they don't 
give me information."
           
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         Medicaid providers charged with fraud

WASHINGTON, -- The Government Accountability Office issued 
a report accusing Medicaid providers in seven U.S. states of
withholding tax revenue from the federal government. The 
congressional investigation uncovered tax fraud by heathcare
providers participating in the Medicaid program, but said 
bureaucratic procedures prevented improvements, a report in 
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal said. The GAO report found 5
percent of Medicaid providers in seven states owed the fed-
eral government more than $1 billion as of Sept. 30, 2006, 
for failing to forward money collected for Social Security 
to the Internal Revenue Service. Because Medicaid is jointly
funded by both the federal and state governments, it is more
difficult to enforce compliance, the Journal noted. "We need
to figure out how to ... stop those Medicaid medical prov-
iders from putting taxpayer dollars into one pocket while 
stiffing Uncle Sam by dodging their taxes," Sen. Carl Levin,
D-Mich., chairman of the Senate subcommittee examining the 
situation, told USA Today.


         FDA: New warnings for anemia drugs

WASHINGTON, -- Revised statements about potential risks of 
three anemia drugs to patients with cancer or chronic kidney
failure have been approved, U.S. regulators said. The label-
ing changes for the drugs Aranesp, Epogen and Procrit also 
include a statement that symptoms of anemia, fatigue and 
quality of life have not been shown to improve in patients 
with cancer who take the drugs, the Food and Drug Administr-
ation said in a news release. Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp, 
which are erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, are approved to
treat anemia in patients with chronic kidney failure and 
anemia caused by chemotherapy in some cancer patients, the 
FDA said. For patients with cancer, the new boxed warnings 
stress that ESAs caused tumor growth and shortened survival 
in patients with advanced breast, head and neck, lymphoid 
and non-small cell lung cancer when they received a dose 
that attempted to achieve a hemoglobin level of 12 grams per
deciliter. For patients with chronic kidney failure, the new
boxed warning states that ESAs should be used to maintain a 
hemoglobin level 10 grams per deciliter to 12 grams per dec-
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        Petition seeks drug-testing alternatives

WASHINGTON, -- An international coalition of physicians Wed-
nesday petitioned U.S. regulators to mandate non-animal 
testing methods of drugs when available. The coalition call-
ed on the Food and Drug Administration to follow a European 
Union regulation requiring the use of human-centered testing
methods, when available, said the Physicians Committee for 
Responsible Medicine, one of the petition signers. The Mand-
atory Alternatives Petition noted several instances in which
pharmaceutical products that seemed safe in animal tests in-
jured or killed consumers or participants in clinical tri-
als. "Dangerous drugs are killing American consumers because
regulators allow drug companies to use misleading animal 
tests," said coalition spokesman Dr. John J. Pippin in a 
news release. The MAP coalition urged wider use of human-
centered research methods such as micro-dosing, tissue st-
udies and virtual drug trials. The petition lays the ground-
work for legal action. If the FDA does not act within six 
months, the petitioners said they would consider other act-
ion. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 
based in Washington, said it was among the more than 100 
signatories.
 
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