Health Highlights: Sept. 19, 2012
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Parkinson's Drug May Raise Heart Failure Risk: FDA
A possible increased risk of heart failure associated with the Parkinson's disease drug Mirapex (pramipexole) is being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Recent studies suggest the increased risk but do not prove that the prescription drug increases the risk of heart failure, the FDA said.
Some studies showed that patients who took Mirapex suffered heart failure more often than those who took a placebo, but the results were not statistically significant. Two studies suggested an increased risk of new onset of heart failure among patients who took Mirapex, but did not prove whether this increased risk was related to Mirapex use or other factors.
The FDA said it is continuing to work with the drug maker to clarify the risk of heart failure with Mirapex and will provide an update when more information is available.
In the meantime, healthcare professionals should continue to follow prescribing recommendations on the drug label and patients should continue to take the drug as directed, the FDA said.
Mirapex belongs to a class of drugs called dopamine agonists and is used to treat the signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease and moderate to severe symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
FDA Testing Arsenic Levels in Rice
There's no evidence so far to suggest that rice sold in the United States has unsafe levels of arsenic, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The agency is analyzing arsenic levels in 1,200 samples of rice products bought in grocery stores, including short- and long-grain rice, cereals, drinks and rice cakes, the Associated Press reported.
On Wednesday, the FDA released the results from 200 of the samples. The agency's study will not be completed until the end of the year.
The FDA is being asked by consumer groups to set federal guidance on allowable levels of arsenic in rice. Currently, there is no federal standard for how much arsenic is allowed in food.
It's believed that rice contains higher levels of arsenic than most other foods because it is grown in water on the ground, optimal conditions for arsenic to be absorbed in the rice, the AP reported.
Two forms of arsenic -- organic and inorganic -- are present in water, soil, air and food. Organic arsenic passes through the body quickly and is essentially harmless, according to the FDA. Inorganic arsenic, which is found in some pesticides and insecticides, can be toxic and may pose a cancer risk if consumed at high levels or over a long period, the agency said.
The FDA's findings from the first 200 samples were released after Consumers Union released its own study of 223 samples of rice products and called for federal standards on arsenic in rice. Both studies found similar levels of arsenic in the products, but there is no way to say how dangerous these levels are without a federal government standard, the AP reported.
Consumers shouldn't stop eating rice, but should eat a diverse diet just in case, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg .
"Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains -- not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food," she said, the AP reported.
Mother-to-Daughter Uterus Transplants a World-First
The world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants were conducted last weekend by Swedish surgeons.
The transplants on the two women -- meant to help them have babies -- involved more than 10 surgeons and were completed without any complications, Agence France-Presse reported.
"One of the women had previously had her own uterus removed after undergoing treatment for cervical cancer. The other woman was born without a uterus. Both women are in their 30s," according to a statement from Gothenburg University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
The two women will have to wait one year before undergoing in vitro fertilization with their own frozen embryos, AFP reported.
The first successful uterine transplant was conducted in Turkey in 2011.
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