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Restriction or ban of ephedra supported by first comparative herbal study

The first comparative study to examine the risk of taking ephedra with that of taking other commonly used herbs calls into question the herbal stimulant's current standing as an unrestricted dietary supplement. Researchers found that products containing ephedra accounted for less than 1 percent of the herbal supplement sales in the United States in 2001. These products, however, were responsible for 62 percent of all herbal-related reports made to poison control centers nationwide that year, according to the study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).

Potential new treatment for people with manic depression

Drug company AstraZeneca said it has submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of quetiapine (Seroquel) as a treatment for acute mania associated with bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness. The application follows the completion of a clinical trial programme in bipolar disorder undertaken by the company which reportedly found quetiapine effective as a treatment of acute mania on two levels: as monotherapy (i.e to be prescribed on its own) and as adjunctive therapy with standard mood stabilising medication. These clinical trials have delivered strong and positive results in both the monotherapy and adjunctive therapy studies, which confirm quetiapine to be an ideal first line therapy for the treatment of acute mania associated with bipolar disorder, the company said.

White House to ask for pediatric drug trials

The Bush Administration said it will ask Congress for legislation requiring drug companies to conduct pediatric clinical trials on new medicines. Clearer legislative authority is needed, instead of pursuing appeals in the courts, the administration believes. "The fastest and most decisive route for establishing clear authority in this area is to work with Congress for new legislation," Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "Children are a special population that need to have access to drugs that can benefit them, and these drugs need to be properly tested for pediatric use, not prescribed and sold without testing. Congress alone can speak clearly on the authority that FDA needs and the provisions that may be appropriate for drug manufacturers when they are required to carry out these tests."

FDA approves wheelchair by Segway inventor Kamen

IbotThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the sale of a new wheelchair that enables users to operate on two wheels, allowing them to better negotiate obstacles like stairs and uneven pavement. Powered by a rechargeable battery that can operate up to a full day on a single charge, the wheelchair uses an integrated system of electronic, sensor and software components to automatically adjust itself according to the seat's movement and the user's center of gravity. These components are accompanied by a backup system to assure the safety of the user. It was invented by Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, best known for the two-wheeled Segway transporter.

Feds approve nicotine lozenges

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a nicotine throat lozenge meant to help smokers kick the habit. The sweets will be sold in stores alongside similar gums and patches. Maker GlaxoSmithKilne says the over-the-counter lozenges will come in two strengths to provide smokers with a source of nicotine that helps them avoid cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms while they try to quit.

Test could reduce need for biopsies in prostate disease

Men who test positive for elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels sometimes freak out because they think it means they have cancer. To find out, a surgeon will often perform a biopsy. But researchers from the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration report that a new test using a single drop of blood could help distinguish between prostate cancer and benign conditions. The trick is identifying patterns of proteins found in patients' blood serum.

Double dose of bioterrorism news

THOMPSON SAYS FOOD SUPPLY VULNERABLE TO ATTACK
The number of U.S. food inspectors has risen over the last year, but Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said the nation is still vulnerable to an attack on its food supply. It was clear even before Sept. 11 that the Food and Drug Administration's inspection system had big holes, the Associated Press reports, with 150 inspectors together examining less than one percent of the nation's food. After last fall, Congress opened the purse strings enough to hire 750 additional inspectors, and new technology has made some inspections faster. But Thompson said danger remains. "I still believe that is the area we are subject to a terrorist attack in the future and one that could cause problems." In perhaps the most shocking part of Thompson's coments, he blamed the previously low number of inspectors on a vindictive Congress that punished the agency for former FDA Commissioner David Kessler's efforts to regulate the tobacco industry. Meanwhile...
DUST-SIZED CHIPS TO COMBAT BIOTERRORISM
Silicon chips the size of dust particles that can quickly detect biological and chemical agents have been developed by University of California, San Diego scientists. As reported by HealthScoutNews, the versatile chips can identify substances that can be dissolved in drinking water or sprayed into the air during a bioterrorist attack. "The idea is that you can have something that's as small as a piece of dust with some intelligence built into it, so that it could be inconspicuously stuck to paint on a wall or to the side of a truck or dispersed into a cloud of gas," UCSD researcher Michael Sailor said. Each chip is barcoded, and can be read using a laser detector to see what if any reaction has occurred. "When the dust recognizes what kinds of chemicals or biological agents are present, that information can be read ... to tell us if the cloud that's coming toward us is filled with anthrax bacteria or if the tank of drinking water into which we've sprinkled the dust is toxic," Sailor said.

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