JANUARY 01, 2007

Common Depression Meds Approved for PPD

A new study finds that 2 popular antidepressants, nortriptyline and sertraline, are also safe for use in the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD). A study of 109 women conducted by the University of Pittsburgh showed both drugs had similar efficacy in alleviating the symptoms of PPD. Both medicines were alike in their effect on psychosocial functioning and the treatment of aggressive obsessional thoughts, common afflictions of patients with PPD. Researchers stated they wanted to show that "drugs that work for a woman with depression under usual circumstances will work for a woman who experiences depression after giving birth." The results of the study were published in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Group Helps Breast Cancer Patients Pay for Care

The HealthWell Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps patients with the costs of their prescription medications for specific illnesses, has announced that they have added breast cancer to the list of ailments they can help patients pay for. The program is designed to offer uninsured or underinsured patients financial help for their prescription copayments and other out-of-pocket treatment-related expenditures. The Foundation takes into account a patient's financial, medical, and insurance situations when determining assistance eligibility. There are no restrictions on providers, pharmacies, or FDA-approved medications that are covered by the group. For more information, patients can visit the group's Web site at www.healthwellfoundation.org or call 800-675-8416.

More Drugs to Fight Cervical Cancer on the Horizon

More medicines are lining up in the battle against cervical cancer. Gardasil (quadrivalent human papillomavirus [HPV] [types 6, 11, 16, 18] recombinant vaccine) (Merck) has already been approved by the FDA for the prevention of cervical cancers in certain age groups. Now, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that its vaccine, Cervarix, is showing effectiveness similar to that of Gardasil in the estimated prevention of up to 70% of all US cases of cervical cancer and deaths (if all 12-year-old girls were vaccinated). The company presented this data at the American Society for Microbiology's 46th Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in September, and GSK was expected to file for FDA approval by the end of 2006.

Another antiviral drug that is showing promise against cervical cancer is currently being used to treat HIV. Researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom found that lopinavir attacks HPV—the virus that causes cervical cancer—and are working to develop the oral medicine into a cream or suppository to apply directly to the cervix of patients who are diagnosed with the virus and early warning signs of tumors. Current vaccines under development only work in patients who have not yet contracted the virus. Their findings were published in volume 11, issue 6 of Antiviral Therapy, a journal of the International Medical Press.

Obese Women at Greater Risk of PCOS

A study by researchers at the Departments of Endocrinology, Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain, showed that overweight and obese women are 5 times more likely to have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) than their leaner counterparts. More than half of women with PCOS are obese, but the actual incidence of the disease in heavier women was not recently known, according to researchers.

The study of 113 overweight or obese women showed that 28.3% had PCOS, compared with only 6.5% of women in general, and 5.5% of leaner women. Women who took part in the study who had PCOS also tended to be younger and were more likely to have concurrent insulin resistance. The authors suggest that regular PCOS screenings in these patients can help reduce "the health burden distinctly associated with this prevalent disorder." The findings were published in the October 23, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Breast-feeding Has No Link to Baby's Intelligence

According to the results of research from Britain's Medical Research Council (BMRC),"breast-feeding has little or no effect on intelligence in children." The researchers found that, although breast-feeding does have many other advantages for children—including reducing the risks of infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea—it does nothing in itself to enhance their brainpower.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, studied data on 5475 children and 3161 mothers in the United States. They found that "in studies that factor in the mother's IQ [intelligence quotient], there isn't much difference between breast-fed and non-breast-fed babies," stated study leader Geoff Der of the BMRC.

They learned that the key to understanding a child's IQ was the intelligence of the mother—the mothers who breast-fed tended to be more intelligent and better educated and provided a more stimulating environment at home. The report was posted on-line by the British Medical Journal and appears in the November 2006 edition.