Women's Health Watch

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Good News for Breast Cancer Survivors

A study, reported in the August 20,2008, issue of the Journal of the NationalCancer Institute, showed that womenwho survive 5 years after a diagnosisof breast cancer have good odds ofremaining cancer-free. Specifically, thestudy indicated that 89% of patientsremain disease-free 10 years after diagnosis,and 81% are cancer-free after 15years.

Lead researcher Abenaa Brewster,MD, noted that her study of 2838 patientsdid not include women whorelapsed before 5 years.In the study, all of the patients underwentsurgery to remove their originaltumor, and some also had radiation.All of the women also took medication,such as months of chemotherapy,5 years of tamoxifen, or both, to preventthe cancer from returning.

Improved Drug Labels for Pregnant and Lactating Women Needed

The Society for Women?s Health Research said the FDA shouldrequire clear labeling on all prescription drug and biologicalproducts to educate pregnant and breast-feeding women aboutpossible health risks for their fetuses or nursing infants. Thesociety expressed their concerns in a public comment letter tothe agency in response to the FDA?s request for input on plansto change medication labeling.

The nonprofit organization believes that the fetal risk summariesshould be listed first in the pregnancy subheadings of druglabels. The information should include short- and long-term sideeffects and indicate the severity of the condition for which thetreatment may be prescribed.

In addition, the organization believes that pregnancy exposureregistries, which track the outcomes of pregnanciesexposed to particular medical products, should be improved toinform future research and treatment decisions. Furthermore,more research is needed to analyze the levels and effects ofdrugs in breast milk.

Women into Sharing Pills

A Centers for Disease and Control Prevention survey found thatthe sharing of prescription drugs is a common practice amongyounger women. Whereas 27% of men engage in this practice,drug-sharing rates were highest with women aged 18 to 44.The findings raise concern about side effects and health risksof unchecked prescription drug use among women who mightbecome pregnant.

Among the 7500 women of reproductive age in the survey,>1 in 3 shared prescription medicines with friends or useddrugs offered by friends. The types of drugs most commonlyborrowed or shared by women are allergy medicines and painpills. The women reported that they borrowed drugs if theyalready had a prescription for the medication but did not have iton them, or if they had a similar health problem as the individualwho had the prescription pills. The findings were reported in theAugust 2008 issue of The Journal of Public Health.

Smoking Bad for the Heart

Women smokers have heart attacks nearly 14 years earlier,compared with women who do not smoke, according to a studyrecently presented at the European Society of Cardiology. Thefindings are based on data from 1784 patients admitted for theirfirst heart attack at a hospital in Lillehammer, Norway.

The results indicated that women had their first heart attackat age 81 if they did not smoke, and at age 66 if they did. Onaverage, men experienced their first heart attack at age 72 ifthey were not smokers, and at age 64 if they smoked.

?The difference in how smoking affects women and menis profound,? said Robert Harrington, MD, spokesman for theAmerican College of Cardiology. ?Unless women don?t smoke orquit, they risk ending up with the same terrible disease as men,only at a much younger age.?

Birth Control Services Are Up

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth indicate thatmore US women are taking advantage of contraceptive services.The report, published in the October 2008 issue of theAmerican Journal of Public Health, showed that from 1995 to2002 the percentage of women who said they received contraceptiveservices increased from 36% to 41%.

Overall, the percentage of women receiving all sexual andreproductive health care services remained constant. The surveydetected patterns and trends in the use of sexual and reproductivehealth care services. The surveys included in-homequestionnaires of women aged 15 to 44 who were asked if theyhad received 13 specific services in the past 12 months.

Whereas 76% of the respondents reported getting servicesmostly from private health care providers, about a quarter saidthey went to a public health clinic or other public facility. Thewomen who went to the publicly funded clinics received abroader range of services, according to the survey.

F A S T F A C T: Approximately 180,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and about 40,000 die from it.