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Companies Race to Develop Drugs to Reduce Blood-Clotting Problems

From The New York Times:

Leading drug makers are competing to reach the market with a new class of pills to prevent the kind of dangerous blood clots in the veins and lungs that can travel to the brain, causing strokes.

The standard treatment for people with atrial fibrillation is warfarin, a powerful 60-year-old drug that originated as a rat poison. Warfarin, a generic drug also sold under the brand name Coumadin, is highly effective but it has drawbacks.

The medical and financial potential of warfarin alternatives has been one of the hot topics this week at an international cardiology conference in Stockholm attended by thousands of heart specialists. On Tuesday at the European Society of Cardiology meeting, researchers were scheduled to present the results of pivotal studies on two such drugs: apixaban, under development by Bristol-Myers Squibb together with Pfizer; and rivaroxaban, also known under the trade name Xarelto, a collaboration between Bayer Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson.

A third contestant in the anticoagulant race is dabigatran also known by the brand name Pradaxa, from Boehringer Ingelheim, a German drug company.

Plishka jurors visit crime scene

From Wayne Independent:

The Jeffrey Plishka murder trial is expected to wrap up by the middle of next week, according to presiding Judge Robert Conway.

Jurors in the case paid a visit to the murder scene Friday morning. Tanner’s Falls in Dyberry Township is where Laura Lynne Ronning’s body was found on July 28, 1991, a day after she went missing.

The defense called four witnesses to the stand on Friday, including Forensic Firearms and Tool Marking Examiner Gerald Styers, Forensic Biologist Katherine Cross and two state troopers.

Trooper Patrick Zirpoli, Criminal Investigation Unit, Troop R, Honesdale, was recalled to the stand and questioned by the defense about Ronning’s two missing rings, one of them her high school graduation ring. Trooper Zirpoli said two rings matching the description were recorded at the time of autopsy but were lost during the investigation.

Styers testified that the bullet removed from Ronning’s head was not fired from the .22 Magnum Ithica Firearm removed from Plishka’s house, and that a cartridge casing found at the scene seven inches from a blood stain “was not fired in that gun.”

Cross, who works for NMS Labs in Willow Grove, spoke about blood spatter and DNA, testifying that two to three different male DNA strands were found beneath Ronning’s nails.  Cross-examined by District Attorney Mike Lehutsky, Cross agreed that the defendant, Plishka, could not be excluded from that DNA sample.

An expert in serology, which includes blood spatter analysis, Cross also discussed two different scenarios concerning Ronning’s death.

In the first scenario, Cross said the victim may have been shot at or near the blood spatter, fell, remaining there for several moments where the blood pooled before being dragged to the edge of the road where her body was rolled down the embankment, and stopped by trees.

Questioned about the blood that had pooled on the roadway, Cross said if may have taken up to 15 minutes for it “to seep into the ground to produce that type of stain,” later saying a more realistic time-frame may have been three to five minutes.

The blood stains showed a broken pattern, she said, or non-active bleeding. “This can happen when the heart stops ...or something is blocking the blood,” she said, or the heart is reduced in its beating capacity.

From the photographs she’d been given of the blood stained road, Cross said she was unable to determine if Ronning had been shot there.

A second scenario involved Ronning being shot elsewhere, her body transported to the roadway, where the wound-side of her head made contact with the ground, before being dragged, head side down, towards the edge of the road, where her body was rolled down the embankment until it got tangled in trees.

Posted: 8/24/2010 9:53:00 AM

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A link between pesticides and attention disorders?

From TIME:

Prenatal exposure to pesticides may be delaying kids' nervous-system development, leading to attention problems later in life, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley followed more than 300 California children and their mothers over several years. When the women were pregnant, the researchers took urine samples and tested them for their level of organophosphate metabolites -- that is, how much their bodies were creating waste products that come from breaking down a class of very common pesticides, called organophosphates. Those metabolite levels were thought to be the best marker of a woman's pesticide exposure. Five years later, the children born to women with high levels of pesticide traces in their urine were far more likely to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

This is not the first study to find a link between kids' neurological development and pesticide exposure. Earlier this year, in fact, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that children with high levels of pesticide metabolites in their own urine were also more likely than average to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Together, studies like these raise concerns about the safety of the common pesticides used for food production. The researchers behind the new study stress that the women under review in California were mostly agricultural workers, who probably have unusually high exposure to pesticides. Still, principal investigator Brenda Eskenazi said in a statement, "I would recommend thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating them, especially if you're pregnant."

The new study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Posted: 8/23/2010 2:15:00 PM

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Suit Sees Lead Risk in Bounce Houses

From The New York Times:

It may be one of the most beloved activities of hyperactive children and the parents who love them: bouncing in a bounce house. But, according to Attorney General Jerry Brown of California, it may also be toxic.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Mr. Brown’s office claims that some of the inflatable bounce houses that help entertain — and exhaust — the young guests at children’s parties have unsafe levels of lead, sometimes dozens of times the federal limit.

The suit was prompted by a an investigation by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., an advocacy group that tested dozens of bounce houses, concentrating on the vinyl that gives them their bounce.

Lead levels in the vinyl, the tests found, varied from 5,000 parts per million to 29,000, far above the federal limit of 90 to 300 parts per million.

Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the center, said he was not saying that children should stop using the houses, but that they should wipe their hands and faces afterward.

Dr. Megan Schwarzman, a family physician and an associate director at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, said that she had not seen the test results, but that there was no safe level of lead exposure for children.

Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, at very high levels, seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted: 8/16/2010 10:58:00 AM

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FDA warns of brain problem with seizure drug


Federal health regulators are warning doctors and patients that an anti-seizure drug from GlaxoSmithKline PLC can cause rare inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is working with the British drugmaker Glaxo to add new warnings and labeling information to the company's drug Lamictal.

The agency said it has received reports of 40 cases of aseptic meningitis between 1994, when Lamictal was approved, and last November. Thirty-five patients needed to be hospitalized, the agency said in a statement. The symptoms usually emerged within the first month and a half of treatment.

GlaxoSmithKline said in a statement it will add language about the risk to a medication guide distributed to patients. According to the company, aseptic meningitis is a "very rarely reported event."

Posted: 8/16/2010 10:55:00 AM

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