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Got the Flu? This Drug Firm Wants You

January 05, 1998

A Foster City, Calif., drug company is looking for flu sufferers in 75 cities to take part in a study of an as-yet-unnamed influenza remedy. Gilead Sciences is looking for adults ages 18 to 65 with new symptoms for the study.

In previous studies, the drug, a pill currently known as GS 4104, has been effective in preventing growth of the virus that causes influenza A and B. The only two antiviral treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration have shown success in treating only influenza A. People who wish to participate should call (888) I-GOT-FLU within 36 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Value of Uterine Monitoring Questioned

A study reported in the Jan. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine casts doubt on the effectiveness of uterine monitoring in the home as a way of preventing pregnant women from giving birth prematurely. The goal of the monitoring is to identify uterine contractions early so they can be stopped with medicine.

Physicians from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Clara, Calif., conducted a study to test such monitoring along with frequent calls from nurses. The doctors enrolled 2,422 women who were considered to be at high risk of delivering prematurely. One-third were assigned to get calls once a week from a nurse; one-third were called daily; the other one-third were called daily and used home-monitoring machines.

In each of the groups, about 14% of the women went on to deliver at less than 35 weeks' gestation, compared with the normal 40 weeks. There was no sign that daily calls or monitoring did any good.

More Wine, My Dear?

People who drink wine in moderation are less likely than others to develop age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in older adults, according to a new study in the January Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. A team from Howard University and George Washington University studied 3,000 adults, ages 45 to 74, and found that moderate consumption of wine was linked to a 20% reduction in the disorder. The team attributed the results to antioxidants, present in the greatest amounts in red wines.

Altered Dosage Aids Alcoholics

Altered administration schedules can improve the efficacy of a drug called gamma-hydroxybutyric acid in treating alcoholism. Three daily doses of the drug are used to help people stop drinking, but about a third of patients do not respond. A team from Catholic University in Rome tested 119 patients who did not respond to normal therapy with the drug.

The team reports in the Jan. 3 Lancet that dividing the drug into six doses daily made it much more efficacious. Only six of the 119 patients who did not respond to the conventional regimen failed to respond to the six-dose treatment. The problem with the conventional regimen, the researchers said, is that the drug disappears from the blood too quickly, remaining at effective concentrations for less than 60 minutes.

Anti-Hypertension Drug May Help Diabetics

The anti-hypertension drug lisinopril can help retard the onset of retinopathy in diabetics, British researchers report in the Jan. 3 issue of the Lancet. From 70% to 100% of patients with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes develop retinopathy, which usually leads to blindness. The only technique now available for delaying onset is tight control of glucose levels in the blood.

Dr. Nish Chaturvedi and her colleagues at University College London studied retinopathy in 409 patients receiving lisinopril in an attempt to forestall kidney damage caused by high blood pressure. They observed a significant delay in progression of retinopathy among patients receiving the drug compared to those receiving a placebo. They cautioned, however, that further trials are necessary before the drug is widely prescribed for that purpose.

--Compiled by THOMAS H. MAUGH II

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