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Chemotherapy Aid May Fight Bulimia

March 06, 2000|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | TIMES MEDICAL WRITER

A drug used to combat the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy may provide the first effective treatment for bulimia nervosa, the eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by vomiting.

Dr. Patricia Faris and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota Medical School studied the drug odansetron in 26 women with severe, long-term bulimia. Fourteen received the drug, 12 a placebo.

The team reported in Saturday's Lancet that, after four weeks of therapy, the women receiving the drug had significantly fewer episodes of bingeing and purging than those in the placebo group.

In bulimia, victims initially induce vomiting themselves, often as a way to lose weight, but after some time, they lose control over it and the vomiting can become involuntary. It is now treated with behavioral therapies.

Marijuana Compound Could Ease MS Tremors

Cannabinoids, the active ingredient in marijuana, can reduce tremors and spasticity in mice with a disease that mimics multiple sclerosis, British researchers reported Thursday. The research could lead to trials of the drug in humans with multiple sclerosis, which affects about 350,000 people in the United States.

The mouse disease is called chronic allergic encephalomyelitis, and is widely used for studying MS and potential treatments. Dr. David Baker of University College London and researchers from the MS Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland used cannabinoids to treat mice in the early stages of the disease, and found significant reductions in tremors and spasticity, they reported in the journal Nature.

Large doses of the drug are known to suppress the immune system. MS is caused by an attack on nerve fibers by the patient's own immune system.

With Hospitals, Experience May Count

If you require serious surgery or medical treatment, you are better off going to a hospital with extensive experience in that area, according to UC San Francisco researchers. The study confirms earlier findings indicating, in effect, practice makes perfect.

Dr. R. Adams Dudley and his associates studied 11 conditions and procedures for which high-volume hospitals clearly had lower death rates, including coronary bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty, surgery for pancreatic cancer, and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Comparing annual death rates in high- and low-volume hospitals, they concluded that 602 deaths in low-volume California hospitals could have been avoided, according to their report in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Many of the low-volume hospitals are in urban areas. The researchers note, for example, that 42 hospitals in Los Angeles County perform cardiac bypass surgery. But 16 of those do fewer than 200 procedures per year, the minimum number recommended by the American College of Cardiology to maintain competency.

Study Discounts Soy as Menopause Treatment

Soy phytoestrogens, a highly touted alternative to estrogen for treating hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, provide no short-term benefits, according to a new multi-center study.

Researchers at the North Central Cancer Treatment Group Clinic, headquartered at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., enrolled 177 female breast-cancer survivors who were suffering the symptoms of menopause.

Half of the group took 150 milligrams of soy isoflavones every day and half received a placebo. After four weeks, the groups switched regimens. The team reported in Wednesday's Journal of Clinical Oncology that when women were receiving the soy product, they had the same number and severity of symptoms as those on the placebo.

Web Site Covers Cancer Therapy Trials

Complete information about clinical trials of cancer treatments can be found at a new Web site started Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health, http://clinicaltrials.gov. The site offers patients, families and the public easy access to information about the location of clinical trials, their design and purpose, criteria for participation, and, in many cases, further information about the disease and treatment under study. There are also links to the individuals responsible for recruiting participants for each study.

Beans May Have Heart Benefits

Black bean soup, bean burritos and other bean products can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 19%, according to research presented Thursday at an American Heart Assn. meeting in San Diego.

The catch is that you have to eat beans at least four times a week, according to Dr. Jiang He and her colleagues at Tulane University in New Orleans. Soybeans and tofu count also, according to the doctor.

The results came from an analysis of 19 years' worth of data on 11,924 men and women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They attributed the benefits to proteins in the beans that lower cholesterol levels.

Electron Scan Better at Assessing Artery Disease

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