HEALTH

Sanofi-Aventis announces availability of insulin pen in the United States

BY Alaric DeArment

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. A disposable insulin pen for patients ages 4 and older with Type 1 diabetes and adults with Type 2 diabetes has become available in the United States.

Sanofi-Aventis U.S. announced Monday the availability of the Apidra SoloSTAR, a pen with the fast-acting insulin analog Apidra (insulin glulisine [rDNA origin]). The pen received Food and Drug Administration approval in February, following the approval and launch of the long-acting Lantus SoloSTAR (insulin glargine [rDNA origin]).

“Sanofi-Aventis is committed to providing innovative tools to patients with diabetes that can help ease some of the challenges of blood sugar management,” stated Jerry Durso, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. VP Specialized Therapeutics Business Unit. “Apidra SoloSTAR provides patients with a convenient option for administering their Apidra.”

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Study: Taking epilepsy drug during pregnancy can impair child’s cognitive development

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Exposure to the epilepsy drug Depakote (valproate) during pregnancy can impair a child’s cognitive development, according to a study published in the April 16 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Three-year-olds whose mothers took the antiepileptic drug valproate during pregnancy had average IQs six to nine points lower than children exposed to three other antiepileptic drugs, according to the research.

The study’s authors say that women of childbearing age should avoid valproate as a first choice drug for the treatment of epilepsy.

The Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs study is following more than 300 children born to women with epilepsy between 1999 and 2004. Investigators at 25 epilepsy centers in the United States and the United Kingdom are participating. At enrollment, the women were taking a single antiepileptic agent: carbamazepine, lamotrigine, phenytoin or valproate.

The NEAD study previously found that valproate exposure also increases the risk of anatomical birth defects, even though it was not designed to look for them.

“There are clear risks associated with valproate, and physicians have an obligation to inform women about them,” stated lead study author Kimford Meador, professor of neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine. “Valproate still has an important role in treating epilepsy, because some patients’ seizures can only be controlled with valproate. However, we are recommending that women with epilepsy try another drug first.”

Around 15% of patients with primary generalized epilepsy respond only to valproate, but this selectivity does not apply to other forms of epilepsy, Meador said.

A child’s IQ is usually strongly influenced by the mother’s IQ. Out of the four antiepileptic drugs studied, only valproate disrupted this relationship.

Valproate is also prescribed for bipolar disorder and migraine headaches. It is sold under the brand name Depakote. Last year the FDA approved a generic version.

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Study finds racial bias in measuring of BMI, obesity rates

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The rise in obesity in the United States over the last 20 years has been dramatic, but a new study indicates that existing statistics may not be accurate.

The study, published online April 6 in the British Journal of Nutrition, has found evidence of racial bias in the use of body mass index as a measurement of obesity, overstating the prevalence of obesity among blacks while understating it among Hispanic and Asian women.

The BMI uses “cut-scores” based on studies conducted long ago that used white adults, and the researchers in the study found that scores greater than 30 might more accurately reflect obesity for blacks, while lower scores might be a more suitable indicator for Hispanic, Asian and South Asian women. Under current measurements, a BMI of 30 indicates obesity for anyone of any race or sex.

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