Herpes Vaccine in Trials
A recent clinical trial has shown that a new vaccine prevented genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type 2) in 70 percent of women who participated in the study. It did not work for women who had been exposed to type 1, the type of herpes that can cause small sores around the mouth, and the vaccine did not work for men.
Now, the vaccine is about to be tested further in another trial. It is likely to be available commercially in five years.
Genital herpes can cause painful lesions. It also makes people more susceptible to other sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS. Women who have genital herpes can pass the virus along to their babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2,500 babies die every year and others suffer from mental retardation because their mothers passed the herpes virus on to them.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 21 November 2002
Anti-bacterial Cleansers Safer?
It might seem like using antibacterial soaps, dishwashing detergents, toothpastes, etc. is the best way to protect yourself from germs.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does NOT recommend that consumers use these types of products, warning that overuse may cause resistance to bacteria. In other words, bacteria can eventually “learn” to fight back. There’s also some concern that too much hygiene may actually increase instances of allergies, asthma and eczema.
It seems that there is such a thing as protecting yourself from germs too much. So don’t overdo it. Use regular cleaning products. When you need an antibiotic to kill some serious germs, your doctor will prescribe one.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 2002
From Prescription to OTC
For a prescription drug (as Claritin was until recently) to become an over-the-counter drug, the Food and Drug Administration requires the medication to be for a condition that people can diagnose and manage on their own, without a doctor’s supervision.
Sometimes, a medication that becomes available over the counter is weaker than it was in prescription form. But the over-the-counter Claritin is the same strength it was in prescription form.
Since 1972, the FDA has been formally reviewing all over-the-counter drugs for safety and effectiveness.
Source: Food and Drug Administration, December 2002
Out with Mercury Thermometers
If you’re still using thermometers containing mercury, it’s time to update your medicine cabinet. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that exposure to mercury is dangerous to the nervous system, lungs, kidneys and skin. Typical thermometer use has a low risk of mercury exposure, but if the thermometer breaks, the exposure risk is much higher.
For the most accurate readings, use a digital thermometer. Ear thermometers are okay for children older than three months, although the readings are not as accurate as digital ones. Forehead thermometers can tell you whether your child has a fever, but again, the reading is not quite as accurate.
Sources: Pediatrics, July 2001
Drugs for Glaucoma
Eye drops are a common treatment for glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause blindness if it’s not treated. Using the drops the way your doctor prescribes them is extremely important. It keeps the medicine in your system on a continuous basis.
Some drops cause pain in the eye at first, but that usually improves after a few days of use. Some people experience side effects from eye drops, but many experience none at all. Be sure to ask about the side effects of any drops you take, and talk with your doctor if any of the side effects do occur for you.
Remember this: eye drops are absorbed into the bloodstream, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, just to make sure they mix safely with the drops.
Source: The Glaucoma Foundation, December 2002