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Drug bust

National | Abortion pill proves to be unpopular, doctors warn parents about mixing acetaminophen, and researchers link diabetes to lifestyle choices

Issue: "A patient nation," Oct. 13, 2001

Searching for a market
Doctors are just saying no to the abortion pill. Dozens of abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood clinics offer the death drug-but a Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported that only 6 percent of gynecologists say they have provided it. The pill's cheerleaders claim that it makes abortions more easily available from regular doctors. Yet the drug is offered by far fewer than the 27 percent of gynecologists who report performing surgical abortions. Pro-abortion activists say that's because it requires three doctor visits and the cost is high: about $550 compared to $400 for a surgical abortion. The abortion industry has apparently known of the product's unpopularity for some time. Last July, the National Abortion Federation, which represents 400 clinics, launched a $2 million campaign for RU-486, placing ads in such magazines as Self, People, and Glamour. The pill's proponents now want the drug legalized in Canada, but efforts hit a snag last month when a woman died during testing. The Population Council, which owns U.S. rights to the drug, reported the incident to the U.S. FDA and to Canadian authorities. It said the unnamed participant died from a rare infection and any connection to the drug is unclear. Authorities temporarily suspended enrollment in the study. Use as directed
Pediatricians are closely watching one of America's most popular pain relievers. Acetaminophen, best known as Tylenol, is so common that doctors worry that children will overdose from a mix of different products containing the drug. Dr. Richard Gorman of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that numerous over-the-counter remedies contain acetaminophen plus other medicines. This can cause parental confusion that could lead to danger. "There's Tylenol for colds, Tylenol for cough and colds, Tylenol for flu," he said. If Mom and Dad "give their child something for fever, something for cold" for several days it "can lead to toxic doses." The Academy issued new guidelines to doctors, which were published in the journal Pediatrics. It urged pediatricians to give written instructions about safe acetaminophen use. They warn parents never to give adult doses to kids or use multiple products with the drug. Parents should also notify doctors about acetaminophen use when obtaining a new prescription. Doctors consider acetaminophen safe, if used properly. They even consider it preferable to aspirin because it doesn't irritate the stomach and is not linked to Reye's syndrome. An overdose, however, can cause nausea, liver damage, and even death. Tylenol's parent, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, already warns parents not to use multiple products with acetaminophen or mix one with another pain reliever like aspirin or ibuprofen. Various product labels also specify doses for children from infants to 12 years based on age and weight. The wages of sloth
New evidence shows that healthy living may prevent diabetes. Two major studies conclude that moderate exercise and a careful diet might keep the most common form of diabetes from showing up. One report says a sound lifestyle could head off over 90 percent of Type II diabetes cases. Harvard researchers concluded that over 60 percent of cases could be attributed to weight problems. Other risk factors include inactivity, not eating right, drinking, and smoking. "There is no question that diabetes is a lifestyle disease, and can be prevented by lifestyle modifications," said Dr. Frank B. Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, lead author of the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Another study, the National Institutes of Health's Diabetes Prevention Program, examined the eating and exercise habits of 3,234 people with high blood sugar and considered to be progressing toward the disease. A moderate-intensity program of walking 30 minutes a day plus a low-fat diet cut the chances of contracting the disease by 58 percent. Dr. David Nathan of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who chaired the program, said that the recommended lifestyle changes are possible for average Americans. "We were able to take a high-risk group, and they were able to accomplish what we asked of them," he said. "It worked wonderfully." About 16 million Americans have some form of the disease. Type II diabetes accounts for 90 percent or more of all cases; it was once predominant in senior citizens, but doctors say incidence in young people is increasing at an alarming rate.

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