Health Monitor

Health Monitor

Marching in Pretoria

March 19 2001
Health Monitor

Health Monitor

Marching in Pretoria

March 19 2001

Health Monitor

Marching in Pretoria

Protesters demonstrate in the South African capital shortly before the last-minute postponement of a court case seen as pivotal in efforts to supply victims in poor nations with generic versions of costly AIDS drugs. Pharmaceutical firms are challenging a law that allows the South African government to ignore patents and import generic drugs in emergencies. A judge postponed the hearing to April 18 after drug companies asked for more time to prepare a response to an AIDS group’s request to take part in the hearings. About 4.5 million South Africans are HIVinfected or have AIDS, and few can afford the combination drug treatment that can cost $15,000 a year.

Another benefit from ASA

Taking a single tablet of the common pain medicine acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) three times a week on a regular basis might significantly reduce women’s risk of developing the most common form of ovarian cancer, a U.S. study has found. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City told a medical conference in Nashville that more research was needed, and warned that women who used ASA risked developing ulcers. The study involved 748 women who answered a questionnaire about their use of ASA between 1994 and 1996. Of the 68 women who subsequently developed ovarian cancer, 10 per cent used ASA regularly. Sixteen per cent of those who did not develop ovarian cancer had taken the pills.

Radiation and disease

The latest examination of the controversy over electromagnetic radiation as a possible health hazard does little to settle the issue. A British scientific panel concludes that EMR produced by household appliances or high-voltage power lines may play a small role in childhood leukemia. But the scientists also say the evidence suggesting a link is not strong enough to prove that the radiation caused leukemia in children.

The panel, appointed by Britain’s National Radiological Protection Board, based its findings on an examination of earlier studies that have investigated the possibility of a link between EMR and cancer in children and adults. Sir Richard Doll, the epidemiologist who led the study, said he could not see a definite link between electromagnetic radiation and childhood leukemia “I am not convinced there is an association,” he said. “But some other epidemiologists might be.”

Power lines: still no definitive answer

Malaria’s constant threat

Cases of potentially fatal malaria among Canadian travellers have risen dramatically in recent years, partly because victims fail to take precautions, a group of Canadian doctors reported. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said that in 1997 the number of Canadian travellers who contracted malaria rose to more than 1,000. The mosquito-borne disease kills up to three million people a year in sub-Saharan Africa, India, Southeast Asia and other tropical areas. The study found that Canadians abroad often contract malaria after failing to use protective drugs as prescribed. The study’s authors called on the travel industry and physicians to make greater efforts to prepare Canadians heading for high-risk regions.