Second Look: Clinical News and Views

FDA reports more deaths linked to heparin
According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more than tripled the number of deaths that it attributes to allergic reactions to heparin. Previously, the agency had reported 19 deaths, but based on recently received reports and an expanded analysis, the FDA adjusted the total to 62 deaths, dating back to January 2007. The agency recommends that physicians and hospitals be alert to any serious side effects in patients using medical devices that may contain or be coated with heparin and to watch for any puzzling test results in diagnostic kits that use heparin. The FDA also sent a letter to device manufacturers, warning them to review the source of any heparin used in their products.

Bone stem cells may be cultured to repair cartilage
Research
presented at the annual scientific meeting of the U.K. National Stem Cell Network suggests that bone stem cells may be harnessed to repair damaged cartilage. Researchers had previously identified a progenitor in bovine cartilage that can be turned into a chondrocyte in culture. Now they have identified a similar cell in human cartilage that could be used to treat cartilage lesions due to trauma or osteoarthritis. The scientists state that the cells have the ability to derive into chondrocytes in high enough numbers to make treatment a realistic possibility.

Diabetes drugs may be linked to fracture risk
A report published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine finds that thiazolidinediones—a new and widely used class of diabetes medications—may be associated with an increased risk for fractures. Two of the drugs—rosiglitazone and pioglitazone—account for 21 percent of all prescriptions for oral diabetes medications in the United States and 5 percent of those in Europe. The authors report that, after adjusting for other risk factors, individuals currently taking the two medications were found to have approximately double or triple the odds of hip and other nonspine fractures than those who did not take these drugs. The odds for fracture were increased among patients who took the drugs for approximately 12 to 18 months, and the risk was highest for those with 2 or more years of therapy.

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