Study Pronounces Face Transplant a Success

Six months ago, French doctors performed the world's first transplant of a human face. Now, in the British journal Lancet, they report the surgery was successful.

French surgeons removed the nose, lips, chin and lower cheeks of a brain dead woman. They transplanted the skin, fatty tissue, nerves and some cartilage on to another woman who's own face was disfigured by a dog attack.

Doctors say the patient has regained her ability to chew food. Her speech is almost back to normal. And, overall her face appears un-remarkable, although her lower lip still droops a bit and smiling remains difficult. French doctors are now talking to other patients who are interested in a face transplant.

In this country, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic say they're technically ready to do a face transplant, but finding the right patient and donor takes time because U.S. guidelines are more complicated than in other countries. — Patricia Neighmond

Obese Adults More Likely To Be Depressed

July 3, 2006 — Overweight individuals are more likely than their average-weight counterparts to be depressed or suffer from anxiety disorders, according to a study in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers from the large HMO Group Health Cooperative in Seattle analyzed information gained from telephone interviews with more than 9,000 American adults. It turned out that one-fourth of those considered obese — both men and women — also suffered from depression or anxiety.

But overweight individuals were less likely to use alcohol or abuse drugs. It's not clear whether obesity contributes to depression or whether depression contributes to obesity. The answer is likely a combination of both. Researchers have found that increased appetite, weight gain, reduced physical activity and binge eating are associated with depression. — Patricia Neighmond

Warning Issued on AIDS Drug Aptivus

July 3, 2006 — The Food and Drug Administration has issued new warnings for the AIDS drug Aptivus after the manufacturer reported several deaths in AIDS patients.

At least eight patients died from intra-cranial bleeding after taking the protease inhibitor Aptivus, which is generally known as tipranavir. They were among 13 patients who suffered from bleeding on the brain out of nearly 7,000 taking the drug in a clinical experiment.

The new warning from the FDA recommends that doctors take extra caution in prescribing the drug for any patients at risk of bleeding from trauma, surgery or use of anti-coagulants.

Boehringer Ingelheim says many of the patients who died had other medical conditions and were taking medications that may have contributed to hemorrhaging. Tipranavir was approved for people with HIV just last year, and is effective only when taken with ritonavir. The FDA has warned that ritonavir heightens the risk of liver disease. — Brenda Wilson

FDA Concerned over Flu Vaccine Contamination

July 3, 2006 — The Food and Drug Administration has sent a warning letter to a major flu vaccine manufacturer about problems in one of its production facilities.

The letter went to Sanofi Pasteur, which makes flu vaccine at a plant in Swiftwater, Pa. In March, Sanofi reported that bacteria had contaminated some of its flu vaccine starter material. FDA inspectors found what they called "significant differences from good manufacturing practices" at the plant.

There have been no problems recently, but the agency is concerned that the source of the initial contamination has yet to be found. Officials say the vaccine being produced for next year's vaccine season is not contaminated.

Sanofi officials say they're working to address the FDA's concerns. Both the FDA and Sanofi expect the manufacturer will be able to produce 50 million doses of flu vaccine, as planned. — Joanne Silberner

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