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Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page A12

Antibiotics Do Not Cut Risk of Heart Problems

Two very large studies have reached the disappointing conclusion that regularly taking antibiotics does not prevent heart disease, as some scientists had hoped.

The possibility arose because of studies linking a common respiratory bacterium, Chlamydia pneumoniae, to heart attacks and clogged arteries. The germ still may help trigger heart disease, but once people have the condition, attacking the bug does not cut their risk of future heart problems, researchers reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

In one study, led by J. Thomas Grayston of the University of Washington in Seattle, 4,012 people who had experienced a heart attack or clogged arteries were given either azithromycin or a fake drug once a week for a year. Nearly four years later, the number of heart attacks, deaths, hospitalizations and necessary additional heart procedures was almost identical.

The other study tested a more powerful drug, gatifloxacin, on people recently hospitalized for heart problems. Doctors gave 4,162 patients 10 days of either the drug or dummy pills monthly for an average of two years. The results were very similar.

British Forecasters Tout Hurricane Model

British scientists say they have devised a more accurate way to forecast whether the United States is in for a particularly damaging Atlantic hurricane season.

The new computer model, developed at University College London, measures the intensity of the trade winds and the temperature of the water in July to predict whether it is going to be a busy hurricane season and whether storms will tend to reach land.

Mark A. Saunders and Adam S. Lea of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre reported in the journal Nature that the model correctly predicted the unusually active 2004 hurricane season. The model was also tested successfully against annual storm data from 1950 to 2003 and correctly predicted 74 percent of the time whether the number of hurricanes hitting land would be higher or lower than normal.

The annual forecast of a Colorado State University group foresees 13 named storms in the Atlantic this year, including three intense hurricanes. The British group will make its 2005 forecast on Aug. 4.

Shortfalls Reported In AIDS Treatment

More than 600 low-income AIDS patients in 11 states are on waiting lists for medicines as funding for assistance programs falls short, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported yesterday.

Ten other states have had to limit drug coverage or take other steps to control costs for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, or ADAPs. Paid for mostly by the federal government, ADAPs often are the last resort for patients with no other funding for their medicines. About 136,000 people annually receive ADAP services.

Overall, ADAP budgets rose 11 percent in fiscal 2004 from the previous year, thanks to increased state funding, drug rebates and higher federal appropriations. Thirty-eight states were able to provide more people with medicines, the report said.

But 11 states had to close enrollment, leaving 627 patients as of March 2005 on waiting lists.

"The growing number of people who need HIV medications, and rising drug costs, continue to exceed available resources," said Jennifer Kates, the foundation's director of HIV policy.

-- From News Services

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