Friday, March 3, 2006

Lead-Poisoning Drug Is Linked to 2 Deaths

A drug that is sometimes used to treat lead poisoning -- and is also believed by some parents to be effective against autism -- caused the deaths of two children last year, the government said yesterday.

One youngster was autistic; the other had lead poisoning. The deaths mark the first documented link between a chelation drug and cardiac arrest in children, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both were treated with a product called Endrate.

CDC officials are also looking into the 2003 death of a 53-year-old woman in Oregon who was given chelation therapy by a practitioner of natural medicine.

The maker of Endrate, Hospira Inc., had no immediate comment.

Endrate is approved for treating certain heart rhythm disturbances and high concentrations of calcium triggered by a bone cancer.

Since at least 1978, federal health officials have warned against giving it to children with lead poisoning. Endrate's calcium-removing abilities can dangerously disrupt the body's chemistry, the CDC said.

Constraint Therapy's Benefits Documented

As long as five years after suffering a stroke, people were able to regain use of a weak arm when their strong arm was restrained during two weeks of intensive therapy, new research shows.

The study, led by Edward Taub, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who pioneered constraint therapy, involved just 41 patients but is the best evidence yet that the treatment may help restore movement to hundreds of thousands of stroke victims left with impaired limbs.

Patients retained the benefits of a 10-day treatment as much as two years afterward, according to the findings published yesterday in the American Heart Association's online journal Stroke.

It is the second study in two weeks to report success with constraint or "forced use" therapy, in which a hand splint or sling is used to immobilize the patient's good arm while intensive daily physical therapy is given to strengthen the weak one.

Therapy for Addiction To Meth Is in Demand

Drug treatment centers have seen a substantial rise in the number of people seeking help for methamphetamine abuse, a report released yesterday said.

As trafficking in the highly addictive drug has spread across the country, the number of meth users admitted to substance abuse clinics more than quadrupled from 1993 to 2003, a review by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows.

The report was released hours before the Senate passed legislation to combat meth abuse by limiting sales of cold medicines used to make the illegal drug.

States in the Midwest and South that had few meth abuse patients a decade ago are seeing a sharp rise in the rate of admissions to treatment centers, the report said. The findings mirror the trend of meth abuse moving from the West -- where the drug first became popular -- across the Midwest and South to the East Coast.

Nationwide, the admission rate for treatment of methamphetamine or amphetamine abuse rose from 28,000 in 1993 to nearly 136,000 patients in 2003, the report said.

Northeastern states had relatively low rates of admissions for meth and amphetamine abuse in 1993, and those rates remained low in 2003, the report said.

-- From News Services

© 2006 The Washington Post Company