Thursday, February 8, 2007

Lawmaker With Cancer Goes Home

Rep. Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. is leaving Washington to receive hospice care at home in Augusta, Ga., forgoing further treatment for the lung cancer that has spread to his liver.

Norwood's spokesman, John Stone, said yesterday that the seven-term Republican is not yet resigning from Congress but has decided to go home to be with his family and "let the Lord decide what to do."

"He said, 'Let me go back home, stop all the treatments and just see how I can do there,' " Stone said.

Norwood, 65, received a lung transplant in 2004. He suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease.

Last year, doctors discovered a small cancerous tumor on his non-transplanted lung. They removed the cancer with surgery but discovered more on his liver when Norwood returned to Washington after the November elections.

In a press release, Stone said Norwood would leave Washington as soon as an air ambulance flight could be arranged and would receive 24-hour nursing care at home. The family requested continued prayers from supporters.

Wider Sale of Diet Pill Approved

The government approved over-the-counter sales of the fat-blocking diet pill orlistat, allowing direct sales for the first time of a version of a diet drug that had been available only by prescription.

Currently available as Xenical, the capsules will be sold in a lower, nonprescription dose under the name Alli. The drug is intended for people 18 and older to use along with a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise.

When taken with meals, orlistat blocks absorption of about one-quarter of fat consumed. That fat is passed in the stool, which can be loose as a result. About half of patients in trials experienced gastrointestinal side effects.

The new drug would contain half the dose of Xenical prescription capsules and would cost consumers $12 to $25 a week, GlaxoSmithKline has said. The company estimated that 5 million to 6 million Americans a year would buy the drug over the counter. Those numbers could mean at least $1.5 billion a year in retail sales.

Egg Donors Face Slight Risk

Women who donate their eggs to be used in embryonic stem cell research face minimal risks, mostly from the hormones used to stimulate their bodies to release multiple eggs, according to an Institute of Medicine report.

In studies of women who used these hormones to get eggs that could be used for in-vitro fertilization, 2 percent to 5 percent developed a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, according to the report.

While most cases were mild and didn't lead to lasting problems, this condition can lead to serious complications, including kidney failure, or death, in rare cases, said the report by a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine, an independent group that provides scientific advice to the government.

"It is a remarkably safe procedure," Linda C. Giudice, chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco and co-chair of the Institute panel, said in a telephone interview. "The risk of severe disease is actually quite small, but it's not zero."

Up to now, researchers working with embryonic stem cells have obtained them from embryos left over at fertility clinics when women undergoing in-vitro fertilization didn't need them all. Because the supply of leftover eggs is limited and they come mostly from white, upper-middle-class women, scientists hope to recruit women willing to donate their eggs for research.

-- From News Services

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