No Prescription Is Needed

To Buy Heart Defibrillators

The Food and Drug Administration decided yesterday that consumers should be able to buy without a prescription devices that can shock the heart out of cardiac arrest.

Before the agency's decision, consumers who wanted a home defibrillator to use in the crucial minutes before an ambulance arrived needed a doctor's prescription.

The FDA endorsed a July recommendation from its advisory panel to remove the prescription requirement after federal advisers were satisfied that consumers could use the machines safely.

Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart that triggers fatally abnormal heart rhythm.

Often, it is the first hint of heart disease and accounts for about 340,000 deaths each year outside of health care settings.

Philips Medical Systems, the manufacturer of the device, had petitioned for approval to sell over the counter its HeartStart defibrillator, which currently costs nearly $2,000.

Opponents had argued that it was unclear whether having the devices in homes would save lives. They fear that families might waste precious time looking for a defibrillator gathering dust, rather than calling an ambulance.

CDC Urges Children to Get

Full Schedule of Strep Vaccine

A once-scarce vaccine against a range of strep infections, including meningitis, is back in supply, and small children should get four doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

There have been sporadic shortages of Prevnar over the past two years, but the maker, Wyeth, has returned to full production, the CDC and other health groups said.

Small children can return to the recommended four-dose schedule, CDC said.

Earlier this year, the shortage was so acute that CDC recommended cutting back to two doses per child from the full schedule of four. They wanted to make sure there was enough vaccine available to get at least the first crucial doses to each child.

Prevnar protects against seven strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

Group Accuses Africa, Asia

Of Fueling Illegal Ivory Trade

The illegal ivory trade is thriving in Africa and Asia, and China remains the world's biggest market despite a crackdown launched two years ago, an environmental group said yesterday.

"The ivory market in China continues to be the single most important influence on the upward trend in illegal trade," said a study by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network.

Hundreds of thousands of African elephants were slaughtered for their tusks before the ivory trade was banned in 1989.

The illegal ivory trade, on the rise since 1995, will be a key issue at a global wildlife conference in Bangkok next month.

Traffic named China, Thailand and four African countries -- Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of the Congo -- as major suppliers and markets.

Its study was based on an analysis of 9,400 seizures of elephant ivory and other products recorded by the Elephant Trade Information System, which tracks seizures.

-- From News Services