Drug Said to Improve Odds

Of Surviving Breast Cancer

Women have better odds of surviving early breast cancer if they are switched to a newer drug after two or three years of tamoxifen, doctors are reporting.

It is the first evidence that drugs called aromatase inhibitors can save lives, not just prevent cancer from coming back. Other new research suggests that the longer women take these drugs, the more they benefit.

"This is a first attempt to get a grip on duration" of treatment, said the leader of one study, James Ingle of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Longer is better."

The findings were reported yesterday at a breast-cancer conference in Texas.

Taking tamoxifen for five years after cancer surgery cuts the risk of recurrence in half and improves survival. The drug blunts the effects of estrogen, which fuels the growth of most tumors that occur after menopause.

Aromatase inhibitors keep estrogen from being made in the first place, and they do not raise the risk of blood clots and endometrial cancer, as tamoxifen does.

Researchers led by Walter Jonat of the University of Kiel in Germany combined information from three large European studies on tamoxifen; they found that women who were switched to aromatase inhibitors after several years of tamoxifen were 29 percent more likely to be alive 21/2 years later.

FDA Cites Study Linking

Antibiotic, Heart Disease

U.S. regulators alerted the public to a study showing a higher death rate among heart-disease patients a year after taking an Abbott Laboratories Inc. antibiotic, as part of an effort to release early information about potential safety concerns.

Officials have not reached a conclusion about the information, the notice on the Food and Drug Administration Web site said. Abbott described the results as "a random finding" that contrasted with decades of other research.

The study, published Thursday in the British Medical Journal, evaluated data from 4,373 Danish heart-disease patients who took the drug, Biaxin, or a placebo for 14 days. Patients ranged in age from 18 to 85.

Researchers said 9.8 percent of Biaxin patients died within three years of treatment, compared with 7.8 percent of people who got a placebo. There were no differences in the death rates until a year after therapy.

The FDA said it does not recommend any changes in use of the drug, based on the finding.

Use of Pacifiers Reported

To Greatly Lower SIDS Risk

Infants who use pacifiers have a 90 percent lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the leading cause of mortality in babies up to a year old, according to a study published online yesterday in the British Medical Journal.

Sudden infant death, or the unexplained death of a child younger than 1 during sleep, kills about 2,500 babies each year in the United States.

Although doctors say they do not know what causes SIDS, it is thought to be linked to a blockage of the upper airways.

The bulky handle of the pacifier may improve the passage of air if the child's face is pressing against the bedding, according to the study.

-- From News Services