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Two of the most common diseases–diabetes and Alzheimer's–may be linked even more closely than scientists thought.
Several studies presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease this July in Madrid add to previous research showing that Type 2 diabetes–the common, non-hereditary form of the condition–increases the risk of Alzheimer's. One study found that people with borderline diabetes were almost 70 percent more likely than those without the condition to develop Alzheimer's.
On the plus side, diabetes drugs may ward off Alzheimer's. In a small placebo-controlled study, researchers found that the diabetes drug pioglitazone (Actos) appeared to slow progression of Alzheimer's symptoms. A larger study suggested that a class of diabetes drugs known as glitazones, which includes pioglitazone, might lower the risk of Alzheimer's in patients with diabetes.
However, with nearly a third of American adults having blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, experts worry that the global explosion of diabetes may also mean a dramatic rise in the number of people expected to develop Alzheimer's.
The multiple sclerosis drug natalizumab (Tysabri) is back on the market–a year and a half after patients were told to stop taking it.
The drug's July reintroduction, however, comes with restrictions for safety.
Its maker had pulled it off the market in February 2005, just three months after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, because three patients developed a rare but often-fatal brain inflammation called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)–two of whom died. The FDA allowed the manufacturer (Biogen Idec) to bring the drug back in part based on findings that it's twice as effective as available MS drugs in preventing relapses and appears to delay disease progression.
The FDA is requiring that the drug's maker maintain a patient registration program and that physicians conduct periodic patient evaluations to check for early signs of PML.
Shingles is set to go the way of the chicken pox, measles and mumps–viruses that were once common but are now rare.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine to protect people age 60 and older from the disease. The FDA's May decision was based on a federal study of 38,546 persons that showed the vaccine cut the incidence of shingles in half and reduced the severity of the illness in patients who still came down with it.
Experts estimate that up to one million older Americans get the disease annually. Shingles occurs when the same virus that causes chicken pox is reactivated in older people or others with health problems. The disease causes a rash with painful blisters that usually lasts for two to four weeks. The nerve pain that sometimes follows this phase, however, can be very intense and last 30 days or even years.