World report – 7 November 2008
• MANDATORY PNEUMO JAB FOR US ADULT SMOKERS?
PNEUMOCOCCAL immunisation may soon be compulsory for US adult smokers younger than 65, The New York Times reports.
The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended adult smokers receive the pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia, meningitis and other illnesses, after evidence showed smokers had a fourfold risk of pneumococcal disease compared to non-smokers.
Eleven of the 15 committee members voted to pass the recommendation, with three against, and one member abstaining.
Manufactured by Merck & Co, the vaccine has been recommended for all smokers as a once only, with no booster.
• SIEGE MENTALITY KEEPS DOCTORS OUT
ISRAELI authorities have forbidden overseas delegates to attend an international conference on the effects of sieges on mental health, being held in Gaza, the BMJ has reported.
The conference, Siege and Mental Health... Walls vs Bridges, conducted in partnership with the World Health Organization, was expected to attract 120 health professionals to discuss themes such as the effects of siege situations on mental health, and relevant professional and human rights issues.
A spokesman for the conference organisers, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, denounced the Israeli authorities’ boycott as a “profound blow to the rights of academic freedom, free speech, education and cultural dialogue”.
Delegates denied access to the Gaza Strip are expected to take part via video link from Ramallah in the West Bank.
The Israeli Embassy in London would not comment on the decision.
• ANTI-OBESITY DRUG LINKED TO PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS
THE European Medicines Agency has warned doctors to discontinue prescribing the anti-obesity drug rimonabant (Acomplia), BBC News reports.
The agency made the recommendation after the drug was associated with a higher risk of psychiatric problems and suicide.
Data showed rimonabant, manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, doubled the risk of psychiatric disorders in obese or overweight patients compared to placebo.
Five suicides were also reported between June and August 2008 among patients taking the drug during a trial.
“Prescribers should not issue any prescriptions for Acomplia... and should review the treatment of patients currently taking the medicine,” the agency said.
Rimonabant is not available in Australia.
• THREE MILLION US KIDS HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES
FOOD allergies in children are on the rise in the US and now affect an estimated three million kids, The New York Times reports.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies in children have soared by 18% from one in 30 during 1997 to one in 26 in 2007, after a survey of 9500 children.
Experts have attributed the rise to a doubling in peanut allergies and children taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies. However, they also believe parents and doctors are more likely to consider food as a trigger for symptoms, including vomiting and skin rashes.