For some, drugs could do the work of stents: It's much cheaper and just as effective to treat some heart attacks with drugs instead of also trying to snake a stent into a clogged artery, scientists at Duke University report today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings could prompt significant savings for about a third of the estimated 1.2 million Americans who suffer heart attacks each year. Wire mesh stents open clogged arteries and can save lives when used within a few hours of a heart attack, but they're no more beneficial than clot-busting drugs alone if the attack occurred a day or so before the patient sought treatment. Forgoing stents in those cases could save an average of $7,000 per patient — or $700 million for the estimated 100,000 U.S. heart attack patients who don't need them.
Test helps set accurate blood thinner dose: People taking warfarin, a leading blood thinner to prevent clots that cause heart attacks and strokes, soon may have a better way to get the tricky dose right. A new formula that includes gene testing proved much better at setting the ideal dose than what doctors do now: Give a standard amount and adjust it by trial and error. The new study is one of the first to show genetic testing can be used to prevent dosing problems, experts said. About 4 million Americans take warfarin, also known as Coumadin, the top-used blood thinner worldwide. It could be used even more, but doctors have worried about the all-too-common risks to patients if they get the dose wrong. Too little means a risk of stroke and too much can mean fatal bleeding. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and several international medical organizations.
FDA advisers set vaccine for 2009-2010 flu season: Food and Drug Administration advisers on Wednesday issued their recommendations for next season's flu vaccine, the front line defense against a disease that kills an estimated 36,000 people a year. They recommended only a slight change for the 2009-2010 season from the current vaccine, which protects against infection by three kinds of flu viruses. Next season's vaccine will protect against the same two Type A strains that are in circulation now. However, for the milder Type B strain, next year's vaccine will be slightly different, replacing a Type B/Florida strain of the virus with a version called Type B/Brisbane. Flu vaccines are recommended for people over 50, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions and children older than six months.