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(After a two year absence, San Francisco resident Heather Johnson has returned to the fold, resuming her duties as the writer of “Health Bits & Bites”. Heather is always seeking new and relevant information relating to women’s health, so if you know anything that you think she should be aware of, be sure to e-mail her at

One-a-Day HIV Drug Approved

Drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and biotech drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc. announced on July 12, 2006, that the Food & Drug Administration approved a combination HIV treatment made by the companies through a joint venture. The announcement marks the first once-a-day single tablet HIV regimen approved for U.S. sale. The FDA approved Atripla, a fixed dose combination of Bristol-Myers’ Sustiva HIV drug, along with Viread and Emtriva, HIV treatments made by Gilead.

The pill serves as a milestone in improving the simplicity of HIV treatment, and could prove especially important in less developed countries where patients have less access to medical care. A decade ago, patients had to take a tall AIDS drug cocktail of two- to three-dozen pills a day. In recent years, the recipe got narrowed down to as few as two pills a day. One will make it even easier for people to take their medication regularly, which is paramount for keeping the virus that causes the disease in check.

Atripla will consist of 1,500 milligrams, will measure about the size of a large vitamin, and cost more than $1,150 a month in the U.S., according to Gilead spokesman James Loduca, which is about the same price as taking the three drugs separately. Ouch! Bristol-Myers and Gilead will launch the drug beginning July 19, 2006.

FDA Approves Ovarian Cancer Treatment

While we’re on the FDA subject, the administration also approved Eli Lilly and Co.’s drug Gemzar to treat recurrent ovarian cancer, going against the advice of an FDA panel earlier this year that had advised against approval, questioning Lilly’s trial data. After Lilly supplied additional data, the FDA approved.

The FDA approved use of Gemzar in combination with carboplatin, widely used in chemotherapy, for women with advanced ovarian cancer that has relapsed at least six months after initial therapy.

The drug will allow women to go longer without further treatment, thus potentially sparing them some side effects of chemotherapy. One course of treatment with Gemzar costs about $12,600.

Pomegrateful for Pomegranate Juice

A small study suggests that pomegranate juice may one day prove an effective weapon against prostate cancer.

Researchers led by Dr. Allan J. Pantuck of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 50 men with an aggressive form of prostate cancer experienced a significant improvement in condition after drinking the juice. The men in this study were asked to drink one eight-ounce glass of pomegranate juice a day. The researchers found that the mean time needed for prostate-specific antigens (a measure of how the cancer is progressing) to double increased to 54 months, from 15 months.

Pomegranates are rich in anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants, and their juice has been making itself known on the supermarket shelves as a popular fruit juice beverage and in fruit-infused tea. Researchers in the prostate cancer study caution that the findings are preliminary.

Call In Healthy Today!

Why is it that your coworker never misses a day of work, yet others seem to sniffle and hack (all the time)?

Sure, healthy diet and exercise play vital roles, but so does our stress level. Scientists are proving what holistic practitioners and healers have touted for decades, (stress depressing the immune system takes years off your life) the mind and body are intrinsically linked, and when one is weak, the other grows weaker. One field in particular, psychoneuroimmunology (also referred to as PNI) has made great progress in helping individuals understand the connections between our emotions, well-being, and immune-system function.

Established in 1970 by Robert Ader, Ph.D. and colleagues at the University of Rochester, New York, PNI studies found that the immune system could be psychologically conditioned to perform a certain way—positive or negative. In recent years, scientists following PNI practices have found that, for one, stress ages human cells. In a nutshell, cells of seriously stressed participants in one study appeared about 10 years older than their chronological age would suggest. The cells also had higher levels of free radicals, which can damage DNA. Secondly, chronic psychological tension may speed the onset of cancer. Third, disturbing emotions can cause physical damage. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, asked one group of college students to write about an upsetting experience that made them feel bad about themselves, while a second group of students wrote about neutral topics. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, determined the first group secreted greater amounts of a marker of pro-inflammatory activity than the second group. The more shame and anxiety the participants felt, the more of this inflammatory marker their bodies produced. But on the bright side, confidence boosts treatment results. Emotions—the good ones and the bad ones—run every system in our bodies. So if you’re living a high-stress lifestyle, find ways to cope such as exercise (without overdoing it), meditation or even by seeking professional help. By lowering our anxiety levels, thinking in a more positive way and letting go of pent-up anger, we can potentially turn those sick days into health days!

Healthy Fertility Boosting Tips

If you or someone you know is trying to conceive, here are a few steps that could improve the odds of becoming pregnant and moving into the first trimester healthfully.

1. Avoid exposure to pesticides, paints, solvents, and other products containing harmful chemicals that can impair fertility. Tip: eat organic whenever possible.

2. Men, make sure you’re getting enough Vitamins C, E, B-12, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and lycopene (found in tomatoes, for one), all of which are beneficial to men’s fertility. Women, take folic acid (liver, green vegetables, whole grain cereals) before trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Doctors often recommend a 300 to 400 mcg daily supplement, which can also reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida.

3. Try acupuncture, which may improve blood supply to reproductive organs and help decrease stress. For men, it may boost sperm count and quality.

4. Traditional Chinese Medicine, which uses a combination of acupuncture, herbs, and other techniques as fertility treatment is another beneficial option.

5. Practice! The more you play, the better your odds of winning…and it sure is a fun game! / Issue 59 - September 1432
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