PILL OR PATCH? Mention birth control, and most people think of the Pill. Well, soon there may be an even easier way to prevent pregnancies. The world's first contraceptive skin patch--still a year away from FDA approval--may be just as effective as the birth-control pill in preventing pregnancies, say researchers. The patch is changed once a week, so women don't have to remember to pop a pill every day. And unlike another Pill alternative--Depo-Provera injections, which last three months--the effect can be reversed simply by taking the patch off.
BONE BUILDERS The list of treatments for osteoporosis--calcium, hormone- replacement therapy, drugs like Fosamax and Evista--may have just got longer. Researchers find that among postmenopausal women with fractures, daily doses of a drug called parathyroid hormone dramatically stimulate bone formation. After 21 months of treatment, women saw their vertebral-bone mass increase up to 13% and the incidence of serious fractures drop a dramatic 85%. Any downside? The yet-to-be-approved drug must be injected and works for only about two years--after which patients may want to switch to another therapy.
HEAVY METALS Worried about the effects of lead poisoning on your kids? Chelation therapy--the most popular treatment--gets the heavy metal out of children's blood quickly but, according to a new study, does nothing to prevent or reverse the damage to IQ that lead causes. The message: prevent exposure in the first place by removing or containing the lead paint in your home. Your local health department can tell you how to do this.
PROZAC GENERATION In the seven years from 1988 to 1994, the use of antidepressants among kids soared three-to fivefold, according to a study of nearly 1 million youths ages 2 to 19. That's either a lot of unhappy kids (or hyperactive ones, who also use the drug) or a lot of unnecessary prescriptions.
--By Janice M. Horowitz
Sources: Good News--Journal of the American Medical Association (5/9/01), New England Journal of Medicine (5/10/01); Bad News--NEJM (5/10/01), American Psychiatric Association meeting