Heart drug becomes cancer killer

US scientists say they have successfully tweaked a common heart drug to make it fight cancer.

Digoxin or digitalis, which comes from the foxglove plant, is normally used to steady the rhythm of the heart and help it beat more efficiently.

Now a University of Wisconsin-Madison team have changed some of its building blocks to make it target tumours.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences work provides hope other "natural" drugs can be manipulated.

Source - BBC News

Row over Charles' medicines study

A report commissioned by the Prince of Wales into the cost of complementary medicines has sparked controversy.

Prince Charles, an enthusiast for alternative medicine, asked an independent economist to work out how much such therapies could save the NHS.

Christopher Smallwood, former economics advisor to Barclays Bank, will submit his report to ministers in this autumn.

But a leading complementary medicine expert said such analyses should be left to the official NHS watchdog.

Source - BBC News

Aspirin 'cuts bowel cancer risk'

Taking aspirin regularly for over 10 years does reduce the risk of bowel cancer, a study which looked at almost 83,000 women has suggested.

Those who had taken two or more aspirin - or similar painkillers - a week had significantly cut their risk, it found.

However, the doses were high enough to increase the risk of gut bleeds.

Source - BBC News

Wet combing best to rid head lice

Fine combing of wet hair is far more effective than pharmacy-bought chemical lotions for eliminating head lice, say researchers.

People who used wet combing were four times more likely to rid themselves of head lice than those who used insecticide products, they found.

Head lice have developed resistance to common over the counter products.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine research is published in the British Medical Journal.

Vitamins 'do not stop infections'

Infection rates in older people living at home are not helped by taking vitamin or mineral tablets, researchers have found.

The Aberdeen University study looked at the effects of daily multivitamins compared with dummy placebo tablets.

It found that taking supplements seemed to make no difference in infection rates between the groups.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, covered 900 people aged over 65 who were living at home.

Source - BBC News

Folic acid linked to birth weight

Mothers-to-be with lower levels of the vitamin folate in their body during early pregnancy are more likely to have low weight babies, research suggests.

A team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne studied nearly 1,000 women and their newborn babies.

Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, including respiratory disorders and diabetes.

The research is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Source - BBC News

Folic acid 'cuts dementia risk'

Eating plenty of folic acid - found in oranges, lemons and green vegetables - can halve the risk of Alzheimer's disease, a study has suggested.

US National Institute on Aging experts monitored diets over seven years.

They found adults who ate the daily recommended allowance of folates (B vitamin nutrients) had a reduced risk of the disease.

UK researchers said the study added weight to previous suggestions folates could reduce Alzheimer's risk.

The study is published in Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

Red clover may combat hot flushes

Scientists are testing an extract of red clover as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy for symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes.

The extract contains chemicals called isoflavones, which mimic the effects of the female sex hormone oestrogen.

A study will be carried out by Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital's menopause and PMS centre.

Source - BBC News

Risk warning over herbal medicine

Potentially dangerous herbal medicines could be on sale in Britain, the drugs regulator says.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency warned consumers not to buy a range of unlicensed products it suspects has reached the UK market.

The medicines - which claim to treat a range of problems from skin disease to indigestion - were found on sale in Canada containing heavy metals.

The MHRA warned they could cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Source BBC News

Alternative medicine access call

Everyone should have access to alternative medicine on the NHS, a leading patients' group says.

The Patients Association has called for all GPs to provide patients with the choice of using complementary medicine where it had been proven to work.

Provision is patchy currently with well under a half of family doctors providing some sort of access to alternative providers.

But doctor representatives warned there needed to be better regulation.

Source - BBC News

Homeopathy's benefit questioned

A leading medical journal has made a damning attack on homeopathy, saying it is no better than dummy drugs.

The Lancet says the time for more studies is over and doctors should be bold and honest with patients about homeopathy's "lack of benefit".

A Swiss-UK review of 110 trials found no convincing evidence the treatment worked any better than a placebo.

Advocates of homeopathy maintained the therapy, which works on the principle of treating like with like, does work.

Source - BBC News