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FDA to require stronger warnings on TNF blockers

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. Reports of cancer in children and adolescents have led the Food and Drug Administration to require its strongest warning label for a class of biotech drugs used to treat autoimmune disorders, the agency announced Tuesday.

The FDA is requiring a boxed warning to highlight the increased risk of cancer in children and adolescents taking TNF blockers. The drugs work by blocking tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a protein that can cause inflammation and damage to bones, cartilage and tissue when overproduced in the body, leading to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and other disorders.

The class includes such drugs as Enbrel (etanercept) by Wyeth and Amgen, Abbott’s Humira (adalimumab), UCB’s Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) and Johnson & Johnson’s Simponi (golimumab).

In June 2008, the FDA launched an investigation into a link between TNF blockers and cancer in children and adolescents, and an analysis of reports of children treated with the drugs revealed an increased risk. About half of the cancers were lymphomas, and some cases were fatal.

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Study: Zinc good for healthy immune function, destroying viruses, bacteria

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Zinc not only supports healthy immune function, but increases activation of T cells responsible for destroying viruses and bacteria, according to a new study.

According to the study found in the 2009 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists found that T cells taken from the zinc-supplemented group had higher activation than those from the placebo group.

“As the debate over zinc supplementation in healthy individuals continues,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, “studies like this help shed light on how zinc may enhance the ability of our immune systems to fight off foreign invaders. Equally important, this work points toward new possible targets for entirely new drugs to help augment immune function and prevent or stop infections that might be resistant to traditional antibiotics.”

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Safeway launches annual fundraising campaign for MDA

BY Anna Mcgrath

PLEASANTON, Calif. Safeway announced its seventh companywide campaign to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association and its work to defeat more than 40 devastating neuromuscular diseases.

Proceeds from the campaign go towards financing medical research and programs to improve the lives of people with neuromuscular diseases.

Safeway’s 2009 MDA campaign commences this month and will last through Labor Day. Over the years the company has raised more that $41.7 million for muscular dystrophy charities.

“Safeway is an invaluable partner that has proven, time and time again, that it cares deeply about people affected by muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases and all people with disabilities,” said MDA national chairman Jerry Lewis. “By reaching out to millions of customers each day, Safeway will raise public awareness while bringing hope and help to the hundreds of thousands of people – kids and adults – living with these muscle-wasting diseases.”

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