Codeine Does Not Benefit All Who Take It, a Study Shows

From Times staff and wire reports

Codeine, one of the most widely used painkillers, does not work in some people, Vanderbilt scientists reported last week. They told a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Las Vegas that about 10% of whites and 2% of those of Chinese ancestry lack an enzyme needed to process the drug. Their findings should be taken into account by doctors prescribing painkillers, they said.

Codeine is usually converted into morphine by the body. But Alastair Wood and colleagues found that some people lack the necessary enzyme and receive no benefit from the drug.

Osteoporosis Sufferers May Benefit From Drug

Drugs are offering new hope for preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Researchers from UC San Francisco told a meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in Cincinnati that four years of studies on more than 4,000 women showed that alendronate--trade-named Fosamax--showed that the drug slightly increased the density of the spine and reduced spinal fractures by 51%. Such fractures are a major reason older people get shorter.

Synthetic Hormone Shown to Increase Bone Density

A multicenter team also reported on calcitonin-salmon, a synthetic version of a natural hormone that is now available as a nasal spray.

More than 1,100 women in 42 locations got either calcitonin-salmon or an inactive substance along with vitamin D and calcium supplements. Those who were given the new drug show significant increases in bone density and had 37% fewer spinal fractures.

Green Tea May Help More Than Red Wine

Green tea contains more of the antioxidants credited with helping to prevent cancer, heart disease and other illnesses than does wine, according to another study presented at the American Chemical Society meeting. Lester Mitscher of the University of Kansas said his group found that green tea contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG.

EGCG is twice as powerful an antioxidant as resveratrol, found in red wine, he noted.

Tests on live cells showed it was much more effective than vitamins C and E at protecting cells from damage. Other types of teas also contain antioxidants, but at lower concentrations, he said.

Drug May Rival Surgery as Ectopic-Pregnancy Treatment

Treatment of ectopic pregnancy by drugs appears as effective as the surgical removal of the embryo from the Fallopian tube, according to a survey in the Sept. 13 Lancet.

Laparoscopic salpingostomy, the surgical alternative, is the standard treatment for ectopic pregnancy--in which the embryo implants in one of the Fallopian tubes rather than the womb.

But this procedure can be unsuccessful if part of the embryo is left implanted in the tube (persistent trophoblast), or it can damage the tube and increase the risk of repeat ectopic pregnancy.

Treatment with the drug methotrexate removes the embryo in a much higher percentage of cases without the risk of damage to the tube, according to Dr. Petra Hajenius of the University of Amsterdam.

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