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Drug Safety, Tainted Food Among Year's Top Health Stories
Date:12/31/2007

-- heart disease -- was more mixed. Early in 2007, the long-awaited results of the COURAGE trial found that aggressive drug therapy was just as good as invasive angioplasty in helping patients avoid heart attack. However, a re-analysis of the data in September put those findings in doubt, re-igniting the drugs-vs.-surgery debate.

And the showdown over artery-opening stents -- expensive, drug-coated versions versus cheaper "bare metal" models -- continued. In March, a major study found that a third of patients who receive drug-coated stents did not get the post-surgical medications they need to keep the devices functioning. However, two studies released in the fall determined that drug-coated stents did offer patients more health benefits, with no more risk, compared to bare-metal stents.

Infectious Disease Numbers Cause Concern

In the fall, experts at the World Health Organization announced that changes in their computing methods meant the number of people estimated to be living with AIDS around the world has dropped -- from 39.5 million in 2006 to 33.2 million in 2007. On the other hand, sources close to CDC statisticians said the agency will soon bump up the rate of new HIV infections in the United States, from 40,000 to 60,000 annually, based on improved reporting methods.

And another lethal pathogen emerged as a potent threat in 2007. Outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause skin infections or more dangerous blood infections, are now an "epidemic," according to CDC experts. The infections, which don't respond to most antibiotics, are typically spread by skin-to-skin contact in schools and hospitals.


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