Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Top 25 Medical Moments

Since 1982, Americans have witnessed some significant medical advances, but also a fair number of setbacks and challenges.

USA TODAY's medical staff looks back at the top 25 medical developments.

AIDS quilt in D.C., USA TODAY


In 1982, the government selects AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, as the formal name for the deadly disease then known as gay-related immune deficiency, or GRID. That same year the first cases were reported in Africa and an alarmed Congress held its first hearings on the new disease. AIDS now afflicts 40 million people worldwide, about 900,000 of them in the USA.


2 Quitting the habit

Fewer Americans are lighting up, which means more lives saved. A report from the American Cancer Society in 2006 said that men's death rates from cancer dropped 16% from 1991 to 2003; women haven't experienced that dramactic drop off because smoking rates in women have dropped more recently than among men.

Gannett News Service

3 Obesity epidemic

Although fewer Americans are smoking, more of them are hitting the buffet lines. Roughly 32% of adults over 20 are obese, or 30 or more pounds over a health weight. Researcher has shown that the extra pounds increases the risk of some types of cancer, diabetes, heart diease and other ills.

4 Cancer screening

More patients are opting to try to find cancer early. In 1987, only 39% of women over 40 had had a mammogram in the past two years. By 2005, 66% had been screened in the past two years. Although experts say they don't yet have evidence that the PSA test saves lives from prostate cancer, 58% of men over 50 had gotten the screening by 2003, up from 41% in 2000.

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5 Prozac anyone?

Eli Lilly and Co.,'s Prozac hit the U.S. market in 1988. It was the first of a new class of drugs that were touted as safer than older antidepressants. Primary care doctors began prescribing the pills, and use quickly soared. The Food and Drug Administration has recently ordered the makers of all antidepressants to update their labels, warning of an increased risk of suicide in children and young adults taking the drugs. Still, doctors wrote 227 million prescriptions for antidepressants in 2006, making them the most popular U.S. medicine.

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6 Declining infant mortality

The infant mortality rate fell by nearly half from 1980 to 2004, to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 newborns. Experts credit advances in treatment of the sickest and smallest babies, as well as the falling rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

7 Statins

In 1982, Merck & Co. begins human trials of the first successful cholesterol-lowering drug, lovastatin, and learn it can heart risk by about 30%. Since then, companies have developed a whole class of so-called statins, which are among the world's top selling drugs.

8 Cancer vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration in June 2006 approves the first vaccine specifically designed to prevent cancer. The Merck vaccine, Gardasil, blocks infection by two types of the human papillomarvirus (HPV) that account for about 70% of cervical cancer cases. The debate about whether the vaccine should be mandatory for preteen girls continues.


9 The rise of the AED

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of cardiac arrest victims are saved each year by folks using an AED, which delivers a shock to a dying heart. The first models were sold for home use in 1986, but it was in the early 1990s when the device became so simplified with voice prompts that even children could use one to save a life.

10 Are you having trouble ...

TV ads for prescripton drugs have long been legal, but, until the FDA issued guidelines in 1997, manufacturers were uncertain about how to meet the agency's requirements for including information about side effects, contraindications and effectiveness. The guidelines said commercials could fulfill the obligation of alerting consumers to risks by referring them to their doctor, a toll-free number, a print ad and a Web site for more information. New TV stars, like purple pills, talking stomachs and a chess-playing beaver, were born.

11 Donor egg baby

In 1983, doctors at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, took an egg from one patient and fertilized it with sperm from the husband of a 25-year-old woman who'd gone through premature menopause. The resulting embryo was placed in the womanÕs uterus, resulting in the worldÕs first baby conceived with a donor egg. Many recipients of this technology are now younger women whose ovaries failed prematurely or who carry a genetic disorder they don't want to pass on..


12 Human blueprint

The first draft of the human genome, our genetic blueprint, was published on Feb. 11, 2000. The scientific undertaking raises hope of finding causes for many diseases as well as potential cures.


13 Nasty bugs emerge

First it was West Nile virus, which made it's U.S. debut in 1999. Then came the international epidemics of SARS and bird flu, along with the emergence of new strains of drug-resistant bacteria. Partly fueled by globalization and misuse of antibiotics, nasty bugs are on the rise.

14 Medical technology

Spectacular innovations in technology have changed the world of medical diagnosis and research. For instance, PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, rapidly makes millions of copies of DNA from the tiniest samples, enhancing crime detection and forensics, allowing DNA fingerprinting and ushering in a new era of genetic research.

15 Minimally invasive operations

Wider use of laparoscopic surgery has drastically reduced the recovery time for patients undergoing a number of surgical procedures.

16 Hormones begone

Hormone therapy was once thought to be a fountain of youth for postmenopausal women, but a landmark study in 2002 found that estrogen plus progestin raises the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke and blood clots. Women stopped taking the hormones in droves, and today, they're prescribed only for relief of hot flashes and other symptoms.

17 Johnny's little helper

Children considered hyperactive or unfocused began to take prescription pills. Ritalin, the first drug for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, became widely used in the last 20 years. Now there are more drugs for ADHD, such as Strattera and Concerta.

18 Targeted cancer therapies

Doctors are slowly replacing traditional chemotherapy – which kills all growing cells, both good and bad – with "targeted" cancer drugs designed to block the deadly effects of specific genetic mutations. Herceptin, approved in 1998 for certain breast tumors, and Gleevec, approved in 2001 for rare leukemias, led the way.


19 C-section rates

The U.S. C-section rate hit an all time high of 30.2% in 2005 -- a 46% increase over 1996. Growing numbers of older mothers, multiple births and labor inductions are thought to be some of the reasons.

20 Drug safety

Arthritis drug Vioxx was taken off the market in 2004 because of increased heart attack risk. That would led to concern over the safety of a number of other drugs in the medicine cabinet.

21 Child health, safety

Lawmakers have gotten serious about protecting kids on the roads. Since 1993, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws requiring kids to wear bike helmets, which reduce the risk of serious brain injury by 85%, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. And all states now require car seats for children, which cuts their risk of dying in an accident by more than half.


22 Lasik

Since 1990, roughly 8 million Americans have ditched their eyeglasses or contact lenses for this high-tech laser surgery to correct their eyesight.The first laser was approved for LASIK by the FDA in 1998, so there is no long-term safety and effectiveness data about the popular eye surgery.


23 Shunning the sun

Americans, who once slicked with baby oil and used reflective shields to enhance their tans, have learned that it's safer to cover up. Many beachgoers now coat themselves with sunscreens – and even clothing lines – that offer sun protection factors of 55 or more.


24 Viagra

The little baby blue pill came onto the U.S. market in 1998, and erectile dysfunction, or ED, became a part of the American vernacular. Viagra pushed ED (formerly known as impotence) out of the bedroom and onto the television screen. Viagra was the first pill for ED, but it now faces competition from Cialis and Levitra.

25 Botox

Even before the FDA approved Botox for cosmetic use in 2002, Americans were shelling out hundreds of dollars for injections of the stuff, aka botulinum toxin.The shots temporarily paralyze muscles that cause expression lines, which, fans say, creates a more youthful appearance.