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Health Predictions for 2009

Experts predict medical trends in the new year.

Diabetes: Will Smart Insulin Pumps Change Lives? continued...

These drugs would be alternatives to Byetta which requires two injections a day.

"These will be a nice addition," Buse says. Speaking of treatment, "we may see insulin pumps that can control themselves at night," he says. "It is a major leap for diabetes care to have a computer that controls insulin delivery."

Basically, a person with diabetes wears and controls the insulin pump all day, but at night the pump takes over, so if your blood sugar drifts down at night, the pump will reduce the amount of insulin that it puts out.

Arthritis and a New Gout Drug

According to Eric Matteson, MD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., 2009 will be a big year for our creaky joints and bones. "We will see more small-molecule drugs being researched and coming into trials," he predicts. Small-molecule drugs act like currently available biologic drugs, but can be taken by mouth, not injection or IV, which could be a huge boon to the millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

What's more, 2009 will likely usher in the first new gout drug to come to market in 40 years. The drug, Uloric (febuxostat) recently got a nod from an FDA advisory panel. The FDA is not obligated to follow the advice of its advisory arms, but it usually does. As it stands, allopurinol (trade name, Zyloprim) is the only FDA-approved drug that prevents formation of the uric-acid-related crystals that cause gout, but side effects limit the amount of allopurinol that can be tolerated.

Personalized medicine will also play a role in arthritis, he predicts. "I would hope we will see the routine use of biomarkers for assessing disease severity and for treatment decisions."

Cancer: More Targeted Therapies

"There are some major cancer trials due to report in 2009 [including] whether or not prostate cancer screening saves lives," says Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. In this study, prostate cancer screening involves measuring blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is produced by the prostate gland. High PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer. This is coupled with a digital (finger) rectal examination.

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