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What's Ahead for Health in 2008

Experts predict medical trends in the new year.

Rheumatology: New Drug Alert continued...

"Preliminary studies look extremely promising and it seems to have a particularly good effect in pediatric patients. And we may ultimately, when approved, see studies of this agent in other rheumatic diseases."

Speaking of other rheumatic diseases, Crofford says, "I hope that we will see clinical trials looking at biologics in lupus and I hope that we will see approvals for more medications to treat fibromyalgia that target the central nervous system." In 2007, the first ever such drug to treat the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia was approved, and according to Crofford, Lyrica (pregabalin) won't be the last.

Neurology: Mixed Outlook for 2008

2008 will be a mixed bag for stroke and other neurological conditions, says Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, the associate director of the cardiovascular coordinating center and an interventional cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

"There are two warring factors," he explains. "We have better treatments and less invasive therapies on the horizon, but this has the potential to be overwhelmed by the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity," he warns. While some researchers suggest that the diabetes epidemic may be reaching a plateau, there are still millions of Americans who have the condition and may not have it under control.

"There is trouble brewing," he says. "Even though there have been some encouraging downward trends in stroke rates, those gains could easily be reversed by epidemic of diabetes."

Cardiologists and neurologists will be working together more often in 2008 as strokes and heart disease share many of the same risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, Bhatt predicts.

There has been some back and forth on the potential use of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins in preventing future strokes among people who have had strokes due to a blockage in the brain arteries. Research has shown that such stroke survivors who took statins had a lower risk of fatal and nonfatal strokes of any kind as well as heart attacks and heart disease. That said, stroke survivors who take statins may also have an increased risk of experiencing a bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke.

"We are going to see a lot more enthusiasm among neurologists about the use of statins in patients who have had an ischemic stroke," he predicts. "The data overall in these patients show that use of a statin does reduce risk of future heart attack, stroke, and death."

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