The Top 10 Health Stories of 2006
Vaccines, Unsafe Food, Inhaled Insulin: WebMD Picks the Most Important Medical News of the Year
WebMD News Archive
Editor's Note: In October 2007 the drug company Pfizer said it was
halting sales of the inhaled insulin drug Exubera because of financial
Dec. 18, 2006 -- The first-ever cancer vaccine tops
WebMD's list of the top 10 health stories of 2006.
That's not the year's only advance. 2006 saw an experimental gene therapy
cure two people of late-stage cancer. There's now a vaccine for shingles,
one of the most feared diseases of the elderly. And early in the year, the FDA
approved the first -- but certainly not the last -- noninjection insulin.
The year also saw new uses of older technologies. The Plan B morning-after
pill can now be sold without a prescription. HIV tests will now become
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And with New York City's ban on trans fats, war on this man-made heart toxin
shifts into high gear.
Not all the news is good news:
- MRSAMRSA infection -- caused by a drug-resistant staph
bug -- is spreading in urban communities across America.
- Drug-coated stents, still an advance for people with clogged arteries, turn
out to have their own, deadly risks.
- Outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, and botulism have been traced to
common food products, suggesting to some that the U.S. food-safety system may
1. HPV -- A Cancer Vaccine
The biggest health story of the year is a huge milestone for women's health:
, the first
The vaccine protects against infections with the two strains of HPV -- human
papillomavirus -- that cause cervical cancer. It
also protects against two HPV strains that cause genital warts.
The FDA's June 2006 action was based on the
. In October, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization
Practices (ACIP) provisionally put the (the final decision, originally scheduled for November, was
still under review by the Department of Health and Human Services in
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, which means it affects males as
well as females. So far, however, the vaccine is approved only for girls and
women aged 9 to 26.
The vaccine doesn't stop HPV from causing cancer or genital warts
in a person who's already infected.
That's why the before they become sexually active. Routine vaccination
is recommended for girls aged 11-12. Girls as young as age 9 may get the HPV
vaccine at their family doctor's discretion.
ideally should be
given to girls
However, women who are sexually active should still get the vaccine. And the
vaccine doesn't protect against all strains of HPV, so regular cervical-cancer
screening -- and
-- still are needed.