Virus drugmaker fights back against pediatricians group's limits on medicine ...
CHICAGO — A costly drug given mostly to premature babies is at the center of a clash between the manufacturer and the nation's leading pediatrician's group, which recommends scaling back use of the medicine.
The dispute involves new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say medical evidence shows the drug benefits few children other than very young preemies. The medicine guards against a common but usually mild virus that can cause serious lung problems.
It's the second time in two years that the influential group has recommended narrowing use of the drug, sold by MedImmune under the brand name Synagis (SIN'-uh-jis). MedImmune is fighting back with full-page newspaper ads that say the updated policy threatens "our most vulnerable babies."
Synagis protects against RSV, or respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH'-uhl) virus, which infects nearly all U.S. children by the age of 2. For most, it causes only mild, cold-like symptoms. But it is also the most common cause of pneumonia in U.S. infants, and as many as 125,000 young children are hospitalized with RSV each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking mothers may alter the DNA of their children
. Compared with infants of nonsmoking mothers, babies born to smokers had alterations in more than 100 gene regions. Among the affected genes were those linked to fetal development, nicotine addiction, and the ability to quit smoking.
The work provides some of the strongest evidence to date that maternal behaviors can modulate fetal DNA during pregnancy. Moreover, the findings are supported by previous research indicating maternal smoking may alter the newborn’s DNA, says Andrea Baccarelli, director of Harvard University’s environmental epigenetics lab. The results of this large-scale investigation are consistent with the findings of previous, smaller studies, as well as research directly examining the effects of cigarette chemicals on cells, he notes. “It is a wonderful example of convergence between [lab-based] toxicology studies and human studies.”
Still, several questions remain. For one, the epigenetic changes detected in newborns may not stick around. “There is no way to tell whether these epigenetic modifications are fleeting and part of regular cell development or more permanent and truly a result of smoke exposure,” says behavioral geneticist Valerie Knopik of Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and Brown University’s Alpert Medical School.