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Health Highlights: March 5, 2013

Health Highlights: March 5, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

FDA Panel Says Bone Drug Should No Longer Be Used to Treat Osteoporosis

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted on Tuesday to recommend that an inhalable osteoporosis drug no longer be used by women because recent research has suggested it might raise the risk of cancer.

In a 12-9 vote, the panel said the risks of Miacalcin and Fortical outweighed the benefits, according to the Associated Press. Novartis makes Miacalcin and Upsher-Smith makes Fortical. Both medications are sold as nasal sprays.

Last July, the European Medicines Agency ruled that the drug should no longer be used to treat bone loss because of the cancer risk, the AP reported.

While some of the panelists said the drug provides a viable alternative for women who cannot tolerate taking bisphosophonates for osteoporosis, other members were not convinced it was a good idea to recommend continued use of the drug, the AP reported.

"I think the cancer risk seems to be low, but it tips the balance for this drug, which has very little evidence of efficacy," said Amy Whitaker, a professor at the University of Chicago.

According to the AP, prescriptions for the medication have plummeted in recent years amid safety concerns about the drugs. Between 2006 and 2011 the number of U.S. patients receiving the drug fell 51 percent, to 205,000.

Non-Hormonal Drugs for Hot Flashes Rejected by FDA Panel

Two drugs being proposed as alternatives to hormones to treat hot flashes in menopausal women were rejected Monday by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel.

The committee of outside experts voted 12 to 2 against approving Depomed's extended-release gabapentin and voted 10 to 4 against approving a low-dose formulation of the antidepressant paroxetine developed by Noven Pharmaceuticals, The New York Times reported.

The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.

There are no FDA-approved nonhormonal treatments for menopause-related hot flashes and the committee acknowledged the need for new drugs. However, they said the drugs' risks outweighed their benefit. Research showed that the drugs reduced the number of hot flashes by only one a day compared to a placebo, The Times reported.

Energy Drink Co. Says Teen's Death Not Caused by Caffeine Toxicity

There is no evidence to link a 14-year-old girl's death with caffeine toxicity, according to a group of doctors hired by Monster Beverage Corp.

The energy drink maker is facing a lawsuit related to the death of Anais Fournier, who died from cardiac arrest in December 2011 after drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster energy drinks within 24 hours, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Her family has sued Monster Beverage Corp., blaming the girl's death on the energy drinks.

On Monday, the company said it had hired heart specialists and other medical experts to examine the girl's medical records. They found no evidence to support the Maryland Medical Examiner's report of "caffeine toxicity" or any connection between her death and the consumption of the energy drinks, WSJ reported.

A jury will determine Monster's accountability in the case, "not doctors paid by billion dollar corporations to attend press conferences," said Kevin Goldberg, a lawyer representing Anais Fournier's family.

Candy Industry Exec Speaks Out Against Obesity

Candy makers need to develop ways to tackle the childhood obesity crisis before they are forced to by the government, the president of Mars Chocolate in North America reportedly urged in a speech at last week's National Confectioners Association meeting in Miami.

According to ABC News, the candy trade publication Confectionary News reported that Debra Sandler said: "If we don't [act], I worry that someone else will do it for us. ... We need the whole industry to step up. ... We are not judged by the leaders of the category but by those who do not take responsibility for change."

Candy accounts for only 2 percent of calories in the average American diet, but candy makers shouldn't use that as an excuse to avoid the issue, Sandler warned. She said candy makers need to do things such as reformulate recipes to lower their products' calorie levels and improve nutrition, and display calorie content more prominently on the front of packaging.

Sandler's remarks were praised by anti-obesity campaigners.

"Mars has been making an effort to be more responsible in how they market candy. It's good to see them calling on their colleagues to do the same," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News. The watchdog group has often criticized large food companies.

Each year, Americans consume more than 7.7 billion pounds of candy a year, or about 25 pounds per person, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 60 percent of that is chocolate.