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01-08-2010 | Article

News round up week beginning 1st August 2010

In this week's roundup of the news, Dr Harry Brown discusses:

* The new political establishment continues to make its mark, trying to slash the number of health agencies to reduce bureaucracy and free up some cash.

* No longer should pregnant women be advised to "eat for two" according to recently published NICE guidance.

* There is concern that calcium supplements in the treatment of osteoporosis may lead to an increased risk of myocardial infarction, according to newly published research.

Slash and burn

The government is at it again, trying to cut down on bureaucracy within the National Health Service. This time, they want to call time on 10 organisations, which will either cease to exist or be merged with other authorities. This proposal will also save cash as well as streamline operations. Bodies under threat include well known organisations such as the Health Protection Agency and the National Patient Safety Agency. According to the univadis GP news service (click here) , the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will remain. Although the amount of money saved will be relatively small in the grand scheme of things, I believe the principle remains a good idea.

BMI and pregnancy

Telling a pregnant woman to "eat for two", according to the ever busy NICE, is the wrong advice. NICE has just issued guidance on weight management in pregnancy that is helpful to women who are either pregnant or planning pregnancy, as well as their health professionals. As reported in the univadis GP news service, a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 is associated with increased health risks when women become pregnant. So when running through pre-pregnancy counselling with a woman interested in conceiving, add BMI to the check list. If a woman is already pregnant and has a BMI over 30, then she should be referred to a dietician or another specialist for eating and lifestyle advice. Read more from the univadis GP news service (click here) about management of weight and pregnancy.

Calcium supplements and heart attacks

Interesting and highly relevant research published recently shows that calcium supplements seem to be associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. The research, published in the British Medical Journal and reported in the univadis GP news service (click here), goes even further. With the benefits of calcium supplements likely to be modest in two important end points, namely bone density and the prevention of fractures, and with the potential increased vascular risk, this development casts a shadow over the use of calcium supplements in clinical practice. Obviously more research is needed but this is a very important issue to clarify. I have no doubt that we will hear more on this topic.

Best wishes,


Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief

By Dr Harry Brown