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GPs face jail for ‘chemical cosh’ and other health news

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Wednesday 2 November

Having reported yesterday that red wine protects against heart disease and diabetes, the Daily Mail reveals today that wine drinkers are putting themselves at risk of breast cancer.

Women who drink just two glasses of wine a day are 50% more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t drink at all, the paper says.

A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that even those who drink only three or four glasses of wine over an entire week – well within the Government’s recommended limits – are putting themselves at risk.

Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, looked at the records of 105,986 women aged 30 to 55 who completed surveys on their current drinking habits and how much they drank when they were younger.

Doctors could face up to five years in jail under a plan to stop antipsychotic drugs being used as a potentially fatal ‘chemical cosh’ to sedate dementia patients, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Health minister Paul Burstow will announce details of the policy in a speech to the Dementia Congress in Liverpool today. Last year, Mr Burstow set a target to reduce the number of elderly care home residents and dementia patients routinely prescribed the drugs from the current 180,000 to around 60,000 by the end of this month.

Unless the current ‘consensual’ approach cuts prescriptions by two thirds, the Government will reform the law so that the prescription of antipsychotic drugs must comply with deprivation of liberty safeguards, under the Mental Capacity Act.

Medical staff could be forced to apply for permission from a primary care trust or local authority before prescribing the drugs.

The Telegraph is also among those reporting that a widely-used drug might help treat children with progeria – the condition that ages them up to eight times too quickly. 

The drug – which is also used to treat people who have overdosed on paracetamol – could help slow the ageing process in the elderly, researchers believe – a fact which prompts The Mirror to suggest ‘scientists have found a cure for ageing’.

People with progeria also suffer heart problems, lack of growth and loss of body fat and hair and writing in Human Molecular Genetics, scientists from Durham University researchers said the condition was partly due to DNA damage caused by a harmful reactive molecule called reactive oxygen species.

Using a drug known as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) scientists were able to limit and repair damage to the DNA and reduce levels of reactive oxygen species, helping cells stay healthy for longer.

Although NAC did not affect some types of cell damage, these can be controlled using dietary supplements and a combination of the two could help treat progeria, researchers said.