Health Highlights: Nov. 29, 201211/29/12
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Generic Drug Prices Fall, Brand Name Prices Rise: Report
Generic prescription drug prices fell sharply while there was a
considerable rise in prices for popular brand name prescription
drugs over the past year, according to a new report.
Between September 2011 and 2012, prices of the most widely used
brand name drugs increased 13.3 percent, while generic drug prices
decreased about 22 percent, according to Express Scripts Holding
Wall Street Journalreported.
Overall spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. rose 3.5
percent over the first nine months of this year, according to Steve
Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, which manages
drug benefits for health plans.
"Despite drug companies taking bigger price increases, we're able to take advantage of the huge number of generics," Miller told the WSJ.
The increase in spending on prescription drugs so far this year
is greater than the 2.7 percent growth rate for all of 2011.
However, last year had the lowest growth rate reported by Express
Scripts in nearly two decades of analyzing such data.
In addition, the company said that prescription drug spending
was basically flat in the third quarter and is expected to remain
so in the current quarter as well,
Interestingly, brand name drugs that already face generic
competition are among those whose prices increased. These include
drugs such as Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and
Merck's asthma treatment Singulair.
Miller noted that it is common for drug makers to cut the prices
of brand name drugs when generics comes on the market and then
increase them later when it is clear who the brand-loyal customers
However, the impact of such prices increases on the nation's
overall drug costs may be muted if they occur when the brand name
drugs have little remaining market share, Miller added.
Conversion to Electronic Medical Records Open to Fraud and
Medicare's failure to develop appropriate safeguards has left
the nation's conversion to electronic medical records vulnerable to
fraud and abuse, according to a report by federal
Proponents say that the use of electronic medical records -- a
central part of health care overhaul in the U.S. -- will improve
patient care and reduce costs through better coordination of
The New York Timesreported.
The Obama administration is spending billions of dollars to
encourage doctors and hospitals to switch to electronic medical
But Medicare has failed to implement adequate safeguards to
ensure that information being provided by hospitals and doctors
about their electronic records systems is accurate, according to
the report by the Office of the Inspector General for the
Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees
To qualify for incentive payments, doctors and hospitals must
show that their systems lead to better patient care by doing such
things as checking for harmful drug interactions,
The investigators concluded that Medicare "faces obstacles" in
overseeing the incentive program "that leave the program vulnerable
to paying incentives to professionals and hospitals that do not
fully meet the meaningful use requirements."
In a statement released Wednesday, a Medicare spokesman said:
"Protecting taxpayer dollars is our top priority and we have
implemented aggressive procedures to hold providers accountable.
Making a false claim is a serious offense with serious consequences
and we believe the overwhelming majority of doctors and hospitals
take seriously their responsibility to honestly report their
Tobacco Companies Must Tell Public About Smoking Lies: Judge
U.S. tobacco companies must publish corrective statements to
tell the public they lied about the dangers of smoking, a federal
judge ordered Tuesday.
The corrective statements in various types of ads must also
outline the health risks of smoking, including the fact that
smoking causes an average of 1,200 deaths a day, the
In her ruling, Gladys Kessler of the United States District
Court for the District of Columbia said each corrective statement
ad must state that a federal judge has concluded that all the
defendant tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American
public about the health effects of smoking."
The corrective statements are part of a case the federal
government brought in 1999 and Kessler said they are based on
specific findings of fact made by the court, the
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