Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2009

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

Drug, Health Care Costs Increase for Americans 18 to 44

Between 1996 and 2006, the average cost of a prescription drug for patients ages 18 to 44 doubled, from $79 to $161, according to a U.S. government report released Wednesday.

Prescription drugs now account for a much larger share of health care costs for this age group (10 percent in 1996, 18 percent in 2006), even though the proportion who purchased prescription drugs decreased from 60 percent to 54 percent over that period, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Drug, Health Care Costs Increase for Americans 18 to 44
    • Senators Reach Deal on Health Bill Roadblock
    • Antipsychotic Drugs May Carry Weight Gain Warning: FDA
    • WHO Urges Stronger Action Against Smoking
    • FDA Lags on Recommended Drug Safety Changes: GAO
    • Medicare Covers HIV Screening
    • FDA Launches Widget for Pet Health

Among the other findings for Americans ages 18 to 44:

  • Total health cares expenses in 2006 were $231 billion, about $40 billion more than in 1996, after factoring in inflation.
  • A smaller proportion incurred health care expenses in 2006 (77 percent) than in 1996 (80.5 percent). However the average per person expense for people who had health expenses was much higher in 2006 ($2,703) than in 2006 ($2,177).
  • Major increases in per visit costs were noted for some areas, including visits to physicians offices ($119 to $180), hospital emergency rooms ($393 to $638) and dental care providers ($181 to $247).

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Senators Reach Deal on Health Bill Roadblock

A group of Democratic senators has reached a "broad agreement" to resolve an impasse over a proposed government-run health insurance plan, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.

The dispute over a government-run plan has been seen as a major threat to passage of health care reform legislation, which has been on the Senate floor for nine days, The New York Times reported.

The tentative agreement would allow people ages 55 to 64 to "buy in" to Medicare, and a federal agency would negotiate with insurers to offer national health benefit plans similar to those offered to federal employees, The Times reported.

If private plans don't meet specified targets for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, the federal government would offer a new public insurance plan, said Senate Democratic aides.

The Obama administration welcomed the Senate announcement. "Senators are making great progress, and were pleased that theyre working together to find common ground, said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, The Times reported.

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Antipsychotic Drugs May Carry Weight Gain Warning: FDA

Antipsychotic drugs may have to carry warnings about weight gain and diabetes, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drugs' labels currently include information about weight gain and associated problems, but the FDA is considering requiring that information be included in the warnings section.

The agency has asked manufacturers of antipsychotic drugs for all the information they have about metabolic side effects, such as increases in blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

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