Health Highlights: Nov. 16, 2009

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

Critics Question Drug Price Increases

The wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs in the United States increased by about 9 percent in the last year, a sharp contrast to the 1.3 percent decrease in the Consumer Price Index.

Critics say drug companies are trying to establish a higher base price before Congress passes legislation to slow drug spending, but drug makers say they have valid business reasons for the price increases, The New York Times reported.

With the increases, the average yearly cost for a brand-name prescription drug taken daily has increased by about $200 to more than $2,000, according to Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, a professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Critics Question Drug Price Increases
    • Brain Scans Detect Hypnosis Effects
    • Little Impact So Far From Electronic Medical Records: Study
    • FDA Warns of Steel Particles in Genzyme Drugs
    • Disease Prevention Important to Americans: Poll

"When we have major legislation anticipated, we see a run-up in price increases," he told The Times.

Drug companies claim the price increases are necessary to maintain the profits they need to invest in research and development of new drugs.

"Price adjustments for our products have no connection to health care reform," Merck spokesman Ron Rogers told The Times.

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Brain Scans Detect Hypnosis Effects

The effects of hypnosis can be seen on brain scans, say English researchers.

They found that hypnotized volunteers had decreased activity in the parts of the brain associated with daydreaming or allowing the mind to wander. But the same effect wasn't seen in people who weren't susceptible to being hypnotized, BBC News reported.

"This shows that the changes were due to hypnosis and not just simple relaxation. Our study shows hypnosis is real," said study leader Dr William McGeown, a lecturer in the department of psychology at Hull University.

The study appears in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

The findings show that hypnosis can work by "priming" a person to respond more effectively to suggestions but does not prove that people being hypnotized are in an actual "trance," Dr. Michael Heap, a clinical forensic psychologist in Sheffield, told BBC News.

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Little Impact So Far From Electronic Medical Records: Study

Electronic health records have done little so far to improve the cost and quality of patient care, say U.S. researchers who compared 3,000 hospitals at various stages in the adoption of computerized health records.

"The way electronic medical records are used now has not yet had a real impact on the quality or cost of health care," said study leader Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, The New York Times reported.

The findings were to be presented Monday at a conference in Boston.

It's believed that widespread use of electronic medical records instead of paper records will improve health care and could save the U.S. health care system as much as $100 billion a year, The Times reported.

The findings of this study aren't surprising because only a few hospitals are using the full capabilities of computerized health records, said Dr. Karen Bell, senior vice president for health information technology services at the nonprofit group Masspro.

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