Health Highlights: May 14, 2009

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

Pfizer to Give Away Free Lipitor, Viagra to Jobless

Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, says it will give away free 70 or more of its most widely prescribed prescription drugs -- including Lipitor and Viagra -- to people who have lost their jobs and health insurance since Jan. 1 and have been on a Pfizer drug for three months or more.

Applicants will need to sign a statement that they are suffering financial hardship and provide a "pink slip" or similar notice of termination from work, the Associated Press reported. They will have until Dec. 31 to provide the information, and medications will be given for up to 12 months after approval or until the person is insured again. Starting Thursday, patients can call 866-706-2400, toll-free, to sign up, according to the company, and starting July 1, people can apply online at http://www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com. Those on drugs not included in the program will be referred to other company aid programs, the AP reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Pfizer to Give Away Free Lipitor, Viagra to Jobless
    • CDC Offers Tips to Prevent Summer Pool Chemical Injuries
    • Congress Weighs Broad Changes in Health Care Legislation
    • U.S. Prescription Drug Use Falls for 1st Time in Decade: Report
    • Scientist Held for Smuggling Ebola Research Vials Into U.S.

Impetus for the program came from a company leadership training meeting five weeks ago, where Pfizer workers discussed how many patients are struggling, Dr. Jorge Puente, head of Pfizer pharmaceuticals outside the United States and Europe and a project supporter, told the wire service. The free drug program is likely to garner goodwill for the company, the AP reported, and just as likely to help retain Pfizer customers during the current economic downturn.

Among drugs to be covered under the plan, Pfizer said, are the painkiller Celebrex, the fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica, and several antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungal treatments, heart medications, contraceptives and smoking cessation products.

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CDC Offers Tips to Prevent Summer Pool Chemical Injuries

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that pool chemical injuries are responsible for an estimated 5,200 visits a year to hospital emergency rooms, but safe handling and storage of water treatment products can make these injuries preventable.

Most of these injuries take place during summer's swimming season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and can occur in or out of the pool, according to a report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study was released ahead of the CDC's National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week, May 18-20, which seeks to raise public awareness about safe behaviors around recreational water and safe storage of home pool chemicals.

"Pool chemicals make the water we swim in safer by protecting us from germs, but these same chemicals can also cause injuries if they are not properly handled," Michele Hlavsa, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at CDC, said in a CDC news release. Both public and private pool operators and homeowners can protect themselves by:

  • Securing all pool chemicals in a safe area, away from children.
  • Reading manufacturers' instructions fully before using any chemicals.
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