Health Highlights: April 29, 2016

Huge Price Increases for Oral Cancer Drugs Since 2000: Study FDA Reconsidering Training for Doctors Prescribing Painkillers Generic Crestor Approved by FDA First Commercial Zika Test Approved by FDA

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

Huge Price Increases for Oral Cancer Drugs Since 2000: Study

Prices of oral cancer drugs in the United States have risen sharply since 2000, a new study finds.

The average cost of a new oral cancer drug introduced in 2000 was about $1,869 a month, compared with $11,325 a month for one approved in 2014, about six times higher, United Press International reported.

Gleevec had one of the largest price increases during that time, rising about 7.5 percent a year and increasing from $3,346 to $8,479 a month, according to the University of North Carolina researchers.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

The researchers said the skyrocketing prices have occurred along with health insurance changes making patients bear more of the cost, and potentially making treatment unaffordable for some, UPI reported.


FDA Reconsidering Training for Doctors Prescribing Painkillers

Mandatory safety training for doctors who prescribe powerful prescription painkillers is being reconsidered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Next week, an FDA committee of outside experts will meet to review risk-management plans introduced nearly four years ago in an effort to reduce misuse of opioid painkillers responsible for a national crisis of abuse and death, the Associated Press reported.

Under current programs, drug companies fund voluntary training for doctors on how to safely prescribe these painkillers, but many experts -- including a previous FDA advisory committee - believe such training should be mandatory.

The FDA's own investigations "show mixed results that make it difficult to draw conclusions regarding the success of the program," according to briefing documents posted online, the AP reported.

The FDA will present its findings at the two-day meeting that begins next Tuesday. The advisory panel will consider the issue and make recommendations about the doctor training program. The FDA does not have to follow the panel's advice.


Generic Crestor Approved by FDA

The first generic version of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium) tablets was approved Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The generic version from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. of New Jersey received approval to market generic rosuvastatin calcium in multiple strengths for certain uses

These include:

  • in combination with diet for the treatment of high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) in adults
  • in combination with diet for treatment of patients with primary dysbetalipoproteinemia (Type III Hyperlipoproteinemia), a disorder associated with improper breakdown of cholesterol and triglycerides
  • either alone or in combination with other cholesterol treatment(s) for adult patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a disorder associated with high levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. High triglycerides may also increase the risk of heart disease, the FDA said.


First Commercial Zika Test Approved by FDA

The first commercial test to diagnose Zika virus was approved Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The test from Quest Diagnostics uses the same method that government labs use to check for Zika virus in a person's blood, NBC News reported.

Currently, it can be difficult for people who think they are infected with Zika to get tested. Their doctors have to send samples to local or state health departments.

With the FDA approval, doctors will be able to order the $500 test through Quest. The company said results can be available three to five days after a sample arrives, NBC News reported.

The company will charge $120 for patients who don't have health insurance and whose health providers verify the patient is eligible for the lower price.

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