Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2010
Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer, Reports Say American Workers Average 14 Sick Days a Year Children's Hospitals Lose Drug Discounts Poor Nations Get Large Discount on New TB Test Deal Would Delay Doctors' Pay Cuts Elizabeth Edwards Succumbs to Breast Cancer FDA Can't Regulate E-Cigarettes as Devices, Drugs: Appeals Court
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer, Reports Say
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to media reports.
Detroit-based news outlets reported on Wednesday that the 68-year-old singer underwent surgery last week. Last month, Franklin announced she was canceling all concert dates and personal appearances through May.
And The Detroit News confirmed that Franklin has pancreatic cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, killing around 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that he has visited Franklin several times recently and she is "recovering very well" from the surgery.
American Workers Average 14 Sick Days a Year
In 2007, U.S. workers took an average of 10 days off because they were sick or injured and another 4 days off to care for a sick child or other family member, says a federal government report.
The latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also said that workers ages 55 to 64 took an average of 18 days off work, compared with 10 days for workers ages 16 to 24.
The analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey also found that:
- About 38 percent of female workers and 30 percent of male workers missed work due to personal illness or injury.
- About 24 percent of married women and 17 percent of married men ages 16 to 64 took time off work to care for a sick child or other family member, compared with 14 percent of unmarried women and 7 percent of unmarried men.
- Uninsured workers (26 percent) were less likely to take sick days than those with private insurance (36.5 percent) or those with Medicaid or other public insurance (32 percent).
Children's Hospitals Lose Drug Discounts
Drug companies are notifying children's hospitals across the United States that they no longer qualify for significant discounts on orphan drugs, which are medications used to treat rare medical conditions.
The apparent unintended consequence of the new health care law means that prices are increasing for these specialized drugs used to treat diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S., The New York Times reported.
Children's hospitals say the loss of the 30 percent to 50 percent discounts on orphan drugs is costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.
The loss of the discounts "jeopardizes our ability to care for some of the sickest children with the most complex health care needs," Joshua D. Greenberg, vice president of Children's Hospital Boston, told The Times.
Poor Nations Get Large Discount on New TB Test
A new tuberculosis test that can confirm a diagnosis in less than two hours will be sold to more than 100 poor nations at a 75 percent discount -- $17 instead of $67 -- officials at the Swiss-based Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics announced Wednesday.
The foundation negotiated the reduced price with manufacturer Cepheid after the company realized the poor countries or international donors could not afford the original price, the Associated Press reported.
A number of donors are considering introducing the test in India and South Africa.
The current standard test takes up to three months to confirm a TB diagnosis. The World Health Organization believes the new test, introduced in September, could revolutionize TB treatment, the AP reported.
Deal Would Delay Doctors' Pay Cuts
Federal lawmakers plan to use $19 billion of financing for the health care overhaul to delay a 25 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors scheduled to take effect on January 1.
Most of the money, which will help pay physicians at the current rates for another year, will come from tightening health care reform rules on tax credits meant to make premiums more affordable, the Associated Press reported.
The deal, which was reached Tuesday by Democrat and Republican Senate leaders, must still be approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama.
The one-year reprieve would be used by Congress to develop a new Medicare payment system that rewards doctors for quality care instead of the number of tests and procedures, the AP reported.
Elizabeth Edwards Succumbs to Breast Cancer
Elizabeth Edwards died on Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer.
She was first diagnosed in November 2004.
The 61-year-old estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards had been at her North Carolina home with family and friends this week, the Associated Press reported.
A family friend said Edwards was briefly hospitalized last week and received treatment.
On her Facebook page Monday, Edwards thanked her supporters, the AP reported.
"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered," Edwards wrote. "We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."
FDA Can't Regulate E-Cigarettes as Devices, Drugs: Appeals Court
In a ruling that upholds a lower court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes as drugs or devices.
The appeals court said the FDA can only regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, which means the agency can oversee marketing of the products but not restrict their sale, Bloomberg news reported.
The decision was criticized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "This ruling invites the creation of a wild west of products containing highly addictive nicotine, an alarming prospect for public health," the group said in a statement. "We urge the government to appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The FDA is analyzing the ruling and considering its next moves, agency spokesman Jeffrey Ventura said in an email to Bloomberg.