Health Highlights: Feb. 9, 2018

Scientists Create First Lab-Grown Human Eggs Experts Questioning Study on Insulin Quality Trump Proposes to Lower Medicare Prescription Drug Costs

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

Scientists Create First Lab-Grown Human Eggs

U.K. researchers who created the first laboratory-grown human eggs say their achievement could lead to news ways to preserve the fertility of girls undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer.

However, only 10 percent of the eggs reached full maturity and the eggs were not fertilized, so it's unclear how viable they are, BBC News reported.

The University of Edinburgh research was published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction.

"It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue," Professor Evelyn Telfer, one of the researchers, told BBC.

"But that has to be tempered by the whole lot of work needed to improve the culture conditions and test the quality of the oocytes (eggs)," she added.

Even without considering any clinical use, "this is a big breakthrough in improving understanding of human egg development," Telfer said.


Experts Questioning Study on Insulin Quality

Questions are being raised about preliminary findings from a study that says some diabetes patients may be injecting insulin that has partially disintegrated.

In the study published Dec. 21 in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, researchers tested 18 vials of insulin solutions bought at a number of pharmacies in Kansas and Missouri, the Associated Press reported.

On average, the vials contained less than half of what was listed on the label and none of the vials met a minimum standard, according to the study.

"It blew us all away," said lead researcher Alan Carter, a pharmacist and adjunct instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy. He conducted the research while at the not-for-profit contract research firm MRIGlobal in Kansas City.

But experts say too few vials were tested for the findings to be definitive, and there are concerns about the methods used to test the insulin. If the findings were accurate, diabetes patients would be getting sick, say insulin makers, patient advocates and diabetes experts, the AP reported.

Many of those groups are trying to reassure diabetes patients, and say that patients should continue taking their insulin as prescribed.

"We want to make sure the study, when completed, will be well accepted," Dr. William Cefalu, the American Diabetes Association's chief scientific officer, told the AP.

About 6 million Americans inject synthetic insulin daily, and most patients use a syringe to draw insulin from a vial, like the ones tested in the study, then inject it.

Without enough insulin, diabetes patients can eventually develop blindness, limb amputations, and life-threatening damage to the kidneys and heart.

"The (insulin) concentration and the amount you give, if just a little bit off, can have huge consequences," Aaron Kowalski of JDRF, which funds diabetes research, the AP reported.


Trump Proposes to Lower Medicare Prescription Drug Costs

A proposal to lower prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries will be included in the Trump administration's 2019 budget plan when it's released next week.

Under the proposal, seniors covered by Medicare's "Part D" prescription benefit would be allowed to share in the rebates that drug companies pay to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, a senior administration official told the Associated Press reported.

The budget would also expand Medicare's "catastrophic" drug benefit in order to eliminate copayments faced by many seniors with very high costs.

Currently, seniors with high drug expenses have to pay 5 percent of the cost of their medications. Some new drugs cost $100,000 a year or more, so copayment costs can rapidly add up, the AP reported.

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