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Health Highlights: Jan. 10, 2011

White House Sides With Companies in Drug Discount Lawsuit Music Triggers Release of Pleasure Chemical: Study Illness Outbreak on Cruise Ship

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

White House Sides With Companies in Drug Discount Lawsuit

In an unexpected move, the Obama administration is supporting drug companies accused of overcharging public hospitals and clinics that look after large number of poor Americans.

The Supreme Court case involves a lawsuit brought by Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties in California against a number of pharmaceutical makers. The lawsuit alleges that hospitals and clinics in the counties didn't receive obligatory discounts when they bought drugs from the companies, The New York Times reported.

Fearing a rash of lawsuits, the Justice Department officials told the Supreme Court that hospitals and clinics cannot sue drug makers to enforce their right to discounts or to be reimbursed by companies that overcharge.

"You can parse the legal issues, as the Justice Department has done. But the bottom line is that a lot of poor people and a lot of safety-net providers are not getting the discounts they are supposed to receive," Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, told The Times.

More than 15,000 hospitals and clinics across the U.S. participate in the discount program, which reduces prescription drug prices by 30 to 50 percent. These facilities spend more than $6 billion a year on drugs.


Music Triggers Release of Pleasure Chemical: Study

Listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that makes people feel pleasure, says a new study.

The researchers at McGill University in Montreal said their finding helps explain why music is so popular across cultures, reported.

The study included eight people who regularly experienced chills when they heard particular parts of certain pieces of music. Brain scans revealed where and when their brains released dopamine as they listened to music.

Only instrumental music was used in the study, which shows that the dopamine response doesn't depend on voices, said researcher Valorie Salimpoor. She added that further work is needed to find out how voices might contribute to the feeling of pleasure when listening to music, reported.

The study was published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Previous research has shown that dopamine helps us feel pleasure while eating and having sex.


Illness Outbreak on Cruise Ship

An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that affected 150 of 2,336 passengers and three crew members occurred last week on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Radiance of the Seas.

The illness was marked by diarrhea and vomiting, USA Today reported.

After the five-night voyage ended in Tampa on Saturday, the Radiance of the Seas underwent a ship-wide cleaning before it departed on its next cruise.

Increased prevention efforts have led to a decline in the number of such outbreaks on cruise ships in recent years, USA Today reported.

In 2010, there were 14 outbreaks of illnesses on cruise ships operating out of U.S. ports, compared to 15 in 2009, 21 in 2007, and 34 in 2006, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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