By HealthDay News HealthDay Reporter

Updated on June 12, 2022

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

U.S Prescription Drug Sales Increased 8.3 Percent in 2006

The new Medicare drug benefit was one of the factors that helped push U.S. prescription drug sales up by 8.3 percent in 2006 to $249.9 billion, according to a report by IMS Health, which provides data to the drug and health-care industries.

Prescriptions dispensed through the Medicare drug benefit accounted for 17 percent of retail prescriptions last year, the report noted.

Increased use of generic drugs and new treatments for diseases such as diabetes and cancer were among the other factors behind the increase, the Associated Press reported.

In 2006, sales of generic drugs increased 22 percent to $27.4 billion.

The report said it's expected that the rate of growth of prescription drug sales will slow in 2007, but will likely maintain a compounded annual rate of between 6 percent and 9 percent through 2010, the AP reported.

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Kroger Ensures Access to Morning-After Pill

In response to a Georgia woman's complaint that she was denied access to the morning-after contraceptive pill by a pharmacist at a Kroger store, the grocery chain said Friday that it's reiterating its drug policy to all of its pharmacists.

The company policy states that if a pharmacist objects to handling a customer's prescription, the store must take steps to ensure the prescription is filled, the Associated Press reported.

"We believe that medication is a private patient matter," said Kroger Co. spokeswoman Meghan Glynn. "Our role as a pharmacy operator is to furnish medication in accordance with the doctor's prescription or as requested by a patient."

The company restated its policy after a Rome, Ga., woman said a Kroger pharmacist refused to give her the Plan B emergency contraceptive, also known as the morning-after pill, the AP reported.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the drug can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

Other major pharmacy chains, including Walgreen Co., Rite-Aid Corp., and CVS Corp., have also promised to make certain that customers can get Plan B, even if a pharmacist doesn't want to provide the drug.

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Scents in Bedroom May Help Improve Memory

A familiar scent in the bedroom while you get a good night's sleep may help boost memory, says a German study published Friday in the journal Science.

But the study found that the scent-aid only worked for certain kinds of memory and only during one stage of sleep, which means it's not likely to help people seeking a quick memory lift, the Associated Press reported.

The study found that medical students who slept in rooms with a rose scent scored higher on a card memory test than those who weren't exposed to the rose scent -- 97 percent vs. 86 percent.

However, the memory improvement only occurred when the students were exposed to the rose scent during a deep stage of sleep called slow-wave sleep. There was no memory boost when the students were exposed to the scent during a lighter sleep phase called REM sleep, the AP reported.

However, the scent was not effective when the students tried a finger-tapping sequence memory test. This is likely because different parts of the brain are involved with different types of memory, the researchers said.

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Oversight Needed for Bodies Donated for Research: Experts

The United States needs a universal oversight system to prevent illegal marketing of body parts from cadavers donated to science, say experts.

The issue made headlines this week with the arrest of a former University of California, Los Angeles, official and a middleman as part of a police investigation into illicit trafficking of parts harvested from bodies willed for research, the Associated Press reported.

The UCLA scandal first erupted three years ago.

"There was some hand-wringing after the UCLA case. But, at the end of the day, I don't think we've seen any serious attempts by Congress or state legislatures to wrestle with this issue," Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor, told the AP.

Tissues from cadavers are used in many kinds of medical procedures, and the demand for human body parts has soared in recent years. If all its parts are used, a human body can be worth six figures, according to experts.

It is illegal in the United States to sell body parts for profit, but suppliers can charge fees for the acquisition and handling of body parts, the AP reported.

A national clearinghouse operated by an independent group should be established to track and distribute bodies donated for research, said Todd R. Olson, an anatomy professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

While it wouldn't eliminate illegal sales of body parts and tissues, it would still be an improvement over the existing patchwork of rules, Olson told the AP.

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Snorers Can Rob Partners of 2 Years' Worth of Sleep

Snorers may be depriving their partners of two years worth of sleep over their lifetime, suggests a survey by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association.

The survey of 2,000 adults found that about a third of them sleep with a snorer and lose about two hours of sleep per night. Based on an average relationship of 24 years, that works out to about two years of lost sleep, BBC News reported

About half of the respondents said that snoring affected their sex lives, and 85 percent said their relationship would be better if their partner's snoring problem was resolved.

"Snoring can have a very negative impact on people who have to live with it," said association co-founder Marianne Davey.

"Lack of sleep can have a negative consequence on your physical, mental and emotional health. Poor sleep is linked with poor academic performance, increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, divorce, suicide -- the list goes on and on," a spokesman with the British Sleep Society told BBC News.

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Too Few Children With Asthma Get Flu Shots: Report

Only 29 percent of American children aged 2 to 17 with asthma received a flu shot during the 2004-05 flu season, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children with asthma older than 6 months receive a flu shot each season.

The finding, published in Friday's edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, noted that children with asthma are at increased risk for complications from influenza. Flu shots safely and effectively reduce rates of influenza in children with asthma. In 2005, about 8.9 percent (6.5 million) of U.S. children under age 18 had asthma.

"We were surprised at how low the number was," study lead author Susan Brim told the Associated Press.

The study offers the first national estimates on flu vaccination rates for American children with asthma.

When the study authors looked at different age groups of children with asthma, it found that flu-shot rates were 32.9 percent those ages 2 to 4, and 28 percent for those ages 5 to 12 and ages 13 to 17.

The finding indicates the need to identify and remove barriers that may prevent children with asthma from getting a flu shot, the study said.

The study, which looked at about 5,100 children (including 557 with asthma), also found that the overall flu vaccination rate for children without asthma was 10.3 percent, with a wide variation according to age: 20.7 percent for ages 2 to 4; 9.2 percent for ages 5 to 12; and 6.4 percent for ages 13 to 17.

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HIV Major Health Threat to Black Americans

HIV remains a persistent threat to the health and well-being of black Americans, says a study published the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study looked at 2002-05 data from 33 states and found that while blacks represented 13 percent of the population in those states, they accounted for 51 percent of new HIV diagnoses during that time.

Black men are especially hard hit by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In 2005, the diagnosis rate for black men was 127.6 per 100,000 population, which is seven times higher than that of white men (18.5 per 100,000). The majority (52 percent) of new HIV cases in black men are among those who have sex with men.

The rate of new HIV diagnoses for black women was 61.4 per 100,000, compared with 3 per 100,000 for white women.

Racial disparities were particularly evident in young people (ages 13 to 24), with blacks accounting for 61 percent of new HIV diagnoses.

In response to the HIV threat to black Americans, the CDC and its partners have called for urgent, focused efforts in four main areas: expanding the reach of HIV prevention services; increasing opportunities for diagnoses and treatment; developing new, effective interventions; and mobilizing broader community action.

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