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Health Highlights: March 9, 2016

Commercial Drivers, Railroad Workers May Have to Undergo Sleep Apnea Tests 'Remarkable' Rise in Prescription Drug Spending in 2014: U.S. Health Officials 'Fifth Beatle' George Martin Dead at 90 Obama in Excellent Shape: Doctor

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

Commercial Drivers, Railroad Workers May Have to Undergo Sleep Apnea Tests

Sleep apnea tests for truckers, bus drivers and railroad workers could become mandatory under a U.S. government proposal.

Pilots are already tested for sleep apnea, which can cause daytime drowsiness and increase the risk of accidents. More than 25 million Americans are believe to have undiagnosed sleep apnea, the Washington Post reported.

The proposal was announced Tuesday and is now open for a 90-day comment period that will include public meetings in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

A commuter train derailment two years ago in the Bronx that killed four people and injured 60 occurred when the engineer dozed off, the Post reported.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that in 2013, more than 1,200 people were killed in traffic crashes caused by a driver falling asleep.

"Fall-asleep crashes are a big problem," Nate Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told the Post. "The AAA Foundation estimates over 300,000 crashes a year are due to drowsy driving."


'Remarkable' Rise in Prescription Drug Spending in 2014: U.S. Health Officials

Prescription drug spending in the United States rose a "remarkable" 13 percent in 2014 due to factors such as rapidly-increasing drug prices and use of expensive specialty drugs, federal health officials say.

And preliminary data suggests prescription drug spending remained elevated in 2015, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, USA Today reported.

The agency said estimated prescription drug spending was about $457 billion in 2015, or nearly 17 percent of overall spending on personal health services.

That's much higher than the 10 percent of health care spending the drug industry typically claims to account for, Peter Bach, a physician and the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told USA Today.

While HHS said it doesn't expect prescription drug prices to continue rising as fast as they have in recent years, Bach has his doubts.

He pointed to drug maker "maneuvers that will cause increased spending," such as repackaging current drugs, and new cancer drugs expected this year, USA Today reported.

A proposal to control the high costs of drugs administered to patients in doctors' offices and hospital outpatient departments was announced Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The new rule would test methods of encouraging doctors to prescribe the most effective medicines and reward the best outcomes among patients. Options include lowering or doing away with patient cost sharing so that more patients can get the drugs that will be most effective for them, USA Today reported.


'Fifth Beatle' George Martin Dead at 90

Beatles producer and arranger George Martin -- often referred to as the fifth Beatle -- has died at age 90.

Martin "passed away peacefully," his management company told NBC News early Wednesday.

In a statement, Paul McCartney described Martin as "the most generous, intelligent and musical person I've ever had the pleasure to know," and that the "world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music."

Martin played a major role in the Beatles sound and helped the band succeed as it evolved from its early material to more intricate songs on 1965's "Rubber Soul" and 1966's "Revolver," NBC News reported.

As the Beatles struggled through ups and downs in the late 1960s, Martin stuck with the band and was respected by the four members no matter how severe the in-fighting between them.

Martin worked with many other musicians during his career, including Cilla Black, Tom Jones, and America, NBC News reported.

Career Artist Management released a statement that said: "In a career that spanned seven decades he was recognized globally as one of music's most creative talents and a gentleman to the end. The family ask that their privacy be respected at this time."


Obama in Excellent Shape: Doctor

The results of President Barack Obama's latest physical exam show he is in excellent health and has lowered his cholesterol level, gained muscle, and lost five pounds since his last exam in 2014.

In the latest exam conducted in February, the 6-foot-1 Obama weighed 175 pounds, compared with 179.9 pounds in 2010, 181.3 pounds in 2011 and 180 pounds in 2014, the Associated Press reported.

The 54-year-old president's total cholesterol fell from 213 to 188, and his "bad" LDL cholesterol level is 125, below the recommended 130. His "good" HDL cholesterol level is 68, above the recommended 60.

Obama's body mass index is 22.8, his resting heart rate is 56 beats per minute, and his blood pressure is 110/68, all of which are considered normal, the AP reported.

"All clinical data indicates that the president is very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency," Obama's personal physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, wrote in a memorandum provided to reporters.

The doctor said Obama has a healthy lifestyle and exercises daily, with an emphasis on aerobics and resistance weight training, the AP reported.

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