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Health Highlights: Nov. 15, 2019

White House Wants Hospitals, Insurers to Provide Actual Costs of Care Apple Removes Vaping-Related Apps from App Store Expand Use of Fish Oil Drug Vascepa: FDA Panel Warning Letter About OTC Drugs Sent to Dollar Store: FDA

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

WhHospitals, Insurers to Provide Actual Costs of Care Under New Rules

New rules requiring hospitals and insurers to disclose the actual prices for common tests and procedures before they're performed have been proposed by the Trump Administration.

White House officials said the objective is to encourage competition and reduce costs, but the changes are strongly opposed by the health care industry and could be challenged in court, the Associated Press.

"This shadowy system has to change," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. "The patient has to be in control."

Disclosure requirements for hospitals would take effect in 2021, but the timing is unclear for insurers. Doctors aren't directly affected by the new rules, the AP reported.


Apple Removes 181 Vaping-Related Apps from App Store

Apple said Friday that it's removed 181 vaping-related apps from its mobile App Store worldwide.

The company said the now-banned apps -- a mix of stores, social networks, news and games -- will continue to work for people who already have them and can be transferred to new devices, CNN reported.

In June, Apple halted the promotion of vaping products in its app store and has not approved any new vaping-related apps since then.

"Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic. We agree, and we've updated our App Store Review Guidelines to reflect that apps encouraging or facilitating the use of these products are not permitted," the company said in a statement.

The removal of the vaping-related apps was welcomed by groups such as the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"By taking e-cigarette related apps off the App Store, Apple will help reduce youth exposure to e-cigarette marketing and discourage youth use of these products. Apple is setting a welcome example of corporate responsibility in protecting our kids," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement, CNN reported.


Expand Use of Fish Oil Drug Vascepa: FDA Panel

Approved use of the prescription-strength fish oil drug Vascepa should be widened to include more patients at risk for heart attack and stroke, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Thursday.

Vascepa is currently approved for patients with extremely high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood associated with heart disease, the Associated Press reported.

Drug maker Amarin is seeking FDA approval for the use of Vascepa in patients who have lower blood fat levels but still have a risk of heart problems, despite taking cholesterol-lowering statins. A month's supply of Vascepa costs roughly $300.

The FDA panel unanimously voted Thursday in favor of expanded use of Vascepa. Their decision was based on research showing that the drug can reduce rates of dangerous heart problems in high-risk patients, the AP reported.

"There is no doubt this drug could benefit a substantial portion of the U.S. population and meet an unmet need," said panel member Dr. Jack Yanovski, a hormone specialist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

But Phillip Posner, the patient representative on the panel, noted that, ""I do not want to see this become what I call cardio candy."

The FDA, which is not required to follow the panel's recommendation but typically does, is expected to make a decision by the end of the year, the AP reported.


Warning Letter About OTC Drugs Sent to Dollar Store: FDA

Dollar Tree has been sent a warning letter for selling over-the-counter (OTC) drugs made by foreign companies with serious, multiple violations of federal manufacturing laws, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The drugs include Dollar Tree's Assured Brand OTC drugs and other drug products sold by Dollar Tree Co., which operates stores under the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar names.

The contract manufacturers used by Dollar Tree to make the OTC drugs have received warning letters from the FDA for violations such as not testing raw materials or finished drugs for pathogens and quality.

In its warning letter to Dollar Tree, the FDA outlines a number of corrective actions the company needs to take, including a system to ensure that they do not import impure drugs.

Dollar Tree said that it is cooperating with the FDA and plans to meet with the agency, CNN reported.

"We are committed to our customers' safety and have very robust and rigorous testing programs in place to ensure our third-party manufacturers' products are safe," Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations at Dollar Tree, said in a company statement.

"Each of the items referenced in the report are topical, and not ingestible, products. As always, we are cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. We plan to meet with the FDA in the near future and expect that our plans will satisfy their requirements in all regards," the statement said, CNN reported.

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