Health Highlights: Oct. 8, 2014

Large Generic Drug Price Hikes Being Investigated by Congress Hands-Free Devices Don't Eliminate Distracted Driving: Study

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

Large Generic Drug Price Hikes Being Investigated by Congress

Congress has launched an investigation into huge increases in the prices of 10 generic drugs that prompted complaints from consumers and pharmacists.

Lawmakers want generic drug makers to explain the reasons for the large price hikes in generic drugs -- the cost of some has climbed more than 1,000 percent in the last year -- or possibly face new regulations, The New York Times reported.

"Generic drugs were meant to help make medications affordable for the millions of Americans who rely on prescriptions to manage their health needs," investigation co-leader Senator Bernard Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, said in a statement. "We've got to get to the bottom of these enormous price increases."

Generic drugs are used to fill more than eight in 10 prescriptions in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Data released by the lawmakers shows a number of huge price hikes. For example, The cost to hospitals and pharmacies for a bottle of 500 tablets of the antibiotic doxycycline rose from $20 in October 2013 to $1,849 in April 2014, The Times reported.

The price of the cholesterol-lowering drug pravastatin increased from $27 to $196 over the same time, and the per-pill price of the heart medicine digoxin rose from 11 cents in 2012 to $1.10 this summer.

The lawmakers sent letters to the 14 companies that make or distribute the 10 generic drugs under investigation, asking them to explain the price increases. The companies have until Oct. 23 to respond, The Times reported.


Hands-Free Devices Don't Eliminate Distracted Driving: Study

Hands-free devices in cars are not risk-free, a new study warns.

Researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety measured the driving reaction times of 167 people using voice-activated systems to make phone calls or change the radio station. They found that these drivers still had increased levels of distraction and slower reaction times, NBC News reported.

"Hands-Free is not risk-free," Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said. "There's a misunderstanding many people have that they are not increasing their chances of an accident just because they are using voice-activated systems when driving."

"The level of distraction depends on how complex the system is within a particular vehicle," Kissinger noted.

The findings confirm warnings from many safety advocates that the use of voice-activated systems won't eliminate distracted driving, NBC News reported.

Last year, distracted driving caused 3,328 deaths and injured another 421,000 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Consumer News