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Health Highlights: Sept. 30, 2014

New Viagra Ad Targets Women Data Reveals Drug Company Payments to Health Providers Companies Fined Over False Claims of Caffeine-Infused Underwear Big Tobacco Resists Court-Ordered Anti-Smoking Ads

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

New Viagra Ad Targets Women

The first Viagra television ad targeting women begins airing Tuesday in an attempt to boost sales of the world's top-selling erectile dysfunction drug.

The 60-second ad features a middle-aged woman reclining on a bed in a tropical setting, the Associated Press reported.

"So guys, it's just you and your honey. The setting is perfect. But then erectile dysfunction happens again," says the woman, who encourages men to ask their doctor about Viagra. "Plenty of guys have this issue -- not just getting an erection, but keeping it."

Pfizer's patent on Viagra expired in Europe 15 months ago and the U.S. patent will expire in three years, meaning competition from cheaper generic versions of the drug, the AP reported.


Data Reveals Drug Company Payments to Health Providers

Data about drug and medical device company payments to tens of thousands of American doctors and other medical professionals is being released Tuesday by the Obama administration, but the American Medical Association says it is "extremely concerned" about the move.

By making the data public, federal officials hope to curb ethical conflicts that could influence the prescribing decisions of health care providers, the Associated Press reported.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies must report payments and gifts of $10 or more they give to doctors. When Medicare opened its database to the public a few months ago, it revealed that more than 825,000 health care providers received payments from companies in 2012.

Since 2009, the investigative journalism website ProPublica has recorded 3.4 million drug company payments to health professionals totaling more than $4 billion. Of that amount, more than half was for research, the AP reported.

The American Medical Association said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid data may contain errors and lacks the context needed to help average people evaluate it. Doctors were able to inspect their data before it was made public, but the AMA claims the time to do so was short and the process cumbersome.

However, consumer groups feel public access to the data is overdue.

"Research has shown over and over that these financial relationships influence doctors, even a meal," John Santa, medical director for health projects with Consumers Union, told the AP. "Studies also show that doctors believe it does not affect them, but strongly believe it affects other doctors."

The data to be released Tuesday includes payments by drug and medical device makers to doctors and teaching hospitals, as well as doctors' levels of ownership in group purchasing organizations that buy drugs and medical devices for members.

Federal officials estimate that about half of the 897,700 doctors, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors included in the program had transactions with drug and medical device makers that must be reported. Of those, about 224,000 may have received significant financial payments, the AP reported.


Companies Fined Over False Claims of Caffeine-Infused Underwear

Two companies will pay a total of more than $1.5 million in consumer refunds to settle charges over false claims that their caffeine-infused "shapewear" undergarments could help women lose weight.

The settlements with the Federal Trade Commission also prohibit Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc., and Wacoal America, Inc., from making false and unsubstantiated claims about their shapewear.

The companies claimed their shapewear products would slim users' bodies and help them shed cellulite.

"Caffeine-infused shapewear is the latest 'weight-loss' brew concocted by marketers," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a commission news release. "If someone says you can lose weight by wearing the clothes they are selling, steer clear. The best approach is tried and true: diet and exercise."


Big Tobacco Resists Court-Ordered Anti-Smoking Ads

Court-ordered ads requiring American cigarette makers to say they lied about the health threats posed by smoking are being challenged by the largest companies.

Tobacco firms were ordered by a federal judge to pay for the ads in newspapers, and on TV, websites and cigarette pack inserts, the Associated Press reported.

The corrective statements in the ads would require the tobacco companies to "shame and humiliate themselves," and go beyond "purely factual and uncontroversial," the companies said in a brief filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The corrective statements were ordered under legal action taken by the federal government against tobacco companies, the AP reported.

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