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Health Highlights: Sept. 7, 2017

U.S. Teen Marijuana Use Declines Senate Holds First Health Care Hearing Since Failed Repeal Attempt Company Alleged to Have Faked Patients to Boost Cancer Drug Sales

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

U.S. Teen Marijuana Use Declines

Marijuana use by American teens fell in 2016, while there was a slight increase in adult use, according to a federal government report released Thursday.

Past-month marijuana use among youth ages 12-17 decreased from 7 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2016. That's the lowest level of marijuana use in this age group since 2002, said the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report also noted a steady decrease in marijuana use in the 12-17 age group since 2014, when the first states to make marijuana legal for adults began allowing regulated retail sales.

"Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in. Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana," Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release from the group.

"Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance," she added.

The slight increase in past-month adult use of marijuana suggests adults may be substituting the drug for alcohol, according to the project.


Senate Holds First Health Care Hearing Since Failed Repeal Attempt

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday held its first health care hearing since it's failed attempt in July to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

At the hearing, state health insurance commissioners said Congress needs to pass a bipartisan bill to help stabilize the health insurance market, CBS News reported.

The next two weeks will be "particularly telling" because insurers will be making their final decisions about participation in the marketplace, Mark Kreidler, Washington state's insurance commissioner, told lawmakers.

September 20 is the deadline for insurance companies to finalize their insurance rate filings, CBS News reported.

Lawmakers need to take "one small step on a big issue that's been locked in a partisan stalemate for 7 years," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee.


Company Alleged to Have Faked Patients to Boost Cancer Drug Sales

Insys Therapeutics faked cancer patients in order to boost sales of its drug Subsys, a sprayable form of the opioid painkiller fentanyl, according to a federal indictment and ongoing congressional investigation by Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Subsys was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 to treat acute pain in cancer patients. But the drug's high cost meant most insurers wouldn't pay for it unless it was approved in advance, CNN reported.

In order to increase sales, it's alleged that Insys took patients who didn't have cancer and made it look like they did. Methods included falsifying medical records, misleading insurance companies and providing kickbacks to doctors, according to a report released Wednesday by McCaskill's office. McCaskill is a Democrat from Missouri.

In a statement provided to CNN on Wednesday, Insys said it disagreed with "certain characterizations in the staff report released today."

Late last year, federal prosecutors criminally charged the company's former CEO and five other executives with fraud and racketeering charges related to Subsys.

Other federal charges have also been brought against individuals connected to the drug, and several state attorneys general have filed lawsuits of their own, CNN reported.

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