Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Headlines - August 16

Cost of Medicare Drug Plan Goes Up

Most Medicare beneficiaries will see a slight increase in their drug plan premiums next year, says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

On average, seniors will pay $30 a month for stand-alone drug plans in 2010, an increase of $2 from this year. But since premiums vary from plan to plan, seniors won't know their actual increase until more information becomes available in October, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Seniors should do comparisons when private insurers start advertising their plans, officials advised.

Beginning in mid-November, most seniors have six weeks to select a plan for the next year.


Health Inequalities Worsen: WHO

Global inequalities in health and access to medical care have increased over the past 30 years, say two World Health Organization reports released Friday.

"Inequalities in health outcomes and access to care are much greater today than they were in 1978," said Hans Troedsson, the WHO representative in China, Agence France Presse reported. "Genes do not explain any of this," he added.

"Instead, the differences between -- and within -- countries result from the social environment where people are born, live, grow, work and age. It also depends on health systems that are put in place to manage illnesses," Troedsson said.

As examples of inequalities, the WHO said a child born in a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland, could live 28 years less than a child born just 13 kilometers away. And a girl born in Japan can expect to live 42 years longer than one born in Lesotho, AFP reported.

The WHO said causes of health inequalities need to be better understood, more must be done to improve daily living conditions of the underprivileged, and more attention must be focused on prevention, AFP reported.


GlaxoSmithKline Tests Swine Flu Vaccine

Human trials of its swine flu vaccine have begun, says GlaxoSmithKline.

The company plans to conduct 16 clinical trials of the vaccine in more than 9,000 people in Europe, Canada and the United States. Early results from the first trial in Germany are expected to be available in September, the Associated Press reported.

The findings will be shown to drug regulatory agencies in order to hasten their decisions about whether to approve the vaccine. Fast-track approval systems for swine flu vaccines have been created in Europe and the United States.

Earlier this month, Novartis and Sanofi-aventis began testing their swine flu vaccines, the AP reported.


Fewer Full-Time, Low-Income Workers Have Insurance

The rate of full-time, low-income workers without health insurance increased from 26 percent in 1996 to 34.5 percent in 2006, says a new U.S. government report.

The latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also found that among full-time, low-income workers:

  • The proportion of uninsured workers ages 18 to 34 increased from 30 percent to 38 percent between 1996 and 2006. Among workers ages 35 to 49, the number who were uninsured rose from 22 percent to 32 percent.
  • In firms with fewer than 25 employees, the rate of uninsured workers increased from 39 percent to 50 percent. In companies with 25 to 99 employees and in those with 100 or more employees, rates of uninsured workers increased from 22 percent to 31 percent and from 11 percent to 14 percent, respectively.
  • The number of non-Hispanic black workers without insurance increased from 18 percent to 27 percent, while the rate increased from 22 percent to 28 percent among white workers.
  • Employees in professional services had the largest increase, from 11.5 percent to 26.4 percent.


Fatty Foods Impair Memory and Exercise Performance: Study

Fatty foods have an almost immediate negative effect on short-term memory and exercise performance, British researchers say.

The study included rats that were fed a low-fat diet and trained to complete a challenging maze and to run on a treadmill. Half the rats were then switched to a high-fat diet. In subsequent maze and treadmill tests, the rats on the high-fat diet had poorer memory and muscle performance than the rats that kept eating a low-fat diet, The New York Times reported.

"We expected to see changes, but maybe not so dramatic and not in such a short space of time,'' study lead author Andrew Murray, a lecturer in physiology at Cambridge University, told the Times. "It was really striking how quickly these effects happened.''

The findings appear in The Faseb Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Murray and his colleagues found that high-fat diets had similar effects in humans, but those findings haven't yet been published.

No comments: