Health Highlights

April 10, 2019

Health Highlights: April 10, 2019

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

FDA Warns About Consumer Devices That Claim to Diagnose Concussion

Consumer devices that claim to help assess, diagnose or manage concussion and other head injuries are unproven and illegal, and using them could pose serious health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

"I want to be clear, there are currently no devices to aid in assessing concussion that should be used by consumers on their own. Using such devices can result in an incorrect diagnosis after a head injury that could lead a person with a serious injury to return to their normal activities instead of seeking critical medical care, putting them at greater danger," Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an FDA news release.

The products the FDA is concerned about claim to assess and diagnose changes in brain function by having a person who's suffered a head injury do tests on a smartphone or tablet-based app to detect changes in physical or mental function including vision, concentration, memory, balance and speech.

Some of those apps are marketed to coaches and parents for use during sporting events.

"Products being marketed for the assessment, diagnosis, or management of a head injury, including concussion, that have not been approved or cleared by the FDA are in violation of the law," Shuren said.

"The FDA has alerted companies to our concerns and asked them to remove such claims. We will continue to monitor the marketplace for devices making these unsubstantiated claims and are prepared to take further action if necessary," he added.

If a concussion or other head injury is suspected, the person should be brought to a health care professional for immediate treatment, the FDA advised.


Dozens Charged in Medicare Brace Scam

Two dozen people have been charged in an orthopedic brace scam that cost Medicare more than $1.2 billion.

The scheme sold unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces to hundreds of thousands of seniors, using overseas calls centers to get Medicare numbers from beneficiaries, the Associated Press reported.

Those charged include doctors accused of writing fake prescriptions, telemedicine firms, medical equipment companies and owners of call centers.

Action is being taken against the 130 medical equipment companies implicated in the scam, according to Medicare's anti-fraud unit, the AP reported.


Senate Committee Grills Pharmacy Benefit Managers on High Drug Prices

Pharmacy benefit managers came under heavy fire Tuesday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on high drug prices.

Pharmacy benefit managers handle prescription drug coverage for their clients. They create lists of covered drugs and negotiate rebates for some drugs to help offset high list prices, according to the Associated Press.

Some view these managers as middlemen who add costs to an already expensive system for prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies say that rebates are part of the problem.

During the hearing, lawmakers asked the managers why they can't do more to control prices and to provide details on the contracts they negotiate, the wire service reported.

Executives from CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group's OptumRx and Cigna testified at the hearing. The three companies represent 76 percent of the market, according to the AP.

This was the committee's third hearing this year on the high cost of prescription drugs, the AP reported.


U.S. Measles Cases This Year Reach 465: CDC

The number of reported measles cases in the United States hit 465 as of April 4, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

That's 78 more than in the previous week's update, CNN reported.

The update said that Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Nevada had their first cases of measles this year, bringing the total number of states reporting cases to 19.

The other states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, CNN reported.

The number of measles cases this year "is the second greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000," according to the CDC.

Last year's total was 372 cases. The largest outbreak occurred in 2014, with 667 cases, CNN reported.

Measles is highly contagious, but it can be prevented through vaccination. One reason for the rising number of measles cases is anti-vaccine misinformation being spread by so-called anti-vaxxers, experts say.

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