Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2014

Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2014

Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2014

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

Doctors, Hospitals Received Billions From Drug and Medical Device Companies

About 546,000 doctors and 1,360 teaching hospitals in the United States received billions of dollars from drug and medical device makers in the second half of 2013, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The financial benefits ranged from research grants to trips, and totaled nearly $3.5 billion from August through December last year, the Associated Press reported.

The data -- which included the names of companies and many of the recipients -- was released under a new program called Open Payments, which was created under the new health care law.

The goal is to reduce ethical conflicts in medicine by allowing patients to easily find information about their doctors online. In future, the information will cover the full 12 months of each year.

The data released Tuesday shows that orthopedists, cardiologists and adult medicine specialists were among the health care providers most likely to receive financial benefits from drug and medical device makers, the AP reported.

Cash payments were the most common type of benefit, followed by in-kind gifts and services, and stock options. Some doctors also had part ownership of companies, and this was included in the data.

The companies at the top of the payout list included Genentech Inc., Pfizer Inc., and DePuy Synthes, the AP reported.

Consumer groups welcomed the release of the data.

"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."

But doctors and drug and medical device makers expressed concerns about the data's accuracy and lack of context.

Some financial dealings between doctors and drug makers benefit patients, particularly in the area of research, according to American Medical Association President Robert Wah.

"There are relationships that can help drive innovation in patient care," he said in a statement, the AP reported.

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Experts Challenge Brain Injury Settlement Between NFL and Former Players

A proposed settlement between the NFL and former players who suffered head injuries is being challenged by brain injury experts who say the rules of eligibility for compensation are too narrow.

The settlement was reached with nearly 5,000 retired players who sued the NFL for trying to conceal the dangers of concussions. However, many former players would be excluded or have limited access to medical benefits and compensation under the deal, according to two doctors with the Brain Injury Association of America, The New York Times reported.

The tests that would be used to assess retired players would identify cognitive problems such as memory loss and the ability to organize thoughts, but not other brain injury-related conditions such as aggressive behavior and mood swings, the doctors said in a filing with the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

"To be maximally effective at identifying those players with residual deficits, it is well accepted by the brain injury professional community that an approach that is more holistic, human-based and less linguistically reliant is preferred," according to the filing by the doctors, who are the former and current national medical directors of the Brain Injury Association of America, The Times reported.

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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.

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