Health Highlights: Sept. 9, 2015

Health Highlights: Sept. 9, 2015

Health Highlights: Sept. 9, 2015

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

NYC Mandates Salt Warnings on Chain Restaurant Menus

Sit down at a chain restaurant in New York City and you'll soon see warnings about the food's sodium content as part of the menu.

That's because the city's Board of Health unanimously voted on Wednesday to include such information on chain restaurant menus, the Associated Press reported. The warnings would appear alongside items containing more than the recommended daily total of sodium -- about 2,300 milligrams, or around a teaspoon.

"My hope is that this impacts not only consumer practices but also impacts the practices of our restaurants," one board member, Dr. Deepthiman Gowda, told the AP.

Not everyone applauded the move, however.

"This is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through," making it tougher to do business, Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

The city's move is the most recent in a number of steps aimed at helping New Yorkers get healthier, the AP noted. Over the past few years, heart-clogging trans fats were banned from restaurant fare and chain restaurants were made to post calorie counts on menus. One proposal -- to limit the size of some sugary drinks -- was not successful, however.


Surgeon General: For a Healthier Life, Step It Up!

Walk your way to better health.

That's the thrust of a new message from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who said a brisk 20-minute daily walk could go a long way toward combating major health threats such as heart disease and diabetes.

"We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity -- such as brisk walking -- can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes," said Murthy. "The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation."

But going for a healthful walk isn't as easy as it might seem for many people, Murthy said.

A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that three of every 10 Americans said no sidewalks existed along streets in their neighborhood. And in many towns and cities, violence -- and the perception of violence -- may prove a barrier to walking.

Murthy is calling his campaign "Step It Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities." And it has the backing of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The Surgeon General is urging community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling, and to push for the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action also recommends the creation of more sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces.

"Walking is the simplest way to add more physical activity into our everyday lives," Lawrence Armstrong, president of the American College of Sports Medicine, said in a news release from the college.

Less than half of all American adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease. And only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount, the news release said.

A sedentary lifestyle contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86 percent of U.S. health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money, the news release said.


Analysis Claims New Cholesterol Drugs Are Highly Overpriced

Two newly approved drugs to fight high cholesterol are extremely overpriced compared to the health benefits they give to patients, a new analysis finds.

The drugs in question, Repatha and Praluent, currently cost more than $14,000 per year, and because millions of Americans have high cholesterol, costs could be overwhelming, The New York Times reported.

The new report, from the nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), said that an annual cost of $3,615 to $4,811 would be more in line with the value they are expected to provide in preventing heart attacks and deaths.

However, at current pricing, "even if these drugs were used in just over 25 percent of eligible patients, then employers, insurers and patients would need to spend on average more than $20 billion a year," Dr. Steven Pearson, the founder and president of ICER, said in a statement.

In response, Amgen, the maker of Repatha, said in a statement, "we are concerned that ICER's review does not place value on addressing a significant unmet medical need, and its short-term budgetary focus will be used to create access barriers to innovative medicines like Repatha for appropriate patients."

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which has partnered with Sanofi to make Praluent, said it had not yet had time to review the new report. But a spokeswoman told the Times that "these calculations are complex, and a robust and open peer-review process is essential."

According to the Times, the exact benefit of Repatha and Praluent for heart patients may not be known until the results of large clinical trials arrive in 2017.

Dr. Troyen Brennan is chief medical officer of CVS Health, a pharmacy benefit manager. He told the Times that the new report is "basically right in line with our view of the medications -- that they have some value, but at their current prices they are way overpriced."
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