Health Highlights: Aug. 26, 2010

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

Seniors Face Large Drug Cost Increases: Report

In 2009, the prices of the most popular brand-name drugs used by American seniors rose 8.3%, according to AARP researchers who looked at 217 brand-name drugs.

They also noted that the price of those medications increased seven percent in 2008, and that the retail price of brand-name drugs climbed 41.5% between 2004 and 2009, while the consumer price index rose only 13.3% during the same period, ABC News reported.

The increases mean that a person who takes three brand-name drugs now pays an average of $1,900 more each year for medicine, said the study.

"Something is out of whack here about no increases in the rest of the economy and very substantial (increases) with pharmaceuticals," said AARP's John Rother, ABC News reported.

The study did note that a growing number of Americans are turning to generic drugs.

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Epidurals During Labor Protect Muscles: Study

Women who have an epidural during childbirth are less likely to suffer damage to the "levator" muscles that support internal organs and are therefore less likely to suffer incontinence later in life, suggests a new study.

Researchers followed 367 Australian women who gave birth between 2005 and 2008 and found that about 13% of women who had vaginal births suffered damage to these muscles. The risk of damage was lower among women who had an epidural, BBC News reported.

Overall, two-thirds of the women who suffered muscle damage had no epidural.

The study appears in the obstetrics journal BJOG.

About two-thirds of women in the U.S. and about one-third of women in the U.K. receive epidurals during childbirth, BBC News reported.

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FDA Warns About TimeOut Capsules

TimeOut, a product marketed to men as a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement, contains an ingredient that could cause dangerously low blood pressure, warns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency said an analysis of the product showed that it containshydroxythiohomosildenafil, a chemical similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. Like sildenafil, hydroxythiohomosildenafil may interact with prescription drugs such as nitrates, including nitroglycerin, and cause dangerously low blood pressure.

TimeOut is distributed online as 2,500 mg capsules and labeled as "100% natural," which may lead consumers to mistakenly believe that the product poses no health risk. Men who have TimeOut capsules should stop using them immediately, the FDA said.

So far, the agency hasn't received any reports of adverse events associated with the use of TimeOut.

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Traffic Crashes Cost $99 Billion Annually: Report

The annual cost of medical care and lost productivity associated with injuries from motor vehicle crashes in the United States is more than $99 billion, which works out to nearly $500 for each licensed driver, says a federal government study.

The yearly cost of direct medical care associated with traffic crashes is $17 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of 2005 data.

They found that the annual costs of fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries is $70 billion for people in cars and light trucks, $12 billion for motorcyclists, $10 billion for pedestrians, and $5 billion for bicyclists.

"Every 10 seconds, someone in the United States is treated in an emergency department for crash-related injuries, and nearly 40,000 people die from these injuries each year. This study highlights the magnitude of the problem of crash-related injuries from a cost perspective, and the numbers are staggering," Dr. Grant Baldwin, director of CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a CDC news release.

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Millions Of Seniors May Have To Change Medicare Drug Plans: Analysis

Millions of American seniors may be forced to switch their Medicare drug plans next year due to a plan designed to make it simpler for people to select drug coverage, according to an analysis by private research firm Avalere Health.

The company estimates that prescription drug plans for more than three million Medicare beneficiaries will be eliminated under Medicare's efforts to reduce duplicative coverage and offer seniors better choices, the Associated Press reported.

Those beneficiaries wouldn't lose coverage but could see changes in their premiums and copayments, according to Avalere.

Medicare officials were quick to dismiss the company's analysis.

"Anybody who is producing this kind of analysis is simply guessing," Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator for Medicare, told the AP.

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