Health Highlights: March 9, 2012

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

CDC Campaign Promotes HIV Testing, Awareness Among Black Women

A new campaign to increase HIV testing and awareness among black women was launched Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HIV/AIDS is a major health issue among black women. The CDC's "Take Charge. Take the Test" campaign -- which features community outreach, a website and advertising -- was launched in conjunction with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The campaign was launched in 10 cities where black women are especially hard-hit by HIV/AIDS: Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; Hyattsville, Md.; and St. Louis.

"At current rates, nearly 1 in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

"To help reduce this toll we are working to remind black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves from this disease, and take charge of their health," he added.


FDA Mulls Making Key Prescription Drugs Available Over-the-Counter

A number of widely used prescription drugs could be sold over-the-counter under a new proposal being considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency is thinking about eliminating prescription requirements for certain drugs used to treat such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma and migraine, the Associated Press reported.

FDA officials said making it easier for patients to obtain these medications could help tackle undertreated health epidemics such as diabetes, which is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes, but about 7 million have not been diagnosed and therefore do not receive treatment.

The move to make certain prescription medications available over-the-counter is being driven by computer technology, such as touch-screen kiosks in pharmacies, which helps patients self-diagnose common diseases, according to the AP.

It's one of several FDA proposals meant to improve patient access to established drugs or to accelerate approval of experimental medications.

"These are discussions that need to start happening as we think about people's health needs and how to improve access," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the AP reported.


Prices of Seniors' Drugs Rise Nearly 26 Percent: Report

The cost of medicines used by many older Americans increased nearly 26 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to an AARP report.

The increase was nearly twice the rate of inflation, according to the analysis of the retail prices of 514 brand name and generic drugs most commonly used by Medicare recipients, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

While the prices of generic drugs fell nearly 31 percent during the study period, the prices of brand name drugs rose by nearly 41 percent, and the prices of specialty drugs increased by more than 48 percent, AARP said.

In comparison, the rate of inflation grew by just over 13 percent between 2005 and 2009, the Times reported.

Drug industry officials criticized the AARP study, and said the increased availability of generic drugs has slowed the increase in drug prices in recent years, the newspaper reported.

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