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Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2018


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

Trump Announces Plan to Cut Drug Prices

Trying to cut high drug costs, the prices paid by Medicare for certain prescription drugs would be based on those in other advanced industrial nations, according to a proposal announced Thursday by the Trump administration.

"This is a revolutionary change," President Donald Trump said in a speech on Thursday at the Department of Health and Human Services, The New York Times reported. "Nobody's had the courage to do it, or they just didn't want to do it."

The move would cut costs for Medicare and save beneficiaries millions of dollars, according to the Times.

Under a demonstration project in half the country, Medicare would create and use and "international pricing index" to decide how much to pay for drugs covered by Part B of Medicare.

A recently-released government study said that Medicare paid 80 percent more than other advanced industrial countries for some of the most expensive prescription medicines, The Times reported.

The proposal was met with skepticism by Democrats.

"It's hard to take the Trump administration and Republicans seriously about reducing health care costs for seniors two weeks before the election when they have repeatedly advocated for and implemented policies that strip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and lead to increased health care costs for millions of Americans," said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, The Times reported.

A number of health care-related announcements have been made by the White House ahead of next month's midterm elections. Health care has been a major focus of Democrats in their campaigns, including high drug prices and warnings that Republicans will remove protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

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Altria Withdraws Some E-Cigarette Products

Tobacco company Altria says it will discontinue most of its flavored electronic cigarettes and halt sales of some brands.

In its announcement Thursday, the company also said it would support federal legislation to increase to 21 the minimum age for buying any tobacco or vaping products, the Washington Post reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been going after e-cigarette makers for marketing that appeals to teens.

In early September, the FDA issues warnings to several companies and gave them 60 days to prove they can keep their e-cigarettes away from minors, and also warned 1,100 retailers to halt e-cigarette sales to minors, the Post reported.

Altria's decision could pressure other e-cigarette makers to withdraw some products. That includes Juul, which controls more than 70 percent of the market.

"I think Altria will be happy to try to look like the good guy and let Juul take the heat," Desmond Jenson, a senior staff lawyer with the Public Health Law Center, told the Post.

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