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Health Highlights: Jan. 18, 2018

Last Updated: January 18, 2018.

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

Hospitals Plan to Produce Their Own Generic Drugs

Some of the largest hospital systems in the United States plan to start making their own generic drugs in order to avoid huge price increases and shortages of medicines.

Currently, about 300 hospitals are among those that plan to form a new nonprofit company that will produce the drugs, and other hospitals are expected to join, The New York Times reported.

The company would focus only on certain drugs, said Dr. Marc Harrison, chief executive of Intermountain Healthcare, the nonprofit Salt Lake City hospital group that is leading the effort.

"There are individual places where there are problems," he told The Times. "We are not indicting an entire industry."

The goal is to thwart companies that buy monopolies of old, off-patent drugs and then sharply increase prices.

"If (the hospitals) all agree to buy enough to sustain this effort, you will have a huge threat to people that are trying to manipulate the generic drug market. They will want to think twice," Dr. Kevin A. Schulman, a professor of medicine and generic drug expert at the Duke University School of Medicine who is advising the hospital groups, told The Times.


Helping Others With Depression Better Than Olympic Gold: Michael Phelps

Helping other people with depression has been more rewarding than winning gold medals at the Olympics, says U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps.

The most decorated Olympian of all time spoke Tuesday at The Kennedy Forum in Chicago as part of a national summit on depression, addiction, and other mental health problems, CBS News reported.

Phelps won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold. But he said at the peak of his Olympic career, he considered suicide. But after several days isolated in his room, he admitted he had a problem and needed help. That led to a transformation and saved his life.

The athlete said he wants to tell people about his battle with depression in the hope that it will encourage others with the disorder to seek help, CBS News reported.

He said there is no feeling like learning he helped someone.

"Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than ever winning an Olympic gold medal. You have the chance to save a life, and that's way more powerful," Phelps said, CBS News reported.


Packets That Turn Opioid Painkillers Into Useless Gel Offered At Walmart

Packets that turn unused opioid painkillers into useless gel are available for free at Walmart pharmacies.

The move is meant to reduce the risk of opioid abuse. About four million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, and users often obtain the drugs from the medicine cabinets of family and friends, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The disposal packets being handed out at Walmart's 4,700 U.S. pharmacies contain a powder that is placed in prescription bottles. When warm water is added, the powder turns opioid pills into a biodegradable gel that can be placed in the garbage, the Associated Press reported.

Walmart will offer a packet every six months to patients with a regular opioid prescription, but pharmacy customers can ask for a free packet at any time.

The disposal packets are made by DisposeRx. The company said the packets can also be used on other prescription drugs and work on pills, tablets, capsules, liquids and patches, the AP reported.

Drug disposal pouches are also offered by painkiller maker Painkiller maker Mallinckrodt PLC, which donated about 1.5 million of the pouches across the U.S. last year and will boost the number to 2 million this year.

Some drugstore chains, such as CVS and Walgreens, collect unused medications in many of their stores. Leftover medications can also be taken to hospital pharmacies or police stations, the AP reported.

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