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Health Highlights: May 26, 2020

Last Updated: May 26, 2020.

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

New Medicare Benefit Would Limit Insulin Copays to $35 a Month

Reacting to skyrocketing prices for the diabetes drug insulin, the Trump Administration will announce on Tuesday a new benefit that would limit Medicare recipients' copays for insulin to a maximum of $35 a month, and save them about $446 a year if they have prescription plans that offer the benefit.

Instead of the fluctuating copay amounts that are common now, there would be a manageable amount, the Associated Press reported.

The insulin benefit will be voluntary, so Medicare recipients who want to take advantage of it must pick an insurance plan that provides it. Most will have access to such plans during open enrollment this fall.

The benefit was announced Tuesday by the Trump administration, which brokered a deal between insulin manufacturers and major insurers, Medicare chief Seema Verma told the AP. The three major insulin suppliers, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, were all involved.

The cost of insulin is one of the major concerns for people worried about high prices for brand name drugs, according to the AP.

Millions of Americans with diabetes use insulin to control their blood sugar levels and prevent complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations. People with diabetes also have worse outcomes from COVID-19.

Verma said 1,750 insurance plans that offer drug coverage to Medicare recipients have agreed to limit copays, which is expected to lead to a small increase in premiums, the AP reported.

The benefit would cover a number of insulin products, including pen and vial forms for rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting versions.

About one-third of Medicare recipients have diabetes, and more than 3 million use insulin, according to the AP.

The drug can cost more than $5,000 a year at list prices, but insured patients don't pay that. However, they've faced rising copays that are based on the full cost of the drug.

People who have difficulty affording their insulin may cut back on their doses, which can put their lives at risk.

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WHO Suspends Testing of Hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 Patients

The World Health Organization has suspended use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in a clinical trial of treatments of COVID-19 after a study found that patients taking the drug are at increased risk for death and serious heart problems.

In light of the study published last week in The Lancet medical journal, there will be "a temporary pause" of the hydroxychloroquine arm of WHO's global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing Monday.

"This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19," Tedros said. Other treatments being tested in the trial, including the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being tested, he added.

Tedros said WHO experts will conduct a comprehensive review of all available data on hydroxychloroquine, the AP reported.

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Queen Guitarist Brian May Has Heart Attack

Brian May, the 72-year-old guitarist for the rock band Queen, says he recently suffered a "small heart attack" and had three stents implanted.

In an Instagram video Monday, May said his doctor drove him to the hospital after he began having heart attack symptoms, the Associated Press reported.

He said he was shocked about having the heart attack, because "I thought I was a very healthy guy."

May said the stent procedure was successful and he feels fine now. "I walked out with a heart that's very strong now," May said, the AP reported.

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Trump Says He's Stopped Taking Hydroxychloroquine

U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday that he'd "just finished" taking a two-week course of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as protection against COVID-19, despite growing evidence that it may be dangerous and provides no benefits.

Trump has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment even though there is no proof that it's effective, and defended his decision to take the drug in an interview that aired on Sinclair Broadcasting, NBC News reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against use of hydroxychloroquine outside of hospitals due to the risk of serious heart problems.

The antimalarial drug is often used to treat lupus and rheumatoid disease. There are no approved treatments for COVID-19, NBC News reported.


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