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Health Highlights: Jan. 6, 2021

By HealthDay Reporter

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:

WHO Leader Disappointed as China Delays Letting Experts In to Study Start of Pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization said Tuesday that he is "disappointed" that Chinese officials haven't given permission for experts to come to China to track the origins of COVID-19.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said members of an international team had begun heading to China as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government, the Associated Press reported.

"Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team's arrival in China," Tedros said during a news conference in Geneva.

"I'm very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials," he said.

Tedros said he was "assured that China is speeding up the internal procedures for the earliest possible deployment."

The experts are expected to visit the city of Wuhan, which is where it is believed the coronavirus first emerged.
The Chinese government has been controlling all research into the origins of the virus, an AP investigation found, and state-run media have pushed reports suggesting the virus originated elsewhere.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said recently that "more and more research suggests that the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world," the AP reported.

Drug Makers Raise Prices on 500 Prescription Drugs

With the new year comes another round of prescription drug price hikes, CBS News reported Tuesday.

The data comes from 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit company that aims to improve access to drug pricing information.

AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and other major pharmaceutical companies are raising their prices by a median of 4.6%, the nonprofit said. In all, more than 500 drugs will cost more this year, the data shows.

Drug prices are higher in the United States than in other developed countries, where governments typically negotiate with manufacturers to control costs.

GlaxoSmithKline raised the price on 34 of its drug brands on Jan. 1, company spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer told CBS MoneyWatch.

"Compared to last year, we've taken fewer list price increases and we didn't raise the list price of 18 products across our portfolio," Meyer noted.

Pfizer told CBS MoneyWatch that its prices rose about 1%.

"This modest increase is necessary to support investments that allow us to continue to discover new medicines and deliver those breakthroughs to the patients who need them," a company spokeswoman said.

Bristol Myers Squibb "responsibly balances pricing its medicines so high-risk innovation is rewarded while providing access and affordability support for its patients," the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
the company sells the lung cancer treatment Opdivo, which is expected to rise 2% in price, and the arthritis drug Orencia, which is looking at a 5% jump, CBS News said.

Other drugs expected to see price hikes include:

  • The pain medication Zipsor, by 10%
  • The anti-epileptic treatment Sabril, by 10%
  • The Crohn's disease drug Humira, by 7%
  • The heart attack treatment Kengreal, by 6%
  • The diabetic nerve damage treatment Lyrica, by 5%
  • The smoking cessation drug Chantix, by 3%
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