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Health Highlights: Oct. 22, 2019

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

New Alzheimer’s Drug to be Submitted for FDA Approval

A new drug to treat early Alzheimer’s disease will be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval, maker Biogen Inc. said Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the company stopped two studies of the drug, called aducanumab, when initial results suggested it would not be effective, so the announcement about seeking approval for the drug is a surprise, according to the Associated Press.

A new analysis of more results suggest that the highest dose of aducanumab — which is meant to help the body clear harmful plaques from the brain — helped slow declines in thinking skills, said Massachusetts-based Biogen, which is developing the drug with Japan-based Eisai Co. Ltd.

The two studies included more than 3,000 patients with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, patients who received a high dose of the drug — given as monthly infusions — had 23% less decline on one measure of thinking skills and smaller declines on other measures, the AP reported.

However, Biogen didn’t provide details on what that might mean for patients.

“It’s a tricky question” whether the study results are truly meaningful for patients until more details are known, Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic dementia specialist who has consulted for Biogen on the studies, told the AP.

“We’re really encouraged by the information that they’ve provided today,” which shows the largest benefit so far for any experimental medicine, Rebecca Edelmayer, a scientist at the Alzheimer’s Association, told the AP.

The group was not involved in the studies.

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More Choices, Lower Premiums for ACA Health Insurance Consumers Next Year

There will be more health insurance choices and a slight decrease in premiums for many consumers next year under the Affordable Care Act, according to the Trump administration.

There will be 20 more insurers participating in 2020, which will expand consumer choice in many states, and nearly 70% of customers will be able to shop for a plan from three or more insurers, officials said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

For a hypothetical 27-year-old choosing a standard plan, premiums will fall 4% on average next year in states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website, officials said.

That means that 27-year-old would pay monthly premiums of $374 for a low-cost midrange plan, but income-based subsidies could drop that to about $50, the AP reported.

About 10 million people are covered through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets, which provide taxpayer-subsidized private plans for people who don’t have work coverage, the AP reported.

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$260 Million Deal Averts First Federal Trial Over Opioids

A $260 million settlement in an opioid lawsuit was reached between two Ohio counties and four drug companies on Monday just hours before opening arguments were to begin in a landmark federal trial over responsibility for the U.S. opioid crisis.

The deal is between Cuyahoga and Summit counties and drug distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes generic opioids, the Washington Post reported.

“People can’t lose sight of the fact that the counties got a very good deal for themselves, but we also set an important national benchmark for the others,” Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer for Cuyahoga County, told the Associated Press.

The deal contains no admission of wrongdoing by the defendants. And nationwide the pharmaceutical industry still faces more than 2,600 other lawsuits over the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic. Participants in those cases said the Ohio deal buys them time to try to work out a nationwide settlement of all claims, the AP said.

Also on Monday, Henry Schein Medical said it had reached a deal worth $1.25 million with the two counties.

There was no settlement with another defendant, the retail drugstore chain Walgreens, which was sued over its own distribution operation, the Post reported.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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