Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2014

By on February 11, 2014

Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2014

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

Mid-Sized Companies Get Extra Year to Comply With Affordable Care Act

Medium-sized companies will have another year before they have to provide employees with health insurance or face tax penalties, the Obama administration announced Monday.

The mandate will not be enforced until Jan. 1, 2016, so some companies that have more than 50 employees will now have an extra year to meet that requirement, The New York Times reported. Businesses that have less than 50 employees don’t have to provide insurance to all full-time employees and their families.

In granting more time for compliance, the federal government set up new deadlines for three sizes of companies.

For companies with 100 or more employees, 70 percent of workers must have the option of coverage by 2015 and 95 percent should have that option after that, the Times reported. Businesses with 50 to 100 employees will have until 2016 to provide health insurance or face tax penalties. Small businesses with 50 employees or less will not be required to provide coverage at any point, the newspaper said.

This latest delay in implementation follows several attempts by the Obama administration in recent months to soften the blow of trying to conform with the tenets of the Affordable Care Act.


More Studies Needed on Female Libido Drug: FDA

A daily pill being developed to increase women’s sexual desire will have to undergo more studies before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reconsiders approving the drug.

The FDA wants more data on how the drug flibanserin affects driving ability and how it interacts with other medications, Sprout Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly 10 percent of women who took the drug during company studies reported sleepiness.

The three studies requested by the FDA would involve only 25 to 50 patients each, according to Sprout Pharmaceuticals. The Raleigh, N.C.-based company said its application to have flibanserin approved will be resubmitted to the FDA in the third quarter, the AP reported.

The FDA first rejected the drug in 2010 and did so again last December. After the second refusal, Sprout filed a formal dispute and that led to the FDA’s latest request for additional data.

The drug industry has spent about 15 years trying to develop an female version of Viagra. Previous experimental drugs focused on hormones, but flibanserin in the first to try to boost women’s sexual desire by targeting brain chemicals that affect mood and appetite, the AP reported.


U.S. Drug Shortages Have Tripled: Report

The number of new and continuing annual shortages of critical drugs in the United States nearly tripled from 2007 to 2012 and doctors have been forced to ration some drugs or search for alternatives, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

It said the shortages have persisted despite the efforts of the federal government and are most common for generic versions of sterile injectable drugs, The New York Times reported.

One reason for the shortages is that drug-producing facilities are getting older and therefore at greater risk for quality troubles that result in temporary shut downs of production lines or even whole factories.

The Food and Drug Administration is preventing more drug shortages now than in previous years and averted 154 potential shortages in 2012 compared with 35 in 2010, the accountability office said. Even so, the number of shortages rose from 154 in 2007 to 456 in 2012, The Times reported.


Shirley Temple Dead at 85

Actress and diplomat Shirley Temple died Monday night at age 85.

A publicist said she died of natural causes while surrounded by family at her home near San Francisco, USA Today reported.

Temple was a singer, dancer and actress who in the 1930s became one of Hollywood’s first child superstars. She was the top box-office draw in the United States from 1935 — the year she turned 7 — until 1938.

In 1974, Temple was named U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later became ambassador to Czechoslovakia, USA Today reported.

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