Even two minutes of any physical activity -- taking the stairs, walking the dog or carrying out the trash -- can add up to significant health benefits, such as improved blood pressure, enhanced brain function and reduced risk of cancer and weight gain, according to the updated physical activity guidelines published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The guidelines also recommend at least three hours of physical activity daily for children up to age 5 and at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for those ages 6 to 17, while pregnant and postpartum women should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly.
Merck's Keytruda, or pembrolizumab, was approved by the FDA to treat patients with hepatocellular carcinoma following treatment with sorafenib. In a clinical trial, patients who received Keytruda achieved a partial response rate of 16% and a complete response rate of 1%.
The Leapfrog Group unveiled its fall 2018 safety grades for more than 2,600 acute care hospitals in the US, giving an A to 32% of hospitals and a B to 24%. New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts and Texas had the highest percentage of A-grade hospitals, while Connecticut, Nebraska, Delaware, North Dakota and Washington, D.C., had the lowest percentage of A facilities.
The IRS has published a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend 401(k) hardship-withdrawal rules. Among proposed changes are permitting hardship withdrawals under more scenarios and allowing plan sponsors to permit withdrawal of nonelective and matching contributions, as well as earnings on them.
An analysis of 2001 to 2015 World Health Organization data found the US had higher rates of drug overdose deaths for both men and women in 2015 than 12 other countries. The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine said overdoses caused an estimated 63,632 deaths in the US in 2016.
Cigna announced that it will be offering Happify Health and iPrevail's digital resources to employers as part of the company's behavioral health program starting in January. Happify offers personalized activities and guided meditations to support emotional health, while iPrevail has a private chat platform offering personalized mental health care guidance for people experiencing stress, depression and other mental health issues.
Home Depot and Walmart have embraced employee drug plans by CVS Health and Express Scripts, respectively, that limit the use of drugmaker copay cards and coupons that encourage patients to use expensive medications when equally effective alternatives are available for a lower price. Copay cards reduce patients' out-of-pocket expenditures but do nothing to reduce overall spending, and the National Business Group on Health expects more companies to adopt pharmacy benefit plans that feature copay accumulators and maximizers.
Seventeen state Medicaid programs this year expanded access to expensive treatments for hepatitis C infections, according to Harvard University's Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the agency set a single-month approval record for generic drugs in October and that the FDA would continue to pursue policies that increase competition in the drug market.
Express Scripts is launching a formulary option for clients under which drugmakers can lower their prices instead of offering rebates and use alternative reimbursement codes within the drug plan. "We're trying to create new options in the marketplace," said Express Scripts Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller.
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