Health Highlights: April 19, 2011

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

U.S. Spending on Medicines Slows: Study

Spending on medicines in the United States grew at a slower rate in 2010, rising 2.3 percent compared to 5.1 percent in 2009, a new study says.

The total spent on medicines last year was $307.4 billion, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Spending on brand name medicines fell 0.7 percent in 2010 while spending on generic medicines increased. Generic medicines now account for 78 percent of all retail prescriptions, the study said.

It also found that the number of doctor offices visits decreased 4.2 percent in 2010, and the number of new patients starting new treatments for chronic conditions fell by 3.4 million, Dow Jones reported.

A high jobless rate and rising healthcare costs were the reason for the slowdown in healthcare spending last year, according to the researchers.


First Public Appearance for Hand Transplant Patient

A California woman who received a new hand in a transplant procedure last month is scheduled to appear at a news conference Tuesday.

The 26-year-old mother lost her right hand in a traffic accident several years ago and had been living with a prosthetic. She wanted a new hand to better care for her daughter, the Associated Press reported.

The 14 1/2-hour transplant surgery was conducted at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. During the procedure, a team of nearly 20 surgeons, nurses and support staff connected bones, blood vessels, nerves and tendons between the hand from a deceased donor and the recipient.

The patient was able to move the fingers on her new hand soon after the surgery. She still requires several months of rehabilitation and will have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life, the AP reported

This is the 13th hand transplant in the United States. The world’s first hand transplant was conducted in Ecuador in 1964 and there have been dozens since.


Diet During Pregnancy Affects Child’s DNA and Obesity Risk: Study

Eating low levels of carbohydrates during pregnancy can alter a developing child’s DNA and increase the risk of childhood obesity, a new study says.

This effect on obesity at ages six and nine years is considerably greater than birth weight and does not depend on how thin or fat the mother is, according to the researchers, BBC News reported.

“All women who become pregnant get advice about diet, but it is not always high up the agenda of health professionals,” said study leader Professor Keith Godfrey, from the University of Southampton in the U.K. “The research suggests women should follow the advice as it may have a long term influence on the baby’s health after it is born.”

The study will appear in the journal Diabetes.

The findings strengthen “the case for all women of reproductive age having greater access to nutritional, educational and lifestyle support to improve the health of the next generation, and to reduce the risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which often follow obesity,” Professor Mark Hanson, of the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.


Ovarian Cancer Begins in Fallopian Tubes: Study

Ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes, not the ovaries, according to a new study.

Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, made the finding after conducting lab experiments in which they recreated the process by which ovarian cancer forms, Agence France-Presse reported.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may lead to new ways to fight ovarian cancer. Each year, about 200,000 women worldwide are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 115,000 die of the disease.

A number of previous studies have suggested that ovarian cancer may originate elsewhere, but this study shows how the cancer first takes root in fallopian tissue, AFP reported. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus.