SATURDAY, Jan. 1 (HealthDay News) -- In a year packed with
health news headlines, the pick for top spot was still easy: the
passage last spring of the long-sought health care reform bill.
When President Barack Obama signed the final version of the
reform package into law on March 30, advocates pointed out that it
would vastly expand the pool of Americans able to get health
insurance, while eliminating problems such as denial of coverage
for pre-existing medical conditions. Starting this year, young
adults also can retain health care coverage via their parents'
plans up until the age of 26, and insurers can no longer place a
lifetime dollar limit on essential benefits. Preventive services
such as mammograms or colonoscopies are now free.
To many, this sounds like an advance, but critics worry whether
the government can -- or should -- foot the bill for what many see
as socialized medicine.
Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll conducted in mid-November
found Americans as split as ever on the new package, with 28
percent hoping for repeal, 31 percent wanting to keep the
legislation, and 29 percent not sure what should be done.
The reform package withstood a number of court challenges
throughout the year, but in December a federal judge in Virginia
struck down the provision mandating that nearly all Americans get
coverage. And an even larger court challenge -- filed on behalf of
20 states -- is set to play out in Florida over the coming
But beyond the reform hurly-burly, other health news grabbed
attention in 2010:
FDA Gains New Food Safety Oversight. After reacting to a
succession of outbreaks of food-borne illness over the past few
years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration got an early Christmas
present with President Obama signing the Food Safety Modernization
Act into law. The $1.4 billion overhaul -- the first since the
1930s -- gives the agency new powers to monitor food processing and
distribution. The goal: to
prevent outbreaks from happening in the first place,
advocates say. And that's good news, coming on the heels of
Massive Salmonella-Linked Egg Recall. This August, Americans
scrambled away from their omelets after two Iowa farms recalled
over half a billion eggs linked to salmonella. By Aug. 25, the CDC
estimated that more than 1,300 Americans had fallen ill due to the
tainted products, although experts believe the true total may have
been much higher. U.S. health inspectors later cited open manure
pits, rodents and dead flies at both Iowa farms as potential causes
of the contamination.
H1N1 Flu Fizzles. Remember H1N1 influenza, which World Health
Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan called a threat to "all of
humanity" back in 2009? Well, either because health officials and
ordinary citizens did what they were supposed to and fended off
infections, or because H1N1 simply wasn't as big a threat as
experts had feared, by the spring of 2010 the virus seemed to fade.
In fact, a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention published in September found the 2009-2010 H1N1 flu was
no more serious than the seasonal strains that had come
New Hope in Early Detection of Lung Cancer. The nation's
number one cancer killer took a big hit this year, with researchers
at the U.S. National Cancer Institute announcing that annual
low-dose CT scans appear to cut smokers' (or former smokers') odds
for death from lung cancer by 20 percent, mainly due to detecting
tumors at an early stage. However, experts also noted that CT scans
are expensive and false-positive results are relatively common, so
more study is needed.
A Daily Pill Could Keep HIV Infection at Bay. A trial
involving highly sexually active gay and bisexual men found that
Truvada -- a one-a-day combination pill containing two
antiretroviral drugs -- cut rates of HIV infection by 44 percent
overall and by 73 percent for those who took it 90 percent of the
time. Dr. Kevin Fenton, an expert in HIV/AIDS at the CDC, called
the finding "a major advance in HIV prevention research."
FDA Restricts Access to Diabetes Drug Avandia. Responding to
a growing drumbeat of concerns over cardiovascular risks to
patients, the FDA in September severely restricted access to the
controversial diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone). Patients
currently taking the drug can continue to do so for now, the agency
said, but the FDA is mandating that the drug's maker,
GlaxoSmithKline, develop a program that limits new users to
patients who've failed all other treatments. Tougher action could
follow as more data is examined, the agency added.