Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Insight: Shrinking U.S. labor unions see relief in marijuana industry

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The medical marijuana shop next to a tattoo parlor on a busy street in Los Angeles looks much like hundreds of other pot dispensaries that dot the city. Except for one thing: On the glass door - under a green cross signaling that cannabis can be bought there for medical purposes - is a sticker for the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), the nation's largest retail union.

Social Security, health spending to hit $3.2 trillion a year

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Spending on Social Security and healthcare will double to $3.2 trillion a year over the next decade, threatening a sharp rise in national debt unless Congress acts to avoid the danger, congressional researchers warned on Tuesday. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did not put forth a plan to resolve the long-term imbalance between revenues and spending on retirement and healthcare benefits. But it said that action taken now would help minimize the economic impact of whatever course lawmakers can agree on.

Elan seeks acquisitions after $3.25 billion MS drug deal

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish drugmaker Elan <ELN.I> is raising more than $3.25 billion by selling its interests in its main drug and will splash out most of the proceeds on acquisitions, effectively reinventing itself as a company. Under a deal announced on Wednesday, Elan's partner Biogen Idec <BIIB.O> will take full ownership of blockbuster multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment Tysabri and will make an upfront payment to the Irish group plus royalties on future sales.

GSK promises growth this year after 2012 shortfall

LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L>, Britain's biggest drugmaker, renewed its promise to return to growth this year, after failing to deliver a hoped-for sales and margin recovery in 2012. GSK also announced a restructuring of European operations, drug manufacturing and research, designed to save at least 1 billion pounds ($1.57 billion) annually by 2016, while it placed its Lucozade and Ribena drinks brands under strategic review.

U.S. proposes scrapping some obsolete Medicare regulations 2013-02-05T010951Z_2_BRE914024_RTROPTC_0_US-USA-HEALTHCARE-HOSP ITALS.XML () -

U.S. scales back goal on veterans' health records with an eye on costs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is ditching ambitious plans to create a single computer system for troops and military veterans to track their health records, opting instead for a more modest, less costly plan that officials said will deliver on goals faster. The decision announced on Tuesday is complicated and technical but goes to the core of President Barack Obama's goal to create a smooth transition for troops as they leave the military after 11 years of war and seek care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Senate to mull ban on "pay for delay" pharmaceutical deals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Key Democratic and Republican senators reintroduced legislation on Tuesday that would make it illegal for brand-name pharmaceutical companies to pay generic drug makers to keep their cheaper medicines off the market. Such deals, in which big drug companies resolve patent litigation with potentially infringing generic firms by reaching a settlement that delays a generic version of a drug in exchange for a payment, have angered U.S. and European antitrust enforcers for years.

African-Americans still more likely to die from cancer

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drops in smoking may have helped drive cancer death rates down among black men during the last decade, but they are still more likely to die of cancer than whites, according to a new analysis. "I think we see some really good news, but then we also see some trends that are going in the wrong direction," said Carol DeSantis, the study's lead author from the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta.

Steroid shots for tennis elbow may hurt, not help

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Getting a cortisone injection won't cure tennis elbow any better than a drug-free saline shot, according to a new study - and it might actually slow recovery. Researchers found that a few weeks after receiving the steroid shots, people reported less pain and disability than those who'd been given placebo injections. But a year later, the same patients lagged behind the placebo group in their likelihood of complete recovery.

Adults with mental illness smoke at higher rate: CDC

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Mentally ill adults in the United States smoke cigarettes at a 70 percent higher rate than adults without any kind of mental illness, according to a report released by federal health agencies on Tuesday. Statistics show smoking by the mentally ill is a "very serious health issue that needs more attention" and should prompt mental health facilities to ban the habit, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.