Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Drugmakers eye Africa's middle classes as next growth market

PARIS (Reuters) - For pharmaceutical companies, Africa is changing. Not only is the continent's economic growth grabbing attention in boardrooms but the shifting nature of its disease burden is luring Big Pharma, as new opportunities open up for treating chronic diseases afflicting the middle classes, rather than just fire-fighting infection.

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UK cost agency says "no" to Novartis blood cancer drug Jakavi

LONDON (Reuters) - A new drug from Novartis <NOVN.VX> for myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer, is not worth using on the state health service, Britain's healthcare cost watchdog said on Wednesday. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said it had issued new draft guidance not recommending Jakavi because it could not be considered a cost-effective use of resources.

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Hospital deaths and readmissions not linked: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A measure used by Medicare to penalize hospitals for poor performance is not linked to how many patients die after being admitted, suggests a new study. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, suggests that hospitals can keep the number of patients who come back for more treatment low without having more of them die.

Slow approvals put India's drug trials industry at risk

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Slower government approval for testing new medicines is threatening India's aspirations to be a fast-growing, low-cost hub for clinical trials, and has prompted some drugs firms to shift operations elsewhere, adding to their costs. While India's drug regulator and the health ministry's medical research body deny any slowdown, interviews by Reuters with pharmaceutical companies, lobby groups, industry watchers and healthcare activists tell a different story.

Folic acid in pregnancy tied to lower autism risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who took extra folic acid in the weeks before and just after becoming pregnant were less likely to have a child with autism, in a new study from Norway. Because lack of folic acid has been tied to brain and spinal cord birth defects, groups including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) already call for women who may become pregnant to take daily supplements containing the B vitamin.

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NY fracking decision faces further delay on health study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York State's decision to lift a four-year ban on natural gas drilling faced further delay on Tuesday after officials conducting a key health impact study asked for more time to form their conclusions on the divisive issue. The New York Department of Health, which has been commissioned to study how the drilling process known as fracking affects public health, said the review is ongoing but that a few more weeks are needed due to the "complexity of the issues".

Should toddlers be screened for lazy eye?

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Screening one- and two-year-olds for lazy eye can reliably detect children at risk for vision problems, a new study suggests. Researchers found tests by trained volunteers correctly caught a similar proportion of toddlers and older preschoolers with the early signs of lazy eye - also known as amblyopia - who were then referred to an ophthalmologist for treatment.