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70th World Health Assembly (WHA) kicks off in Geneva-based UN headquarters

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FILE - The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground. VOA

Geneva, May 23, 2017: The 70th World Health Assembly (WHA), the main decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), opened at Geneva-based UN headquarters.

“Our joint work at the global level aims for the central objective of promoting health through the life course, as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals adopted at the very highest political level in 2015,” said WHA’s newly-elected President Veronika Skvortsova on Monday.

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“The achievement of this central objective necessitates the creation of an integrated health-preserving environment that amalgamates all national, regional and global mechanisms in the public, intersectoral and official spheres, professional medical bodies, patients’ associations and the business community,” Xinhua quoted her as saying.

This year’s assembly will determine policies on a range of health issues, including medicines and health products, non-communicable diseases, health emergencies, as well as maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health.

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 A new WHO Director-General will also be elected as incumbent head Margaret Chan’s mandate comes to an end.

In her final opening address to the assembly as Director-General, Chan called on the assembly to make “reducing inequalities” a guiding ethical principle.

“WHO stands for fairness,” she said, adding that countries should also work to improve collection of health data and make health strategies more accountable.

Chan stressed the importance of continued innovation, noting that “meeting the ambitious targets in the Sustainable Development Goals depends on innovation.”

The assembly will last until May 31. (IANS)

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U.S. Senators Launch Investigation on Rising Insulin Prices

U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern.

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A syringe with insulin. VOA

Two U.S. senators launched an investigation into rising insulin prices on Friday, sending letters to the three leading manufacturers seeking answers as to why the nearly 100-year-old drug’s cost has rapidly risen, causing patients and taxpayers to spend millions of dollars a year.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the committee’s top Democrat, sent letters to the heads of Eli Lilly and Co., Novo Nordisk A/S and Sanofi SA, the longtime leading manufacturers of insulin.

The senators pointed to similar, large insulin price increases at all three companies. Eli Lilly’s Humalog, for instance, rose from $35 to $234 per dose between 2001 and 2015, a 585 percent increase, they wrote. Insulin has been available since the early 20th century.

The senators asked for information on the process used to determine list prices and the process used to determine net prices after negotiations with pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) and health insurance plans. Their letters also asked for information about the cost of research and development, production, revenues and gross margins from insulin sales.

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U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern. Pixabay

“These hardships can lead to serious medical complications that are entirely preventable and completely unacceptable for the world’s wealthiest country,” the senators wrote in similarly worded letters.

‘Increasingly severe hardships’

“We are concerned that the substantial increases in the price of insulin over the past several years will continue their upward drive and pose increasingly severe hardships not only on patients that require access to the drug in order to stay alive but also on the taxpayer,” they wrote.

While Democratic lawmakers have launched several drug price investigations, this is one of the first bipartisan inquiries.

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“These hardships can lead to serious medical complications that are entirely preventable and completely unacceptable for the world’s wealthiest country,” the senators wrote in similarly worded letters. Pixabay

The Senate Finance Committee has the power to subpoena drugmakers.

The letters came just days before the same committee is scheduled to hold a hearing with seven pharmaceutical company executives, the latest congressional hearing on rising drug prices.

Also Read: What Does Architecture Of Houses in U.S. Tells Us About America

U.S. lawmakers have intensified scrutiny on prescription medicine costs as the issue consistently polls as a top voter concern. In January, top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee also wrote to the three insulin manufacturers asking for information on why their prices have rapidly risen.

About 1.2 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, requiring daily insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which affects nearly 30 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association, is treated with a variety of other medicines. But those patients may also eventually become dependent on insulin. (VOA)