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Health Highlights: Dec. 1, 2015

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

Hepatitis C Drug Maker More Concerned With Profits Than Patients: Senate Committee

Profit was put ahead of patients when Gilead Sciences priced a breakthrough hepatitis C drug at $1,000-per-pill, says a U.S. Senate Finance Committee report released Tuesday.

The committee said the California-based company focused on maximizing revenue even though its own research showed that charging less for the drug would benefit more patients with the liver-damaging disease, the Associated Press reported.

The high price of the significantly limited patient access to the drug and cost state and federal health programs huge amounts of money, the committee found.

Sovaldi was the name of Gilead's first breakthrough hepatitis C pill. It now has a newer, more expensive one called Harvoni, the AP reported.


Ethics of Human Gene Editing Focus of International Conference

Human gene editing is a rapidly-advancing field of medical technology that holds great promise for new genetic treatments, but there are worries about safety and ethics.

Those concerns are being discussed this week as hundreds of scientists and ethicists from around the world meet in Washington, the Associated Press reported.

Recently, Chinese scientists attempted the first editing of genes in human embryos. It wasn't successful, but did raise questions about passing modified DNA to future generations.

"This is a technology that could have profound implications for permanent alteration of the human genome," Jennifer Doudna, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in the journal Nature prior to the meeting.

She co-invented a widely-used gene editing tool, and the international conference was prompted by her calls to find the proper balance in how it's eventually used, the AP reported.

Some scientists say gene editing could be a huge leap forward in preventing inherited diseases, while others believe it's a line that should not be crossed.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has said it won't fund research into genetic editing of human sperm, eggs or embryos, but private funding is still possible, the AP reported. In other countries, there is wide variation in guidelines and rules about this type of research.


Cheaper Alternative to Turing's Pricey Daraprim Soon Available

A low-cost alternative to the infection-fighting drug Daraprim will be available to patients as soon as next week.

The price of Daraprim rose 5,000 percent after it was acquired by Turing Pharmaceuticals earlier this year. The drug is used to treat a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis.

On Tuesday, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals announced it found a backer to distribute a $1-per-pill alternative to the $750-a-pill Daraprim. The backer is Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefits management company in the United States, CNN reported.

The active ingredient in Daraprim is pyrimethamine. The new drug is a compound of pyrimethamine and leucovorin.

Express Scripts said it will collaborate with medical groups to educate doctors about the new drug, CNN reported.

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