The health-care reform bill, drug and food recalls, medical breakthroughs, layoffs and lawsuits helped make 2010 an exciting year for health care.With policy reform, drug recalls, medical breakthroughs and plenty of layoffs, 2010 proved to be an exciting -- if not entirely positive -- year for health care. The passage of the controversial health insurance reform act far overshadowed all other health care stories, but plenty of other issues also stole their share of the limelight. Here's a list of the top 10 health care stories of the year:

1. Health Insurance Reform


Without a doubt, the most important event of 2010 was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23. Thanks to the portions of the new law already in effect, young adults can remain on their parents' plans; uninsured people with preexisting conditions can get insurance; and seniors were able to receive rebate checks.

By 2014, the landmark law aims to extend coverage to 32 million Americans by requiring individuals to have insurance and by expanding Medicaid and employer-based health coverage. Insurance reforms include ending lifetime limits -- and most annual limits -- on care, and giving patients access to recommended preventive services without cost-sharing. Overall, the law is expected to save more than $100 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion in the next 20 years.

But the controversial measure still faces challenges. On Dec. 13, a Virginia judge said the law's insurance mandate in the bill violated the Constitution. Twenty more states filed a lawsuit together, also arguing that the act is unconstitutional. A judge in Florida has begun hearing the case.

2. Medicine Recalls

In late April, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), the world's biggest maker of health care products, recalled more than 135 million bottles of over 40 different over-the-counter medicines, and it has been plagued with many other quality-control problems and recalls since then. Those recalls prompted two Senate investigations and congressional action. They also highlight that the industry faces a wider drug-safety problem, as a perusal of the Food and Drug Administration's drug safety page further underscores. Just this month, Pfizer issued its fourth Lipitor recall of 2010, while Abbott recalled 359 million diabetes test strips.

3. Food Recalls and Food Bill

Food recalls
also seemed to be on the rise this year, with a large and urgent nationwide eggs recall, as well of a recall of cheese and frozen desserts. One in six Americans gets sick from food-borne illness each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These recalls paved the way for the biggest U.S. food-safety overhaul in more than 70 years, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which Congress passed in December. Under the law, the FDA will gain more power to police domestic and international food companies, including the power to mandate a recall if a company refuses to issue a voluntary one.

4. AIDS Breakthroughs


2010 saw several big breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. After an experimental vaccine demonstrated some effectiveness in preventing HIV in a trial in Thailand last year, some studies this year found evidence that antiretrovirals, or HIV treatments, also can prevent infection.

A new study in South Africa showed that a vaginal gel made using Gilead Sciences's (GILD) AIDS drug, Viread, cut HIV infections by 39% in women. Another study showed that men taking Gilead's pill Truvada daily reduced their risk of catching HIV by 44%. Sponsored by the U.S. government, the two studies' conclusion that AIDS treatments also can prevent HIV ranked as the top medical breakthrough by Time magazine and also was voted one of the year's top 10 breakthroughs by Science magazine.

U.S. government scientists also discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90% of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells, which could potentially help create a vaccine.

5. Obesity: Awareness and Drugs

Throughout the year, health officials stressed that obesity is a major public-health issue, related to a large number of medical conditions and costing the U.S. as much as $147 billion annually in health care. Despite all this attention, Americans keep getting fatter, which is why three drugmakers were racing to become the first in years to bring new diet drugs to the market. By year-end, only Orexigen Therapeutics's (OREX) Contrave had received a thumbs up from an FDA advisory committee. The FDA rejected Arena's (ARNA) lorcaserin and Vivus's (VVUS) Qnexa.

6. Pharmaceutical Layoffs Outpace Other Industries

Unemployment has remained a top economic concern this year, and the pharmaceutical industry bore more than its share of the pain. By the end of November, the industry topped all other categories -- except for the government -- in U.S. layoffs. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the pharmaceutical industry lost 50,168 jobs, slightly more than 10% of the country's nearly 500,000 layoffs. In addition, the health care-products sector lost 26,612 jobs in the first 11 months of the year. AstraZeneca (AZN) topped the list with 8,550 layoffs, according to FiercePharma, followed by Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Bayer, Abbott Labs, Sanofi-Aventis and more.

7. No Megamergers

Unlike 2009, which saw giant takeovers, such as Pfizer (PFE) buying Wyeth, Merck (MRK) buying Schering-Plough and Roche (RHHBY) buying Genentech, the 2010 deals were much smaller. Among the biggest: Novartis (NVS) finally sealed its majority-stake buyout of Alcon (ACL) for $12.9 billion in the largest deal of the year; Astellas bought OSI Universal for $4 billion; Pfizer bought King for $3.6 billion; and J&J acquired Crucell for $2.4 billion. The biggest deal that never happened? Sanofi-Aventis's (SNY) hostile takeover of Genzyme (GENZ). Sanofi made an unsuccessful bid of $18.5 billion in October, and its courtship will likely continue well into 2011.

8. For Big Pharma, Breaking the Law Remains the Price of Doing Business

Big (and Not-So-Big) Pharma settled one case after another this year, fighting governments and patients in the courts. A study by Health Research Group at Public Citizen, which looked at payments made for violations of the False Claims Act, found that pharmaceutical companies have become the biggest defrauders of the federal government, surpassing the defense industry and growing at an "alarming rate."

The off-label promotion of drugs -- when a company markets the medicine for an unapproved use -- was the single largest category for financial penalties. Purposely overcharging for drugs under various federal programs was another. According to findings from Taxpayers Against Fraud published in October, Allergan (AGN) topped the list with $600 million in payouts, followed by AstraZeneca with $520 million and Novartis with $422.5 million.

9. The Tougher FDA

Since President Obama appointed Margaret Hamburg as the head of the FDA, the regulatory authority has become stricter in both its approval process and enforcement. The FDA started revamping its medical-device regulations, and a Government Accountability Office report also found that the "agency has become more conservative" in allowing some evidence from certain drug trials. The agency also flexed its muscles when it came to drug marketing and drug safety.

The FDA's tougher approach has mostly been welcome, especially its decisions to pull Abbott's (ABT) diet drug Meridia from the market and to restrict access to GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) diabetes drug Avandia. But critics have argued that some of its recent actions could hurt consumers. The FDA's decision to remove the breast cancer indication from Roche's drug Avastin, for example, was controversial.

10. Research and the Law

The courts made at least two decisions in 2010 that have far-reaching consequences for scientific and medical research and funding.

The first involves embryonic stem-cell research. After Obama lifted a ban on funding human embryonic stem-cell research in 2009, a court in August blocked the funding. The injunction was lifted in September, but the issue is likely to remain under court review for some time. Nevertheless, Geron (GERN) enrolled the first patient in its embryonic-stem-cell drug for spinal injury. The FDA recently approved another trial for Advanced Cell Technology's (ACTC) stem-cell drug for blindness, and a stem-cell clinical trial for stroke patients began in the U.K. in November.

Another big issue was that of gene patentability. In October, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its stance on the longstanding practice of patenting genes with its opinion that genes should not be patentable. Gene research has made many breakthroughs this year that could result in important new medical treatments for diseases such as cancer.

Honorable Mention

Many health care stories made headlines this year, and not all of the important stories made it into this top 10 list. Not on the list but deserving special mention is the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which aims to provide health care to the first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who continue to struggle with various medical conditions as a result of their heroic efforts to help others in the aftermath.


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686 Comments

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drdave415

Obama cut a sweetheart deal with the pharmacueticals, preventing negotiation of lower drug fees for seniors in return for the support of Obamacare by big Pharma. As you may have noticed, the pharmacuetical companies are not complaining about Obamacare. Neither are the insurance companies or trial lawyers. Why? Becuase they are all guaranteed high profits while the hospitals, doctors and nurses take the pay cuts

December 30 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
arrr39

Obama care will never come to be. We simply are not going to stand for socialized anything!!

December 30 2010 at 8:01 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Mack

The Republicans want to repeal the Health Care Law. But only 6 of them are willing to give up their tax payer paid health care. They don't want the people who really can't afford health care to have it but it's ok for them.

December 30 2010 at 7:33 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mack's comment
drdave415

Dems exempted themselves from Obamacare

December 30 2010 at 8:12 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
pity4us

Liberal nonsense.

December 30 2010 at 11:14 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

Goodnight.

December 30 2010 at 3:15 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

We have corporations that go overseas, and we have Islam money going into our economy with the number of mosques that have been built in the last ten years which is about a 50% increase.

December 30 2010 at 3:09 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table
At which he's fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for peanuts
Anyway!
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.
Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.

Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.
Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid.

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
Taxes drove me
to my doom...'

When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge T ax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Ser vice Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge=2 0Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

December 30 2010 at 3:05 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

You are going to throw "cheap women" into the debate? LOL.

December 30 2010 at 3:02 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

Without the private sector, who will the govt tax? If they are so against companies operating overseas, the govt should just refuse to take their tax money.

December 30 2010 at 3:00 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
pmbalele

Pharmaceutical Layoffs Outpace Other Industries! Do people in this industry know their jobs were shipped to foreign countries? Who was responsible for these layoffs? Greedy unpatriotic republican business people. Some CEOs still believe in capitalist voodoo economics which encourage shipping jobs abroad. Remember these CEOs have good credit rating. They easily borrow your savings in your local bank to ship your job abroad. These same CEOs then import their goods here to sell to people on unemployment. In fact these CEOs sponsored by FoxNews people blame and laugh at unemployed as lazy.  These are hypocrites. We have to write to President Obama to impose heavy tariffs for imported goods that can be manufactured here. That will discourage greedy unpatriotic US manufacturers from shipping jobs to Asia, Mexico, Jamaica, Malaysia where these greedy CEOs find cheap women.

December 30 2010 at 2:57 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pmbalele's comment
drdave415

Sorry, but the majority of pharmacuetical handouts are going to the democrats

December 30 2010 at 8:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
CnOWrms1

I am sorry about your brother in law and hope he is receiving the best of care. Quality of healthcare is important, and that's why the government should not run it, plus it is against our laws to force citizens to purchase something they do not want. One would think John Edwards would contribute a fortune to hospitals, but nooooooooooooo.

December 30 2010 at 2:54 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply