Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the 2010 health care reform bill. The approval included a requirement that almost everyone have health insurance. U.S. officials this week approved the first new weight-loss pill in 13 years. A group of experts said that doctors should refer obese patients to intensive weight loss programs. A new study found that many young children with food allergies have allergic reactions even after their families know about the allergy.
This Issue: High Court Upholds Affordable Care Act FDA Approves New Weight-Loss Drug Doctors Urged to Do More for Obese Patients Reactions Common in Kids with Food Allergies
In the News:
High Court Upholds Affordable Care Act
In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld nearly all of the 2010 health care reform law. The court approved even the law's most disputed part -- a requirement that nearly all Americans have health insurance. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, joined four liberal justices in the 5-4 ruling. They found that the mandate to buy insurance is allowed under the government's taxing powers. The Obama administration also sought approval based on the power to regulate interstate commerce. But the court rejected that argument. The majority did reject one provision of the Affordable Care Act. That section dealt with the expansion of the Medicaid program. This is one major way that the law expands insurance coverage. The court said that the expansion can proceed. But it said the federal government cannot cut off all Medicaid funding for states that do not agree to expand the program. Some parts of the law have already taken effect. For example, family insurance plans now cover children through age 26. In 2014, people will have to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. The Associated Press wrote about the ruling.
FDA Approves New Weight-Loss Drug
U.S. drug regulators this week approved the first new prescription diet pill in 13 years. The drug, lorcaserin (Belviq), was rejected in 2010. At the time, scientists raised concerns about tumors in animals that received the drug in lab studies. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reversed that decision this week. Arena Pharmaceuticals, maker of Belviq, supplied more safety data earlier this year. The FDA decided there was little risk of tumors in people. The agency approved the drug for adults who are obese, or overweight with a related medical condition. In studies of Belviq, people lost about 3% to 3.7% of their body weight in a year. Nearly half of those without diabetes lost at least 5% of their weight. Side effects have been a problem with diet drugs. Some people taking Belviq had depression, migraine or memory lapses. But the FDA said Belviq "does not appear to activate" a chemical pathway known to cause heart valve defects. A risk of valve problems was reported in 1997 for the combination of two drugs known as fen-phen. Many doctors had prescribed the drugs for weight loss. The Associated Press wrote about the FDA decision.
Doctors Urged to Do More for Obese Patients
Doctors should calculate body mass index (BMI) for their patients, an expert group said this week. And those who are obese should be referred to intensive weight-loss programs, the group said. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published the new guidelines. The task force is an independent group that advises doctors and the U.S. government on preventive care. The group has recommended BMI screening before. But now it is urging doctors to refer patients to programs that have been shown to be the most effective for weight loss. These programs should include several features, the task force said. It recommends a structured weight loss program that includes telephone and/or face-to-face meetings with a counselor. The program should set realistic weight loss goals, such as 5% of body weight. Counselors should figure out what problems are keeping people from meeting their goals. People should make time for fitness in their daily routine, and record their exercise and foods they eat. The Associated Press wrote about the new guidelines.
Reactions Common in Kids with Food Allergies
Even when parents know a child has a food allergy and what foods to avoid, allergic reactions often occur, a study published this week finds. The study included 512 preschool children. All of them had been diagnosed with or were at risk for a food allergy. They were allergic to milk, eggs or peanuts. Parents were counseled often about avoiding the problem foods. Yet in the 3 years of the study 72% of the children had an allergic reaction. About 53% had 2 or more reactions. In about half of the cases, the parent gave the child a problem food by accident. In other cases, the food came from a caregiver, a grandparent, another child or a teacher. Only 30% were treated with the medicine epinephrine when that was appropriate, the study found. Many caregivers were afraid of side effects or not sure that the medicine was needed. The journal Pediatrics published the study. USA Today wrote about it.
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