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Saturday, Aug 23rd

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Ban on Taxpayer-Funded Sex Changes Ends

HHSThe Obama administration struck a major blow for transgender rights by quietly ending a decades-long blanket ban that prevented Medicare from covering sex reassignment surgery.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, an internal review structure within the byzantine federal agency, issued a ruling that ended a ban on Medicare even considering covering sex reassignment surgery and related care because a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental” surgery. That language was issued in 1981, and most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgery a safe and accepted procedure. The DAB ruling noted the change in how sex reassignment surgery is understood 33 years after the Medicare ban was issued.

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Florida insurers get federal complaint for discrimination against people with HIV

Health insurersA complaint filed with the Department of Health and Human Services accused four Florida insurance companies of discriminating against patients with HIV and AIDS.

The National Health Law Program and the AIDS Institute said in the complaint that CoventryOne, Cigna, Humana and Preferred Medical have all structured their plans so costs for HIV and AIDS medications are so high that customers with the disease will be discouraged from choosing them as their insurer. They allege that these companies are violating section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against customers on the basis of disability.

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Pradaxa maker reaches $650 million settlement in state and federal litigation

Pradaxa settlementPharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim announced Wednesday it had reached a $650 million settlement in state and federal cases in the U.S. regarding the blood thinner Pradaxa.

In a statement released by the company, senior vice president and general counsel of Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation, Desiree Ralls-Morrison, said that despite the settlement, "BI stands resolutely behind Pradaxa and believed from the outset that the plaintiffs' claims lacked merit."

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Top scientists warn WHO not to stub out e-cigarettes

E cigsA group of 53 leading scientists has warned the World Health Organisation not to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, arguing that doing so would jeopardize a major opportunity to slash disease and deaths caused by smoking.

The UN agency, which is currently assessing its position on the matter, has previously indicated it would favor applying similar restrictions to all nicotine-containing products.

In an open letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, the scientists from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia argued that low-risk products like e-cigarettes were "part of the solution" in the fight against smoking, not part of the problem.

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Abortion doctor restrictions take root in South

abortion doctor restrictions take holdFrom Texas to Alabama, laws are being enacted that would greatly restrict access to abortion, forcing many women to travel hundreds of miles to find a clinic. The laws, requiring abortion doctors to have privileges to admit patients to local hospitals, could have a profound impact on women in poor and rural sections of the Bible Belt.

In many places in the South, clinic doctors come from out of state to perform abortions and don't have ties to a local hospital. Critics say the laws mean hospitals, leery of attracting anti-abortion protesters, could get veto power over whether the already-scarce clinics remain in business. They say the real aim is to outlaw abortions while supporters say they are protecting women's health.

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Wisconsin abortion providers challenge law on admitting privileges

wisconsin abortion law challengedAbortion providers in Wisconsin tried Tuesday to persuade a federal judge that a state law requiring them to have hospital admitting privileges was unnecessary and harmful to women seeking the procedure.

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services contend the law will force AMS's Milwaukee clinic to close because providers there lack such admitting privileges. State attorneys counter that the law provides continuity of care if complications arise.

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Trial Drug Reverses Alzheimer’s Disease in Mice

lab miceA drug in early animal trials has shown promising results, appearing to reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Additionally, in mice, the treatment reduced inflammation in parts of the brain that are associated with memory and learning, according to a study led by Susan Farr of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The mice were engineered to produce a mutant form of human beta amyloid, one of the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In a previous study, the researchers had tested mice that naturally overproduced mouse beta amyloid; this step was to see if the drug would work with the human version. Both types of mice showed impaired learning as they aged, much like humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

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