The consumer health week in review: Supreme Court upholds healthcare reform; Leukemia claims Nora Ephron; FDA approves obesity drug
Healthcare reform upheld
The Supreme Court preserved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Obama in March 2010 and heralded as the biggest overhaul of the $2.6 trillion healthcare system in about 50 years. In a 5-4 ruling, the nation's highest court preserved the law's "individual mandate" requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax. The court also substantially limited the law’s expansion of Medicaid, ruling that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by coercing states into participating in the expansion by threatening them with the loss of existing federal payments.
Nora Ephron dies of leukemia
Acclaimed novelist, filmmaker and screenwriter Nora Ephron succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare and complex disease that accounts for only about one percent of cancer deaths in the United States. AML is often preceded by myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a condition in which stem cells in the bone marrow are unable to produce enough red or white blood cells or platelets or produce blood cells that are too immature to function properly. Ephron was diagnosed with MDS several years ago. The only cure for either condition is a bone-marrow transplant, but many patients are not candidates for transplants for reasons including other health conditions and the difficulty in finding donors. In addition, patients need to be in remission from MDS or AML for transplants to be performed.
FDA approves new obesity drug
For the first time in 13 years, the FDA approved a weight loss drug. Belviq was approved as an addition to a low-calorie diet and exercise for use in adults with a BMI above 30 (considered obese) and for adults with a BMI of 27 (considered overweight) or above if they also have at least one weight-related medical condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. The drug works by activating a receptor in the brain that helps a person to eat less and still feel full. In clinical studies, about half of obese people who took the drug for a year lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 20 percent of dieters who took a placebo pill, while about 1 in 5 Belviq users lost 10 percent or more of their body weight, compared to 1 in 14 placebo users.
Posted by Jon Siegal on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM