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Trump signs bills to help patients stop overpaying for drugs

Insurers will no longer be able to bar pharmacists from telling consumers when paying cash would be ..

Insurers will no longer be able to bar pharmacists from telling consumers when paying cash would be cheaper than using insurance for their prescriptions, as a result of bills signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump.

The two bills had broad bipartisan support as a consumer-friendly move to correct "gag rules" that many viewed as an egregious business practice. One bill applies to private health insurance and the other to Medicare.

The measures bar health plans or middlemen that manage pharmacy benefits from getting in between pharmacists and their customers. No longer can pharmacists be contractually prohibited from telling consumers when they would actually save money by not using their insurance plans.

Such head-scratching situations can arise because of convoluted deals between drug companies, insurers, middlemen and pharmacies.

Trump complained that drug prices are "way out of whack" and "way too high." But a recent Associated Press analysis of brand-name prescription drug prices suggests repeated strong criticism from the president hasn't had much impact. The analysis found it's been business as usual for drugmakers, with far more price increases than cuts.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the bills give patients the right to know about ways to pay the lowest price.

Under pharmacy "gag" rules, pharmacists have been prohibited from proactively telling consumers when their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out-of-pocket rather than using their insurance plan. Pharmacists who disobeyed risked penalties that could impact their business.

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Health

A collar might help prevent sports-related concussions: Study

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like ..

Team sports build character, teach discipline and keep your kids healthy, but for some sports, like soccer and football, they could also increase their risk of brain injuries. Helping to prevent these injuries, a new neck collar has shown promising results in protecting the brain.

The specialized collar, developed by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, applies pressure to the back of the neck. This pressure allows the artery in the neck to safely backfill the brain with blood, turning the blood into a cushion that makes it less likely for the brain to move upon impact.

The idea for the collar was born out of “biological mimicry,” Dr. David Smith, a visiting research scientist at the Children's Hospital who led a study that tested the collar, told ABC News.

Essentially, Smith and his colleagues looked to nature to solve a medical issue. “If a woodpecker could repeatedly hit its head and not sustain any head injury, why couldnt this be applied to humans,” Smith said.

The study involved 75 teen girls ages 14 to 18 who played for two local high school soccer teams. Only one team received the collars, and then they played soccer. Both teams were asked to undergo brain scans at the beginning and end of the season, as well as during the off-season.

The scans showed that while the brains of the team that hadnt worn the collars showed signs of damage from head impacts, the brains of the team that had worn the collars remained the same.

The results are encouraging considering that even minor impacts over the course of an athletes career can have long-lasting effects on their cognitive functioning.

Concussions have emerged as a major health concern across the United States, according to the American Academy of Physicians. Emergency departments report more than a million visits annually for traumatic brain injuries, most of which are concussions.

Womens soccer is the third most common cause of concussion in the U.S., and its estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year.

There is a debate as to whether the changes shown in the brain scans can result in long-term cognitive decline. However, the areas of the brain that were affected in this study are involved in behavior, personality, expression, decision-making, and long-term memory. (more…)

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Baby box safety doubts raised by experts

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets de..

Baby boxes are being promoted as a safe alternative to standard cots, bassinets and Moses baskets despite a lack of evidence on their safety, experts warn.

The cardboard boxes, which come with items like clothes and blankets and can be used as a bed, are offered to new mums in Scotland and parts of England.

The Royal College of Midwives wants the scheme rolled out across the UK, saying it offers a "more equal start to life".

But experts have raised concerns about how safe the boxes are to sleep in.

Writing in a letter to the BMJ, Prof Peter Blair and colleagues say that, as the evidence stands, the boxes should only be used as a temporary bed if nothing else is available.

The boxes, which come with a mattress, have routinely been given to every expectant mother in Finland since the 1930s.

Scotland started offering the free boxes to new parents last year, while some NHS Trusts in England have had pilot and full schemes in place for up to two years. The boxes are not offered by health bodies in Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Royal College of Midwives says the boxes can reduce the likelihood of babies sleeping unsafely, either on a surface like a sofa or with parents who smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs, and would particularly benefit those born into deprived environments.

However, Prof Blair and colleagues, including representatives of the cot death charity Lullaby Trust, said there was a lack of evidence into how safe the boxes are for sleeping in.

Compared with cots, bassinets and Moses baskets, it is harder for parents to easily see their babies when they are sleeping in them, they warned. (more…)

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Contaminated blood victims ‘on the breadline’

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal “lost everything” and “had to live on the breadlin..

People affected by the contaminated blood scandal "lost everything" and "had to live on the breadline" as they struggled financially, the chairman of the public inquiry says.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office, Sir Brian Langstaff said "decisive action" was needed over the support available.

There is a variety of schemes running across the UK.

Sir Brian said he was concerned about what he heard during the preliminary hearings, which started last month.

The inquiry is expected to last more than two years and is looking into how thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood products infected with hepatitis viruses and HIV, and the impact this had on their families.

It will also examine whether there has been any attempt to cover up the scandal.

In his letter to Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, Sir Brian wrote: "You should be aware that there were considerable concerns during the preliminary hearings about access to and variations in financial support and psychological support, and also concern that not everyone who was infected has been identified.

"During the Commemoration people were heard asking 'where is the compassion?' and describing how they had 'lost everything', had to 'live on the breadline' and 'feel betrayed'.

"Throughout the preliminary hearings there were repeated calls for financial assistance which fully recompenses individuals and families for the losses they have suffered.

"One of the legal representatives said: 'Recently there have been changes to the way in which these funds are administered, but any suggestion that this represents proper compensation for the hurt they have, they are and will continue to suffer, is met with anger and indignation.' (more…)

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