Health Highlights: April 10, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

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Abortion Opponents May Get Exemption From Health Insurance Requirement

People who oppose abortion may qualify for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act tax penalty for not having health insurance if all available health plans in their area cover abortion.

That's one of the expanded exemptions included in final rules for the ACA's health insurance marketplaces announced Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Associated Press reported.

While a repeal of the health law's requirement to have health insurance or risk fines was included in last year's Republican tax bill, the requirement stays in effect until next year.

Another exemption from the requirement is for people who live in communities with only one participating ACA insurer. That's the case in about half of counties nationwide, according to the AP.

In 2016, fines for not having health insurance were paid by about 6.5 million people, with an average fine of $470. Penalties have increased since then.

Also on Monday, new rules were announced for ACA marketplaces in 2019 that give states more options to redesign benefits within 10 broad categories required by the ACA. Consumer groups say this could harm comprehensive coverage for people with serious health problems, the AP reported.

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U.S. National Academy of Medicine Member Should be Expelled for Ethics Violations: Complaint

A U.S. National Academy of Medicine member should be expelled from the elite organization because he falsified his credentials and plagiarized colleagues' work, according to a complaint filed against him.

Eric K. Noji is a disaster medicine specialist who was admitted to the academy in 2005. Until recently, he claimed a number of honors: the Ordre des Palmes Academiques, presented by President Hollande of France; nomination to the Royal College of Physicians of London; the Antarctica Medal of Honor for Scientific Exploration; and an M.B.A. from Stanford, The New York Times reported.

However, he never received an award from France or a nomination from the Royal College, the Antarctica Medal of Honor for Scientific Exploration does not exist, Stanford Business School has no record of him, and some of his papers and a book chapter were copied from former colleagues at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for International Development, according to a complaint filed with the academy by Dr. Arthur Kellerman, dean of the School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

The Academy of Medicine has more than 2,000 members and accepts about 70 new members a year. While not a government agency, policymakers often turn to the academy as an an independent voice on a wide range of health topics, according to The Times.

Kellerman's complaint was filed after an investigation by the military medical school, where Noji was an adjunct professor. The school concluded that before Noji was named to the academy, he plagiarized five research papers, cited unearned degrees and awards, and made up a story about heroic deeds during the 2003 Iraq invasion.

After Noji was dismissed by the school in May 2016, Kellerman asked the Academy of Medicine to expel Noji, but there was nothing in the group's bylaws that permitted it to eject a member for scientific misconduct, The Times reported.

In a compromise, the academy decided in late 2016 that a member could be expelled if he or she provided false information before becoming a member. However, falsification, plagiarism or fabrication after a person becomes a member isn't grounds for removal, an academy spokesman told The Times, and Noji remains a member as the academy considers his case.

The Times said it was unable to reach Noji, who is a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to the school's website.

In a 2016 letter to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Noji denied wrongdoing. "I must say that engineering the appearance of blatant plagiarism on my part was absolutely brilliant," he wrote.

The native of Hawaii spent about 20 years as a medical officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before leaving in 2008.

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Girl With 3D-Printed Hand Throws First Pitch at SF Giants Game

An 8-year-old girl with a 3D-printed hand threw out the first pitch at the San Francisco Giants game on Sunday.

Haily Dawson of Nevada was born with a rare birth defect called Poland syndrome, which affected her hand. Due to the cost of a traditional prosthetic hand, Hailey's mother, Yong Dawson, asked University of Nevada mechanical engineers for help, CBS News reported.

The team started work with a 3D printer and after several prototypes and fittings, Hailey got her first hand about four years ago.

Since then, the engineers have produced a number of 3D-printed hands for Hailey, including a special one she used to throw out the first pitch on Sunday. It features the Giants' colors and the team name, CBS News reported.

Hailey also tossed the ceremonial first pitch at Game 4 of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.

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No Heart Risk From Stop-Smoking Drugs Chantix and Zyban: Study

The popular stop-smoking drugs Chantix and Zyban pose no heart risks, according to a study paid for and conducted by the companies that make the drugs.

The study, which was requested by U.S. and European regulators and included thousands of smokers in North America and Europe, compared use of Pfizer's Chantix, GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban, nicotine patches or dummy pills for 12 weeks, the Associated Press reported.

After a year of follow-up, the two stop-smoking drugs were as safe for the heart as nicotine patches or dummy pills, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The findings are "enormously reassuring," Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, told the AP. She was not involved in the research.

"We now know it's a lot safer to use these drugs to help people quit smoking than to continue smoking," Rigotti said.

Nicotine patches and the stop-smoking pills can potentially increase blood pressure. Chantix's packaging information warns about a possible small increased risk for heart attack and strokes in smokers with heart disease, the AP reported.

The study did not include smokers with severe heart disease, but many had high blood pressure or other risks for heart problems, according to the researchers.

Other recent studies have suggested that the drugs are safe for smokers with severe heart disease, said Dr. Neal Benowitz, lead author of the news study and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the AP reported.

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"The FDA is reviewing the findings of this study and substantial supporting documentation from the clinical trial, along with additional published medical literature, as we continue to evaluate this issue," Michael Felberbaum, a spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


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