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Health Highlights: March 15, 2017

Last Updated: March 15, 2017.

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

Nearly 13 Million Signed Up for Coverage This Year Under Affordable Care Act

About 12.2 million Americans have signed up for coverage this year under the Affordable Care Act, according to the federal government.

That does not include an additional 765,000 people signed up under an option called the Basic Health Plan, which is used by two states, New York and Minnesota, the Associated Press reported.

The announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that nearly 13 million people have signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act -- sometimes called Obamacare -- comes as Republicans seek to repeal and replace it.

"This report is a reminder that while there's a big debate in Washington about the future of the Affordable Care Act, the law remains in place for now and is covering millions of people," Larry Levitt, of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told the AP.

Meanwhile, the Republicans' proposed health care bill is under attack after congressional budget analysts said it would lead to 24 million more uninsured people in a decade.

Measures in the bill include capping future federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people, and reversing tax increases on rich people meant to finance coverage expansion, the AP reported.

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New Version of Opana Opioid Has More Risks Than Benefits: FDA Panels

There are more risks than benefits associated with a new version of the opioid painkiller Opana reformulated to reduce the risk of abuse, according to two U.S. Food and Drug Administration panels.

The drug was changed to a crush-resistant form in order to deter people from snorting it. But the new extended-release version (Opana ER) is now being injected, which has led to multiple deaths, USA Today reported.

The two FDA panels voted 18-8 that the new version of the drug presents more risks than benefits. The FDA will now decide whether to act on the panels' advice, and possible actions could include label changes, prescription restrictions, or a national ban.

Opana ER is a form of the opioid oxymorphone.

When injected, oxymorphone is 10 times more potent than morphine, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told USA Today.

"This characteristic makes the drug especially desirable and especially dangerous to opioid-addicted injection drug users," he said.

Calling Opana ER "abuse deterrent is misleading because making opioids hard to crush does not deter abuse," Kolodny told USA Today.


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