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Health Highlights: March 21, 2013

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

Health Care Law Saves Seniors $6.1 Billion on Prescription Drugs

About 6.3 million American seniors saved more than $6.1 billion on prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

She said the act makes Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) more affordable by gradually closing the so-called donut hole, which is the gap in coverage where beneficiaries have to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of their own pockets.

People in the donut hole now receive discounts when they buy prescription drugs. Additional savings will be provided each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.

In 2013, the discounts and savings were increased to 52.5 percent of the cost of most brand name drugs and 21 percent of the cost of covered generic drugs, Sebelius said.

Also under the act, people who enroll in Medicare Advantage and Part D now have access to a wider range of high-quality plans, with more four- and five-star plans now available.

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New NFL Rule Meant to Reduce Head and Neck Injuries

In an effort to reduce head and neck injuries, a new NFL rule will prohibit runners and defenders from lowering their heads and striking a hard blow with the crown of their helmets when they are outside the tackle box.

Breaking the rule will result in a 15-yard penalty from the location of the infraction, The New York Times reported.

NFL owners passed the rule Wednesday by a vote of 31 to 1. The lone holdout was Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Along with improving the safety of professional players, another consideration in adopting the new rule was to change the message to younger players about making big hits at any cost, according to those involved in the discussions that led to the new regulation, The Times reported.

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Children Getting Into Medicines a Major Problem: Report

Each year in the United States, there are about 500,000 cases of children who get into medicines or receive the wrong dose, according to Safe Kids Worldwide report released Wednesday.

The group found that each minute of the day, a poison control center receives a call about a potential medicine poisoning involving a child age 5 and younger. Every eight minutes, a child with medicine poisoning arrives at an emergency department, the CBS News reported.

The numbers have increased 30 percent over the last decade and this rise is likely due to the increased amount of medications at home, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. The group noted that eight out of 10 adults said they took at least one medicine or vitamin in the past week, and three out of 10 said they took five or more.

Ibuprofen is the medication that kids are most likely to get into, according to the report.

"Ask any parent, and they will tell you they store medicine where children can't get them," Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a news release, the CBS News reported. "But they might not be thinking of pills stored in purses, vitamins left on counter tops or a diaper rash remedy near a changing table."

The report was released to coincide with National Poison Prevention Week, March 17-23.

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British Public Supports Use of 3 People's DNA to Create Baby

There is wide public support for in vitro fertilization methods that use DNA from three people in order to create a baby for couples at risk of passing potentially fatal genetic diseases to their children, according to Britain's fertility regulator.

The agency also said there is no evidence indicating that these techniques are unsafe, but added that further research is required, the Associated Press reported.

A public discussion about the issue was launched by Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority after a request from the government.

"Although some people have concerns about the safety of these techniques, we found that they trust the scientific experts and the regulator to know when it is appropriate to make them available to patients," authority chair Lisa Jardine said in a news release, the AP reported.

The agency will forward its findings to the government, which would require Parliamentary approval to make these techniques legal.

Critics say there are already safe methods -- such as egg donation -- that can help couples avoid passing serious health problems to their children, the AP reported.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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