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Health Highlights: March 11, 2015

Powdered Alcohol Approved by U.S. Regulators Most Health Law Insurance Consumers Receive Subsidies: White House Health Officials Warn About Blinding Cases of Syphilis on West Coast

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

Powdered Alcohol Approved by U.S. Regulators

U.S. regulators have approved a controversial powdered alcohol product called Palcohol, which is meant to be mixed into drinks.

Four varieties of Palcohol were approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, said agency spokesman Tom Hogue, but he added that states have the power to regulate alcohol sales, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

Several states have already taken action to ban powdered alcohol over concerns about abuse by minors and that it would make it easy to sneak alcohol into public events.

Palcohol is small packet of freeze-dried alcohol that comes in different flavors and can be mixed with water to create an alcoholic drink, CBS/AP reported.


Most Health Law Insurance Consumers Receive Subsidies: White House

About 86 percent of the 11.7 million Americans who have private health insurance through federal and state marketplaces receive financial assistance from the federal government to help pay their premiums, the Obama administration says.

Those subsidies could be lost if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration in a pending case, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell warned, the The New York Times reported.

The plaintiffs in the case contend that the Affordable Care Act does not allow subsidies in the federal insurance exchange, which serves about 8.8 million people in 37 states. Another 2.9 million people are served by state exchanges.

More than seven million people could lose their financial assistance and be unable to afford their health insurance if the Supreme Court rules that subsidies are not allowed in the federal exchange, White House officials say, The Times reported.


Health Officials Warn About Blinding Cases of Syphilis on West Coast

Health care providers on the West Coast need to look out for syphilis that can cause blindness, public health officials say.

More than a dozen cases of ocular syphilis -- most among gay men -- have been reported between Seattle and San Francisco, and two more potential cases have been reported in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Doctors and eye-care providers should be alert for symptoms of ocular syphilis, which typically occurs as a complication of primary or secondary syphilis infections, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.

"These new cases highlight the importance of ongoing, regular check-ups for sexually active individuals who feel they may be at risk, particularly men who have sex with men," AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said in a statement, the Times reported.

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