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Health Highlights: April 14, 2016

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

FDA Approves Folic Acid Fortification of Corn Masa Flour

Folic acid fortification for corn masa flour has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Manufacturers will be allowed to add up to 0.7 milligrams of folic acid per pound of corn masa flour, consistent with other enriched cereal grains.

When taken by pregnant women, folic acid may help prevent birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord, the FDA said.

Corn masa flour is widely used by Latin Americans and is used to make foods such as tortillas, tortilla and corn chips, taco shells, and tamales.


Canada's New Assisted Suicide Law Excludes Foreigners

Americans and other foreigners will be excluded from the new assisted suicide law to be announced Thursday by the Canadian government.

The exclusion is meant to prevent suicide tourism from the U.S and other countries, a senior Canadian government official told the Associated Press.

The new law will also exclude people with mental illness or psychiatric disorders and ban advance consent, meaning people won't be allowed to request assisted suicide to end their life at some point in the future.

Last year, Canada's Supreme Court struck down laws that prevented doctors from helping people die, but put the ruling on hold while the federal government developed a new law, the AP reported.

In its ruling, the court said banning assisted suicide deprives dying people of their dignity and autonomy.

In the United States, assisted suicide is legal in Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. It is also legal in Albania, Colombia, Germany, Japan and Switzerland. Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands allow doctors, under strict rules, to end the lives of patients with medical conditions considered hopeless and who are in great pain, the AP reported.


U.S. Prescription Drug Spending Rose 8.5 Percent in 2015

Increasing use of expensive new drugs and higher prices on other medicines helped drive the 8.5 percent rise in U.S. spending on prescription drugs in 2015, according to a report from data firm IMS Health.

Last year's increase was slightly less than in 2014, the Associated Press reported.

In 2015, patients, government programs, insurers and other payers spent a total of $309.5 billion on prescription drugs.

IMS predicted yearly increased in U.S. prescription drug spending will fall to 4 to 7 percent through 2020, and will reach $370 billion to $400 billion that year, the AP reported.

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