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Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2012

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

FDA Approves Ingestible Medical Sensor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved an ingestible medical sensor that reports vital information on a patient's health back to his or her doctor.

The device, from Proteus Digital Health Inc., is only about the size of a grain of sand and had already been approved by European health officials last year, CBS News reported. Once swallowed, it sends out information on whether patients are taking their medications as instructed, as well as data on vital signs.

The sensor is designed so that it can be placed inside a pill or other consumable and it is powered by stomach fluid, CBS said. It transmits information to a patch on the patient's stomach, and that data is then relayed to a cell phone app to the patient and, with his or her permission, to their caregiving team.

"About half of all people don't take medications like they're supposed to," Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla,Calif., told the journal Nature.

"This device could be a solution to that problem, so that doctors can know when to rev up a patient's medication adherence," said Topol, who is not affiliated with the device's maker.

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Free Contraception, Well-Woman Visits Tied to Health Care Reform Begin

Starting Wednesday, up to 47 million American women can now gain free access to contraception, well-woman visits, STD screening and other benefits linked to the Affordable Care Act, CBS News reported.

"Women deserve to have control over their health care," Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote on a blog posted on Healthcare.gov. "Too often, they have gone without preventive services, worrying about what even a $20 insurance co-pay would mean to their families' budgets and choosing to pay for groceries or rent instead. But now, thanks to the health care law, many women won't have to make that choice."

Starting Aug. 1, women will not have provide a co-pay for well-woman visits (including annual check-ups or more if doctors deem necessary); contraceptives and contraception counseling; HPV testing every three years for women aged 30 or over; annual sexually transmitted disease counseling, including HIV screening/counseling; domestic violence screening and counseling; screening for gestational diabetes and breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling.

The new benefits currently only apply to women who are enrolled in a health insurance plan, CBS News notes, although more uninsured women are expected to be included as health care reform is fully implemented.

The free services that kick in Wednesday join other no-fee, preventive health measures, such as mammography screening, cervical cancer screenings (via the Pap smear) and prenatal services, that are already covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Not everyone supports the changes, however. According to CBS News, Catholic groups have filed 12 lawsuits in 43 courts across the country to block the provision to supply contraception free of charge.

"The implementation of this policy marks the beginning of the end of religious freedom in our nation," Christen Varley, executive director of Conscience Cause, said in a statement.

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