Welcome to this month’s Comp Medical News update. Sleep deprivation, heroin deaths, and declining U.S. life expectancy are your headlines for December 2016.
First, Louisiana hit the national news for our abysmal health outcomes and lack of investment in medical care, especially for rural populations:
Concordia Parish, One of the Sickest Areas in the Country, Highlighted as Example of Public Health Failure
Vox reporter Julia Belluz investigated the health outcomes and lives of people in Concordia Parish, near Alexandria, to show the heath disparities between states, emphasizing the role of government in public health and services. She notes: “Concordia is a place where infants die at rates that are three times higher than in Montgomery, a high-income county in Maryland with the best health outcomes. Concordia is a place where 40 percent of the adult population is obese, nearly half of the children live in poverty, and a quarter never finish high school. In the Bayou State, men and women can expect to live to 76, compared with the 81 years Californians live to on average – a gap similar to the one you’d find between the United States and a developing country like Colombia.”
Read the entire piece here.
Next, in case you forgot, the national opioid crisis is still a major issue:
Medical Technology is Driving Opioid Reduction Efforts
A recent national panel in Minneapolis indicated that technology including advances in neuromodulation (when one neuron uses chemicals to regulate other groups of neurons) is the future of curbing opioid abuse. According to a report in Pain Medicine News, the panel, titled “America’s Opioid Dilemma: Medical Technology is Part of the Solution,” highlighted several recently approved and pending treatment systems. In a later interview, panel speaker Konstantin V. Slavin, MD, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago said that the opioid crisis is unique to the U.S., Canada and Australia and explained that other health systems have different pain treatment standards. Dr. Slavin also dismissed spinal surgery as a cure, saying that structural correction won’t address “the imbalance of transmitters or normalize receptors.” Neuromodulation however, is a potential solution because the permanent device is reversible, adjustable and can be tested.
Read more here.
Pain Patients Use Alternative Medicine – But Not Always for Pain
Twice as many adults with musculoskeletal pain disorders were found to use complementary health approaches for any reason as those without such pain conditions, according to a report issued by the CDC. The data also indicate, however, that relatively few adults applied these health remedies to specifically treat the pain disorder. The CDC notes that in 2012 (the year on which the report is based), 54.5 percent of U.S. adults had a musculoskeletal pain disorder. The use of any complementary health approach for any reason among persons with a musculoskeletal pain disorder (41.6 percent) was significantly higher than use among persons without a musculoskeletal pain disorder (24.1 percent). Patients with neck pain or problems were the most likely to seek non-traditional treatments. It is unclear exactly why pain patients utilize alternative approaches despite frequent reimbursement denials from insurance carriers, but the report suggests that clinicians should help guide choices in this regard.
Download the full report: NHSR_Complementary Health Approachs Musculoskeletal Disorders_2016
Opioid Deaths Now Surpass Gun Deaths in the United States
New CDC data covering 2015 shows that opioids now kill more people than guns across the nation, surpassing 30,000 for the first time ever. That figure amounts to an increase of 5,000 deaths from 2014. Further, synthetic opioids like fentanyl continue their deadly surge – a 75 percent spike between 2014 and 2015.
More details and data via the Washington Post here.
Lastly, the numbers on prescription spending and life expectancy, plus more abstract health concepts like sleep quality don’t look good:
Lack of Sleep Costs the U.S. Economy $411 Billion
A new RAND Corporation study, “Why Sleep Matters,” assessed the toll of inadequate sleep among Americans, highlighting the financial impact. The study found that, in addition to the $411 billion price tag, sleep also increases the risk of death by 13 percent and leads to the loss of 1.2 million working days every year. Making sure to get at least six or seven hours of sleep per night could add $226.4 billion to the economy.
Read more from Voa News here.
Prescription Drug Spending Expected to Hit $1.5 Trillion in 2021
A new spending forecast by Quintiles IMS Holding predicts that global spending on prescription medicines will reach nearly $1.5 trillion by 2021, although the annual rate of growth will decrease from recent years. According to a Reuters report, that figure, based on wholesale pricing, is up nearly $370 billion from estimated 2016 spending. The United States will account for up to $675 billion of the $1.5 trillion.
Further details here.
U.S. Life Expectancy Declined for the First Time Since the 90s
New federal data released this month shows that the overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in over a decade. That led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, (when the country was in the grip of the AIDS epidemic) particularly among people younger than 65. Experts disagree on how significant the new statistics are, since they cover just one year – 2015 – and might not be indicative of a larger trend. However, life expectancy is the most important indicator of a population’s wellbeing and the drop is concerning. In 2015, the overall death rate for Americans increased from 724.6 per 100,000 people to 733.1 per 100,000. On average, the overall life expectancy, for someone born in 2015, fell from 78.9 years to 78.8 years. The life expectancy for the average American man fell two-tenths of a year — from 76.5 to 76.3. For women, it dropped one-tenth — from 81.3 to 81.2 years.
In an editorial on the new numbers, Atlantic contributor Olga Khazan says that “the studies suggest so-called ‘despair deaths’—alcoholism, drugs, and suicide—are a big part of the problem, but so is obesity, poverty, and social isolation.” Khazan opines, using a new paper published in Social Science and Medicine, that the relatively limited social safety net in the U.S. is to blame.
Read more on the stats from NPR here.
Image Credit: Circadian Australia