Additional research found that people with diabetes have a 73% increased risk of developing any type of dementia, a 56% higher chance of having Alzheimer’s disease, and a 127% increased probability of developing vascular dementia.
Now researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, The University of Arizona, and Phoenix VA Health Care System have found evidence that an older class of type 2 diabetes medication known as glitazones helps reduce a person’s dementia risk by 22%.
This study recently appeared in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.
This medication targets the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma) in the body. The PPAR-gamma receptor is responsible for how sensitive a body is to insulin, and also aids in the body’s metabolism of glucose (sugar).
TZDs work by boosting a person’s sensitivity to insulin, helping to make sure their pancreas can continue to produce a normal level of insulin for their body.
Potential side effects of glitazones include:
There are currently two main types of TZD medications. Rosiglitazone, marketed under the brand name Avandia, was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999, and by the European Medical Agency (EMA) in 2000.
According to the study authors, type 2 diabetes and dementia share similar physiological patterns. For example, past studies show people with diabetes have changes in brain structure and cognitive capabilities similar to those found in dementia.
“At the Center for Innovation in Brain Science [CIBS], we take a multiprong approach in understanding ways to mitigate and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases,” commented Dr. Kathleen Rodgers, associate director of translational neuroscience at CIBS, and professor of pharmacology at The University of Arizona, and a member of the study research team.
“Diabetes is a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and initiating factor in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease is bioenergetic dysregulation. As type 2 diabetes at its base, due to reduced insulin sensitivity, bioenergetics dysregulation, evaluation of drugs that help diabetics properly handle glucose seemed to be an approach to meet our mission at CIBS.”
– Dr. Kathleen Rodgers
For that reason, Dr. Jin J. Zhou, associate professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research for the Department of Medicine Statistics Core at UCLA and lead author of this study, told Medical News Today there have been investigations of the use of anti-diabetic medications for dementia, especially for Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment.
However, the results have not been consistent, leading to her team’s current study.
For this study, Dr. Zhou and her team examined the electronic health records of more than half a million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes through the national Veteran Affairs (VA) Health System over a 19-year period.
Upon analysis, researchers found after at least 1 year of drug treatment, patients who received TZD only had a 22% lower risk of developing dementia from any cause. Scientists also found these patients lowered their Alzheimer’s disease risk by 11% and vascular dementia risk by 57%.
“Our findings provide evidence for medication selections for mild or moderate type 2 diabetes patients who are at high risk for dementia,” says Dr. Zhou states.
“This,” she told MNT, “may lead to the future study […] [of the] mechanistic of [TZDs]. As our study is an observational study, further validation in other cohorts, including golden standard clinical trials, [is] needed.”
MNT also spoke with Dr. David A. Merrill, a psychiatrist, and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, about this study.
He was glad to see researchers taking a second look at medications that are generic, available, and affordable as a potential benefit for older adults at risk for memory loss with aging.
“We’ve known for 20-odd years that this type of diabetes medication could be helpful for dementia risk reduction, and these new findings are hopefully renewing interest in pursuing these drugs for dementia prevention and treatment,” Dr. Merrill added.
Because the underpinnings of dementia symptoms are multifactorial, Dr. Merrill said glitazones help address some of the major drivers of dementia, including insulin resistance, atherosclerotic heart disease, and inflammation.
“As you address things like metabolism, vascular disease, [and] inflammation, you’re then lowering or slowing the progression of pathologic brain disease, like plaques and tangles and Alzheimer’s. And so by treating general health conditions that we think of as systemic, you end up protecting the brain against age-related dementia.”
As for the next steps in this research, Dr. Merrill said he would like to see more real-world applications of these drugs, as well as combining glitazones with other types of treatments, such as a healthy lifestyle.
“We know that a healthy lifestyle is one of if not the most powerful interventions to reduce [the] risk of dementia,” he detailed. “If you combine a multimodal lifestyle intervention where you’re targeting improvement of a healthy lifestyle, and then you pair that with a drug like a glitazone, you might see a real synergy, as opposed to just using the pill or just advocating for a healthy lifestyle.”
In exact years, scientists have made great strides in their ability to develop artificial intelligence algorithms that can analyze patient data and come up with new ways to diagnose disease or predict which treatments work best for different patients.
The success of those algorithms depends on access to patient health data, which has been stripped of personal information that could be used to identify individuals from the dataset. However, the possibility that individuals could be identified through other means has raised concerns among privacy advocates.
In a new study, a team of researchers led by MIT Principal Research Scientist Leo Anthony Celi has quantified the potential risk of this kind of patient re-identification and found that it is currently extremely low relative to the risk of data breach. In fact, between 2016 and 2021, the period examined in the study, there were no reports of patient re-identification through publicly available health data.
The findings suggest that the potential risk to patient privacy is greatly outweighed by the gains for patients, who benefit from better diagnosis and treatment, says Celi. He hopes that in the near future, these datasets will become more widely available and include a more diverse group of patients.
"We agree that there is some risk to patient privacy, but there is also a risk of not sharing data," he says. "There is harm when data is not shared, and that needs to be factored into the equation."
Celi, who is also an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an attending physician with the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is the senior author of the new study. Kenneth Seastedt, a thoracic surgery fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is the lead author of the paper, which appears today in PLOS Digital Health.
Large health record databases created by hospitals and other institutions contain a wealth of information on diseases such as heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration, and COVID-19, which researchers use to try to discover new ways to diagnose and treat disease.
Celi and others at MIT's Laboratory for Computational Physiology have created several publicly available databases, including the Medical Information Mart for Intensive Care (MIMIC), which they recently used to develop algorithms that can help doctors make better medical decisions. Many other research groups have also used the data, and others have created similar databases in countries around the world.
Typically, when patient data is entered into this kind of database, certain types of identifying information are removed, including patients' names, addresses, and phone numbers. This is intended to prevent patients from being re-identified and having information about their medical conditions made public.
However, concerns about privacy have slowed the development of more publicly available databases with this kind of information, Celi says. In the new study, he and his colleagues set out to ask what the genuine risk of patient re-identification is. First, they searched PubMed, a database of scientific papers, for any reports of patient re-identification from publicly available health data, but found none.
To expand the search, the researchers then examined media reports from September 2016 to September 2021, using Media Cloud, an open-source global news database and analysis tool. In a search of more than 10,000 U.S. media publications during that time, they did not find a single instance of patient re-identification from publicly available health data.
In contrast, they found that during the same time period, health records of nearly 100 million people were stolen through data breaches of information that was supposed to be securely stored.
"Of course, it's good to be concerned about patient privacy and the risk of re-identification, but that risk, although it's not zero, is minuscule compared to the issue of cyber security," Celi says.
More widespread sharing of de-identified health data is necessary, Celi says, to help expand the representation of minority groups in the United States, who have traditionally been underrepresented in medical studies. He is also working to encourage the development of more such databases in low- and middle-income countries.
"We cannot move forward with AI unless we address the biases that lurk in our datasets," he says. "When we have this debate over privacy, no one hears the voice of the people who are not represented. People are deciding for them that their data need to be protected and should not be shared. But they are the ones whose health is at stake; they're the ones who would most likely benefit from data-sharing."
Instead of asking for patient consent to share data, which he says may exacerbate the exclusion of many people who are now underrepresented in publicly available health data, Celi recommends enhancing the existing safeguards that are in place to protect such datasets. One new strategy that he and his colleagues have begun using is to share the data in a way that it can't be downloaded, and all queries run on it can be monitored by the administrators of the database. This allows them to flag any user inquiry that seems like it might not be for legitimate research purposes, Celi says.
"What we are advocating for is performing data analysis in a very secure environment so that we weed out any nefarious players trying to use the data for some other reasons apart from improving population health," he says. "We're not saying that we should disregard patient privacy. What we're saying is that we have to also balance that with the value of data sharing."
This story is republished courtesy of MIT News (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/), a popular site that covers news about MIT research, innovation and teaching.
Citation: Study finds the risks of sharing health care data are low (2022, October 7) retrieved 17 October 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-health.html
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Big CPGs can talk about nutrition as much as they want, but words don’t add up to action. ATNI’s 2022 Index found that the action so far has largely been lacking — but at least the talking has begun.
ATNI analyzed products and policies from the 11 largest companies in the U.S. food and beverage space — Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Conagra Brands, General Mills, Kellogg, Keurig Dr Pepper, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.
They looked at several different aspects — including product healthiness and reformulation targets, responsible marketing, access and affordability of healthy foods and labeling and lobbying to Improve nutritional strategies. These were considered and tabulated to supply the companies a score between one and 10.
Many companies saw higher scores this year, compared with the previous 2018 index. The average score this year is 4.2 out of 10, up from 3 out of 10 in 2018.
Unilever had the top score with a 5.5 out of 10, due to its increased emphasis on nutrition strategy and accountability, reformulation, support of healthy diets in the workforce, and lobbying in support of nutrition. Kellogg, PepsiCo, General Mills and Nestlé rounded out the top five.
But while there has been improvement, the report pointed out that even a score of 5.6 out of 10 is extremely low and represents poor performance. The lowest-ranked company was Coca-Cola at 3.0. Kraft Heinz and Conagra Brands were the second and third-lowest ranked.
“I am concerned by such limited progress that companies have made over the last five years,” Greg S. Garrett, ATNI’s executive director, said in a statement. “We see some improvements, but we cannot afford such slow progress among the largest manufacturers who make, market and sell our food. Both private and public sectors need to do much more to Improve the diets of U.S. families.”
The report found many companies are taking a look at what is “healthy,” though at the time that data was gathered, there was no standardized definition for the term. Late last month, FDA published a proposed new definition of “healthy.”
Six companies had implemented front-of-package informational labeling for more than 80% of their products and nine had online nutritional information for the same percentage, both of which are proposals in the Biden administration’s national strategy to end hunger and start improving diet-related health outcomes.
But a lot of the progress — or lack thereof — lies in genuine action. It’s easy for companies to say they plan to reformulate products to reduce less beneficial nutrients, but it takes more work to actually do it. Considering that it often takes months, if not more than a year, for a big CPG to get a reformulated product on the shelf, there may be more progress on changing product formulations to reduce less beneficial ingredients in the near future.
The study also pointed out that just four companies seem to be working on making their healthier products more affordable to lower-income consumers. This may be even more difficult now than it was during the time that ATNI benchmarked company progress. Today, persistent inflation continues to push all food prices higher.
In a exact study published in the Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, researchers outlined the synthesis and the possible mechanism of action (MOA) of two potential severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) repurposing drug candidates.
The researchers reviewed remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as their pharmacokinetics and optimal dosage is already known.
Additionally, the researchers systemically reviewed the SARS-CoV-2 infection source, transmission route(s), pathogenesis, and clinical characteristics to help the public and the research community comprehend this infectious pathogen.
It is of urgent concern to contain SARS-CoV-2 and prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related deaths. Based on the current and previously published evidence, the scientists believe that remdesivir and HCQ have adequate efficacy in combating COVID-19.
HCQ is one of the oldest prescribed drugs used in clinical practice for malaria due to its relatively low cost and tolerance. HCQ sulfate, a derivative of HCQ, is an orally administered drug formulated by Alexander Surrey and Henry Hammer in 1946. It is synthesized by introducing a hydroxyl group (-OH) into one of the N-ethyl groups of chloroquine (CQ) phosphate, which decreases the latter's toxicity dramatically.
Both these drugs have also shown efficacy against autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). As pharmacologic agents, they also reduce heart rate. The oral consumption of these drugs is well-tolerated, and their MOA falls into the category of a weak base and immunomodulator.
Moreover, the optimal dosage of HCQ sulfate could produce serum levels of 1.4–1.5μM in humans. Besides containing SARS-CoV-2, HCQ sulfate is a benign and effective anti-inflammatory drug. It attains 200 to 700 times higher tissue deposition levels in the kidney, liver, lungs, and spleen compared to plasma. These serum concentrations could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in these tissues. Clinical studies have shown that patients with severe COVID-19 have cytokines in high concentrations in the plasma.
Furthermore, numerous in vitro studies have shown that CQ and HCQ could inhibit SARS-CoV-2 transmission by interfering with the phosphorylation step of the viral cell signaling process. Multiple clinical trial results have reinforced these results. But CQ is more toxic than HCQ, and an overdose of CQ could result in acute poisoning and death. Additionally, verification through half maximal effective concentration (EC50) values were consistently lesser for HCQ than CQ.
Thus, the antimalarial drug HCQ garnered more attention from clinicians and progressed as a possible repurposing drug candidate for COVID-19. Chen et al. performed a study on 30 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection in which, when HCQ was associated with regular treatment, nasopharyngeal viral loads appeared unchanged till the seventh day of treatment. In another trial on 62 patients, Chen et al. reported that the patients required a short period for clinical recovery from cough and fever on administering HCQ as a treatment than the placebo. Other studies also proposed that combining HCQ medication with azithromycin could minimize viral shedding in COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, studies have not yet clarified the MOA of CQ and HCQ entirely. However, studies have shown that these drugs first change the pH at the host cell membrane surface, which results in an inhibitory action on virus fusion to the cell membrane. Moreover, they interfere with viral replication by damaging nucleic acids. Overall, glycosylation of viral proteins, virus assembly, release, viral progeny transport, and related processes accomplish the antiviral action of these drugs.
Yao et al. showed that the EC50 value for CQ was 5.47μM in an in vitro study. In addition, both these drugs tended to accumulate inside the cells. Furthermore, the study results showed that EC50 values were reduced on longer incubation times for both HCQ and CQ, indicating their antiviral activity gets influenced by incubation time. Given sufficient incubation time, these drugs will accumulate in higher intracellular concentrations resulting in a potent antiviral activity.
Due to HCQ's widespread availability, the Indian Council of Medical Research also recommended the drug as a preventive treatment for COVID-19 in April 2022. Its side effects included low blood sugar, especially in people with anemia, diabetes, blood-related disorders, retina damage, heart rhythm problems, worsening seizures, and other neurology problems. Also, problems could arise because of interactions between HCQ sulfate and other drugs, resulting in serious health issues.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has approved HCQ to treat COVID-19 in conditions where the clinical trials are unfeasible or for an unapproved symptom. However, FDA strongly recommends that patients inform their healthcare provider regarding medications for other health conditions.
Furthermore, the molecular docking experiments showed that based on the inhibition constant and binding energy details, CQ was a better option than HCQ in terms of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein inhibition. exact clinical studies revealed that remdesivir could efficiently abridge retrieval time and diminish the chance of death by 62% for critically ill and hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The researchers synthesized remdesivir as a P-stereogenic prodrug of a parent nucleoside GS441524, where establishing the phosphorus-linked stereogenic center was the crucial stage.
The second generation of the remdesivir preparation involved separation from the combination of two diastereoisomer intermediates followed by a reaction of the enantiopure phosphorylating agent via nucleophilic substitutions. Recently, Wang et al. showcased an asymmetric synthetic route of remdesivir using a bicyclicimidazole-catalyzed dynamic kinetic asymmetric transformation (DyKAT), followed by a reaction between protected nucleoside and P-racemic phosphoryl chloride via coupling reaction.
COVID-19 poses a great risk to safety and human health worldwide. In their preliminary assessments and based on the current and published evidence, remdesivir, and HCQ have shown great promise as SARS-CoV-2 antiviral therapy. The outlined details concerning these drugs would help in the follow-up research.
What it does: Adyn uses women's hormone levels and genetic risk, measured through an at-home test, to match people with a birth-control brand with the lowest risk of side effects for them.
Many women experience birth-control side effects, from nausea to depression. For instance, one study published in 2008 found 24% of women experienced spotting after beginning new birth control. Adyn wants to decrease the probability of experiencing harmful side effects from birth control by conducting "genetic-risk scoring and testing with blood biomarkers to predict the best form of birth control for a woman to take," Deena Shakir, a Lux Capital partner, said. These tests cost $370 and are eligible for use of money from health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, according to Adyn's website.
Funding: $2.5 million, according to the company
Investors: Y Combinator, Lux Capital, M13, Civilization Ventures, Concrete Rose, Nish Bhat (Color), Anne Wojcicki (23andMe)
What it does: Alife is building artificial-intelligence technology that analyzes in vitro fertilization, or IVF, data to identify what treatments have produced the best outcomes for previous patients similar to the ones going through IVF treatment now.
The global IVF industry is expected to reach $36 billion by 2026, Fortune Business Insights reported. But current treatment options are often expensive and time-intensive. Price tags for a single IVF cycle can range from $15,000 to $30,000, depending on the provider and the patient's medical needs, and patients often have to go through multiple treatment cycles.
According to Lux Capital's Shakir, Alife's AI tech aims to make "IVF more effective, more efficient, and, ultimately, more equitable" through tools that increase the number of mature eggs retrieved and help clinicians prioritize the most viable embryos for transfer.
Funding: $32 million, according to the company
Investors: Union Square Ventures, Lux Capital, Maveron, Wojcicki, Dr. Fred Moll, Dr. Tom Lee
What it does: Almond aims to simplify OB-GYN care through accessible telehealth and in-person appointments.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2019 projected a shortage of up to 22,000 OB-GYNs by 2050, saying demand would outpace the supply of medical professionals.
In response to this, Almond provides patients with same-day telehealth appointments and flexible in-office visits. Almond patients also receive personalized treatment plans and access to doctors post-visit for follow up questions, the startup claims. Jess Ou, a principal at New Enterprise Associates, says Almond is differentiated by its strong leadership team, as well as its rapid growth in cities like Los Angeles.
According to Almond's website, membership is $250 annually, and doctor visits and labs are billed to patients' insurance providers.
Investors: Y Combinator
What it does: AOA is developing technology for early detection of ovarian cancer, a disease that's expected to kill nearly 13,000 American women this year, the American Cancer Society estimated. The startup says many of these ovarian-cancer fatalities can be attributed to catching the disease too late.
AOA's technology, called Akrivis GD, is a liquid biopsy that is 90% accurate in detecting early-stage cancer, which could reduce fatality rates by half, the startup estimates.
Funding: $7 million
Investors: Y Combinator, Avestria Ventures, RH Capital, AlleyCorp, The Helm, Joyance Partners, Launchpad Venture Group, TBD Angels, Kyto Technology, and Life Sciences
What it does: Boober is a complete-care-matching service for pregnant and postpartum parents. The startup provides lactation professionals; birth and postpartum doulas; mental-health, physical, and massage therapists; nutritionists; acupuncturists; and sleep consultants.
Cofounded by Jada Shapiro, a doula, Boober's goal is to support parents in all aspects of having a baby to Improve the breastfeeding experience.
Boober's services and classes can be purchased a la carte with FSA and HSA funds.
Funding: $1.4 million
What it does: Caraway is a telehealth platform for women in college that provides integrated mental-health, physical-health, and reproductive-health services. The startup aims to serve the "women-plus" community, meaning all races, ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
The startup came out of stealth mode in July with $10.5 million in supergiant seed funding — enough money to supercharge growth in an underserved market, founding partners at OMERS and 7wireVentures previously told Insider.
"The goal is to build a really generational company, and it takes a lot of capital to make sure that happens," Alyssa Jaffee, a 7wireVentures partner, said.
Funding: $10.5 million
Investors: 7wireVentures, OMERS Ventures, HopeLab
What it does: Curio is a digital-therapeutics startup that offers therapy programs for women across all stages of life. Digital therapeutics refers to medical interventions and treatments that are offered through mobile apps.
The startup's flagship product, MamaLift, focuses on postpartum depression. MamaLift is an eight-week program with personalized self-help tools and sleep, mood, and activity trackers that aims to reduce postpartum anxiety and depression. Curio offers a free two-day MamaLift trial. The full program costs $30.
Curio's founder and CEO, Dr. Shailja Dixit, designed the startup "with the payer in mind," thinking proactively about how the program would be paid for, prescribed by clinicians, and reimbursed by payers, Tracy Dooley, an Avestria Ventures partner, told Insider.
"All of these pieces have been really thought out, and how they're designing the trials and moving forward with it with employers, too," Dooley said.
Funding: $6.75 million
Investors: Careit, Avestria Ventures
What it does: Dame offers sex toys and products. The startup says women's sexual wellness is key to overall health. It's also a growing industry — the sexual-wellness market could reach $125.1 billion in revenue by 2026, KBV Research said.
Founded in 2014, Dame spent years crowdfunding before working with venture capitalists. The startup raised $7 million in Series A funding in September. Its cofounder and CEO, Alexandra Fine, previously told Insider that Dame was the first startup to push women's sexual health into the mainstream and that investors were more open to funding companies in the space nowadays.
"Sexual wellness is core to overall well-being," she said. "Sex is a part of our physical and mental well-being."
Funding: $11 million
Investors: Amboy Street Ventures, Listen Ventures, Flybridge, Echo, and Forest
What it does: Devyn is a heart-health startup for women. Devyn's program will allow women to educate themselves about different heart risks, choose which risks matter most to them, and then connect them with experts who can help them make improvements to their health.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among both men and women in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But women face unique risk factors such as menopause, which causes low estrogen levels that increase the risk of developing disease in smaller blood vessels, and pregnancy complications, which include high blood pressure and diabetes — both risk factors of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Prospective patients can join Devyn via early access.
What it does: DotLab diagnoses endometriosis via a noninvasive test.
Traditionally, laparoscopic surgery is required to diagnose endometriosis, a condition in which tissue lining the uterus grows on the outside. About 10% of women globally are diagnosed with endometriosis, the World Health Organization estimates. It can cause menstrual irregularities, pain, and infertility.
DotLab's first product is DotEndo, a blood test that analyzes biomarkers associated with endometriosis to provide earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Funding: $12.7 million
Investors: Tiger Global
What it does: Elektra Health is a support platform for women experiencing menopause. The startup offers one-on-one coaching with a "menopause doula," a content library with information about menopause, and a private community with other women on the platform.
Most women go through menopause between ages 45 and 55, and the transition brings a host of changes to the body, including hot flashes, weight gain, and an increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, according to the National Institute on Aging.
For a $250 annual fee, Elektra Health uses an assessment to match members with a menopause guide who will help set goals and build a personalized health plan.
Funding: $4 million
Investors: Seven Seven Six, Flare Capital Partners, City Light Capital, January Ventures, Human Ventures, Company Ventures, The Fund, Community Fund
What it does: Evernow provides Food and Drug Administration-approved menopause medication and care.
While exploring the menopause space, NEA's Ou said she saw how women experiencing menopause lacked treatment options for debilitating symptoms, since short-staffed OB-GYNs were often forced to spend their limited time on births and surgeries instead. While other startups addressed lifestyle changes for menopause symptoms, Ou told Insider that Evernow was the only company she came across that had both lifestyle care and FDA-approved medical treatments.
Evernow specializes in menopausal hormone therapy, which addresses symptoms by supplementing the estrogen and progesterone women lack during menopause. The startup offers three treatments: an estradiol patch, which supports declining estrogen levels, an estradiol pill, and paroxetine, which reduces hot flashes and night sweats.
Ou was also drawn to the company because of CEO Alicia Jackson's technical background. Jackson, also the startup's founder, holds a doctorate in nanotechnology materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Funding: $28.5 million, according to the company
Investors: Natural Bridge Fund, Refactor Capital, NEA
What it does: A study published this year found that more than 28,000 tons of waste is generated each year from menstrual products. The Flex Co. aims to reduce that number by selling sustainable period products like menstrual disks and cups.
While some of the startup's products, like the Flex Disc and the Flex Plant+ Disc, are single use, other menstrual products, like the Flex Reusable Disc and Flex Cup, are reusable, serving as sustainable alternatives to pads and tampons.
The Flex Co. is a unique player because of its customer-led product-development process, "meaning that product design, marketing, and messaging are iterated on based on feedback from people who menstruate," Jessica Karr, a Coyote Ventures general partner, said in a blog post.
The startup's menstrual products range in pricing from $12 for its single-use Flex Disc to $35 for its Flex Reusable Disc and Flex Cup.
Funding: $20 million, according to the company
Investors: Amplify, Y Combinator, Bow Capital, Halogen Ventures, Quest Venture Partners
What it does: Gabbi uses AI to predict a woman's risk of breast cancer and provides personalized action plans to decrease breast-cancer risk.
While breast cancer has high awareness in the US, screening is often focused on older women. For instance, the CDC recommends starting screens after 50 but acknowledges that the 9% of breast-cancer cases that occur in women younger than 45 are often more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Gabbi wants to decrease the number of late-stage diagnoses by educating women about their risk for developing breast cancer. Karr said Gabbi stood out for its proprietary Gabbi Risk Assessment Model, or GRAM, which has been trained on women from a variety of ethnicities and will become more accurate over time as it's fed more data. The assessment takes into account factors like family history and demographics.
"Unlike many other breast 'checking' apps, Gabbi's risk model and recommendations are rooted in validated models, physicians' advice, and supportive community members," April Pradhan, a Coyote Ventures partner, said in a blog post.
Funding: $5.4 million, according to the company
Investors: Bread & Butter Ventures, Female Founders Fund, Hambrecht Ducera Healthcare Growth Venture Fund
What it does: Gameto is a biotech startup using cellular engineering to develop therapeutics that address a number of female reproductive issues, including fertility, ovarian disease, and menopause.
Gameto offers three programs: Fertilo, Ameno, and Deovo. Fertilo, which is in preclinical development, is meant to Improve the quality and speed to maturity of immature egg cells during IVF treatments. The startup says that this method reduces the need for hormone injections, lowers the risk of complications, and has higher success rates. Ameno and Deovo have not yet reached the preclinical development stage and aim to address ovarian disease and menopause.
While the treatment is nascent, Lux Capital's Shakir is bullish on Gameto's menopause offering, as "there's been very little innovation in that space since the advent of hormone-replacement therapy," she said.
Funding: $40 million, according to the company
Investors: Future Ventures, Insight Partners, Bold Capital, Plum Alley, Lux Capital, Arcadia
What it does: Health in Her Hue hopes to address racial disparities in the US healthcare system. Studies have found that Black Americans have the highest mortality rate for all cancers combined and that the number Black-infant deaths is almost twice the national average.
Health in Her Hue connects Black women and women of color with healthcare providers, healthcare information, and community support. According to the startup, these medical professionals are trained to provide healthcare services to people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Health in Her Hue also aims to bring awareness to health issues and provide information that allows Black women to make well-informed healthcare decisions.
Funding: $1.2 million, according to the company
Investors: Seae Ventures, Genius Guild, Unseen Capital, Healthworx, Hocky Stick Investments, BLXVC, Bedua Partners, Pipeline Angels
What it does: What it does: Caria uses AI to support women through perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. About 80% of women experience hot flashes and night sweats as they transition to menopause, according to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital, with a "sizable subset" of women experiencing menopause symptoms severe enough to negatively their quality of life.
Formerly called Clio, Caria is $10 per month or $50 per year and includes an app where users can track their symptoms and receive insights on what could be contributing to symptoms and what could provide relief.
Investors: Antler VC
What it does: Hera Biotech offers a nonsurgical diagnosis test for endometriosis, a painful disorder where cells similar to the uterus lining grow outside of the uterus.
The World Health Organization estimates endometriosis affects about 10% of women globally, or about 190 million. Women with endometriosis experience symptoms like pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, and excessive bleeding, and are at a higher risk for infertility and ovarian cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The only definitive method to diagnose endometriosis is through a laparoscopy, which involves a surgeon examining reproductive organs and intestines through a cut in the abdomen and often taking a biopsy.
If it's eventually approved, Hera Biotech's MetriDx test will enable medical professionals to collect a trial of a patient's uterus lining through a brush biopsy and test cells to diagnose endometriosis, avoiding invasive surgery in the process. In a brush biopsy, a medical professional rubs a stiff brush on an area in a patient's body to collect a tissue trial for further testing.
The startup recently raised a seed round to conduct an in-patient human clinical study and begin the process for FDA regulatory approval.
"The fact that they are applying existing technology to provide answers to an age-old condition shows how, with a little thought, we can change our mindset and approach to women's health," Karr said in a blog post.
Funding: $2 million, according to the company
Investors: City Side Ventures, Coyote Ventures, Althea Group, Stella Angels, Kendra Scott Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute, Boerne Kendall County Angel Network
What it does: Hey Jane provides abortion-pill prescriptions and delivery. The medications misoprostol and mifepristone can be used to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks.
After the fall of Roe v. Wade earlier this year, birth-control and abortion-focused startups that deliver medication by mail have received increased interest from investors, as multiple states have restricted access to contraceptives or banned most abortions.
Hey Jane operates in seven states — California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington — and patients can pay for services through Aetna insurance, except in New Jersey, or on a sliding scale. The startup pairs patients with a medical provider in 24 hours and delivers FDA-approved medication in unmarked packages.
Funding: $3.6 million
Investors: 37 Angel, Moving Capital, 10X Capital
What it does: Kegg helps women with fertility tracking through a device that measures cervical fluid.
The CDC estimates 19% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 suffer from infertility. Rather than addressing IVF or other infertility approaches, Kegg focuses on identifying a woman's most fertile periods.
Kegg users insert the device vaginally for a 2-minute practicing once a day. The device uses low-level electrical pulses to measure electrolyte levels in cervical fluid. These electrolyte levels indicate hormonal changes associated with ovulation, which is when a woman is most fertile. The data also syncs with a mobile app, in which users can input additional data about body temperature, intercourse frequency, and more.
The device retails for $250, with a promise to refund users if they don't become pregnant within a year of consistent Kegg use.
Funding: $4 million, according to the company
Investors: Crescent Ridge Partners, SOSV, Start100, For Good Ventures, Fermata, MegaForce, Texas Halo Fund
What it does: Mae offers pregnancy and postpartum support for Black women. The CDC found that in 2020, Black women were nearly three times as likely to die during childbirth as non-Hispanic white women. While some of this is due to a lack of access, Black women report that their symptoms are often dismissed by medical professionals at a higher rate than the broader population. In a highly publicized example, the tennis legend Serena Williams said she was initially ignored by her nurse when she experienced a pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter.
Mae hopes to decrease the frequency of instances like these. The startup's main offering is an expert network of doulas and coaches who are trained in providing healthcare to Black women. Mae also provides women with a pregnancy tracker, lifestyle tips, and a peer community.
For Avestria Ventures' Dooley, Mae's founder and CEO, Maya Hardigan, stood out for her emphasis on who the startup's end payer would be, a focus that she thinks can be neglected at healthcare startups. Dooley told Insider that Mae "is signing Medicaid contracts with various states."
Funding: $1.3 million, according to the company
Investors: SteelSky Ventures, MBX Capital, Social Starts Health and Happiness Fund, Avestria Ventures, RH Capital
What it does: Midi is a virtual-care clinic for women ages 40 and older that provides menopausal treatment. Eighty percent of OB-GYNs are untrained in menopause, the startup estimates, and three-quarters of women who seek out care say they don't receive any treatment.
At Midi, patients work with a provider to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms via lifestyle changes, wellness therapies, and hormone-replacement therapy.
Care at Midi is covered by major insurance providers in California. In other states, the initial care visit is $250, and follow-ups are $120.
What it does: For Lux Capital's Shakir, heart health isn't the first Topic that comes to mind when thinking of women's health issues. But the investor said: "Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for a woman, especially in the case of communities of color and communities under Medicaid."
Miga Health aims to marry an approachable consumer brand with science-backed clinical support through its blood-pressure-tracking app. Additionally, the startup plans to support its main product with telemedicine consultations, mail-order pharmaceuticals, and lifestyle coaching.
Dr. Jarrad Aguirre, Miga Health's cofounder and CEO, told Insider earlier this year that the app would be available nationwide but the startup's other services would be launched first in the Southeast. Aguirre added that the startup planned to offer a premium version of its free blood-pressure-tracking app with additional features like blood-pressure analytics and educational modules.
Funding: $12 million, according to the company
Investors: Quiet Capital, Asymmetric Capital Partners, Floating Point, VamosVentures, Lux Capital, Alumni Ventures, Adapt, Wilson Sonsini
What it does: Nodal is a surrogacy-matching platform that uses technology to pair prospective parents with prospective surrogate mothers. Unlike the traditional surrogacy experience — where prospective parents choose a surrogate — Nodal puts the decision-making in the hands of a surrogate mother who decides which parent they would like to work with.
The startup was founded by Brian Levine, a doctor who's board-certified in reproductive endocrinology, infertility, obstetrics, and gynecology. He created Nodal after experiencing the difficulty his patients had with the surrogacy process, which can be slow and expensive.
Nodal charges $6,000 per match, with $500 monthly installments for the first six months and the rest of the fee paid upon the completion of the match. The startup raised $4.7 million in seed funding earlier this year and came out of stealth in September.
Funding: $4.7 million
Investors: Amplo, Interplay, Great Oaks Venture
What it does: Oath Care provides community and medical advice to mothers up until their kids' early childhood.
OMERS Ventures' Farr was an enthusiastic user of Oath herself, which inspired her seed investment in the startup earlier this year. Parents often have "questions about every possible thing related to food and sleep, and those resources are very hard to come by, with parents usually going to Reddit or Facebook," Farr told Insider.
Through Oath Care, mothers are matched with a care team consisting of a stage-based specialist focused on fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, or early childhood; a mental-health specialist; and a fellow mother. The startup also offers expert-led workshops on a variety of topics, from breastfeeding to tantrums.
Funding: $9 million, according to the company
Investors: Muse Capital, XYZ, General Catalyst, OMERS Ventures
What it does: Oma Fertility is a full-service fertility clinic that offers IVF, egg freezing, frozen-embryo transfers, and donor-egg IVF.
The company's IVF services use proprietary technology called Oma Sperm InSight to identify the most promising sperm. Embryologists then use an AI-powered microscope that automatically tracks fast-moving sperm for easy retrieval. After collecting an individual sperm cell, the embryologist injects it directly into an egg, a process known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Farr said that similar to "how Airbnb opened up the travel market by making travel affordable," something "like that will happen in fertility for a much bigger market." Oma says it offers lower pricing than other fertility clinics, with no hidden costs.
Funding: $37.5 million, according to the company
Investors: Jazz Venture Partners and Root Ventures
What it does: Panakeia is a biotech startup whose main product is a breast-cancer diagnostic tool called PANProfiler Breast.
Normally, it takes days or even weeks for labs to analyze breast-tumor samples to determine optimal treatments, leading to wasted time and money for patients.
Panakeia hopes to shorten that timeline to hours. The startup's tool uses AI technology to automatically assess the levels of certain receptors in tissue samples. These receptors indicate which treatments are most effective for different types of breast cancer. For instance, if a tissue trial contains estrogen receptors or progesterone receptors, it signals that the cancer feeds off estrogen or progesterone hormones and the patient may be a good candidate for hormone therapy.
Goddess Gaia Ventures' Oberoi-Cattai holds this issue dear to her heart, as she is a cancer survivor herself.
"Breast cancer should not take two weeks to diagnose," Oberoi-Cattai said. "If you're saving a woman's life, you're saving, a lot of the time, a mother's life because breast cancer tends to be slightly later in women. You're saving a family. You are saving a structure in place."
Funding: $3.79 million
Investors: LocalGlobe, Hoxton, Entrepreneur
What it does: Raydiant Oximetry is developing a noninvasive sensor called Lumerah that measures fetal oxygen levels.
Currently, medical professionals evaluate fetal distress, which determines the need for emergency C-sections, through fetal-heart-rate monitoring. This method isn't always accurate.
"When you look at a heart-rate tracing for a clinician, it's basically a coin flip," Avestria Ventures' Dooley said. "It's difficult to make informed clinical decisions."
By creating a tool that can reliably measure fetal oxygen levels, Raydiant Oximetry hopes to decrease the number of unnecessary C-sections and the probability of complications during childbirth. The startup's website says: "The FDA has already assigned Lumerah 'Breakthrough Device' status in order to fast-track its market approval."
Funding: $12.8 million, according to the company
Investors: VCapital, Avestria Ventures, RH Capital, Tri-Valley Ventures, SteelSky Ventures, FemHealth Ventures, Global Health Impact Fund, Loud Capital, Fogarty Institute for Innovation
What it does: Sanguina offers an at-home test for anemia, which is a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body. While the disorder can affect both men and women, women are more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, because they sometimes don't have enough iron during pregnancy or a heavy period.
Sanguina's technology uses a cellphone app that tests hemoglobin levels with a fingernail selfie. The startup's algorithm measures the paleness of a user's nail bed, which corresponds to hemoglobin levels.
The app is free to use, and Sanguina is developing an at-home, over-the-counter anemia-screening product that is awaiting FDA approval.
Funding: $2.8 million
Investors: XRC Labs
What it does: SoWell treats metabolic dysfunction, a condition that can lead to conditions such as obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, insulin resistance, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's in women. The startup estimates that up to 88% of people show signs of metabolic dysfunction, which can include weight gain, increased hunger, depression, mood changes, and fatigue.
Via a $200 weight biology test, SoWell tests biomarkers such as fasting insulin, fasting glucose, cholesterol, and thyroid-stimulating hormone. The test involves an at-home finger prick that delivers results in two to five days, and the startup's app provides personalized recommendations based on the test results.
Investors: XRC Labs, Navigate Accelerator
What it does: Stix is a direct-to-consumer health and wellness startup that provides vaginal and reproductive-health products. Customers can purchase emergency contraceptives, pregnancy and ovulation tests, urinary-tract- and yeast-infection treatment, and supplements.
Stix products are ordered online and delivered in discreet packaging.
Funding: $6.4 million
Investors: Resolute Ventures
What it does: Syrona Health offers virtual gynecological health support through workplaces to address endometriosis to menopause, among other things.
The startup provides people with access to health tracking, expert support, and a peer community. Through Syrona Health, employers can offer specialized medical advice and services that are personalized for an employee's stage in life.
"Why should women be paying an extra premium for things that aren't going to affect them, but then be completely invisible to things that do affect them?" Goddess Gaia Ventures' Oberoi-Cattai said.
Syrona Health says its services can help Improve employee engagement, well-being, and retention at corporations.
Investors: Katapult, Bethnal Green Ventures, Parallel18, Y Combinator, Goddess Gaia, Retailtech Hub
What it does: Trial Library connects oncologists, patients, and clinical-trial sponsors to increase participation of underrepresented groups.
According to Lux Capital's Shakir, Trial Library's founder and CEO, Dr. Hala Borno, experienced the lack of diversity in clinical trials firsthand as an oncologist. This issue inspired her to start Trial Library.
The positive effects of Trial Library are twofold: The startup democratizes access to innovative cancer treatments for underrepresented groups and researchers are able to build more robust trial groups for clinical trials.
Funding: $5 million, according to the company
Investors: Next Ventures, Unseen Capital, Moving Capital, Incite, Lux Capital
What it does: Zaya connects pregnant and postpartum women with a network of maternal-health certified that accept insurance. The startup was founded to disrupt the traditional model for pre- and postnatal care, where parents are left to find specialists, who are often expensive and not covered by insurance.
With Zaya Care, parents can connect with a network of acupuncturists, lactation consultants, pelvic-floor therapists, and other certified who all accept insurance. The startup operates in New York.
Funding: $7.6 million
Investors: Inspired Capital, Tiger Global, Operator Partners, Story Ventures
With health emergencies becoming more common, the world needs more efficient ways to test the safety and effectiveness of drugs, even if they haven’t yet completed the lengthy series of clinical trials the Food and Drug Administration usually requires. Data from the real-world use of new drugs offers an increasingly valuable and efficient way to do this.
That’s how authorities were able to determine that the initial vaccines for Covid-19 were safe and effective on a large scale in 2020. Because the virus was spreading so quickly, it took only a few months to begin to see the difference in outcomes between trial participants who received an genuine vaccine versus those who received a placebo. Later, in 2021, when data showed that significant numbers of vaccinated people were becoming infected, health experts quickly instituted guidance for additional booster shots.
And now, in a welcome development that could have ramifications on future methods of drug approvals — and might even lead to more affordable drug prices — real-world data are positioned to play an essential role in evaluating the effectiveness of monkeypox vaccines.
Following last summer’s severe shortage of monkeypox vaccines, the FDA approved an emergency alternative dosing regimen for the Jynneos vaccine against monkeypox. This allows health officials to administer the shot intradermally, with each dose just one-fifth the size of the original approved dosage. The idea is to make sure as many people as possible get inoculated.
While such an approach, in which the vaccine is injected only into the outer layers of skin rather than into muscle or other deeper tissue, has not been tried with this or similar vaccines on a wide scale, there is research indicating that it could work — and has for other kinds of vaccines — as the skin contains many cells that defend the immune system.
With vaccine doses limited and no opportunity at any point in the past to test dosing changes, or even the clinical effectiveness of the vaccine against genuine monkeypox exposure in humans, the only way to establish efficacy now, at least in the short term, will be to collect and analyze real-world data. In fact, the effectiveness of the original dose against genuine monkeypox infection was tested only on animals while its safety, and the levels of antibodies produced in the bloodstream, are being tested on humans, meaning that scientists have little understanding of how well it works, how long it lasts, if it stops transmission, and other factors.
While the spread of monkeypox has slowed, the United States is still seeing about 200 new cases a day, and has been the location of one-third of all cases globally. It is against this backdrop that researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and elsewhere are taking the opportunity to track data to see how well the Jynneos vaccine works at its lower dose amid genuine exposure to the disease. The National Institutes of Health, in cooperation with the FDA, will also gather and study data on the intradermal injections to determine their effectiveness. In the face of real risk of infection as the virus continues to spread, being able to see whether or not those who get vaccinated also get infected will show how well the vaccine works (or doesn’t work) in its new dosing form.
Real-world data (and real-world evidence) can also play roles outside of public health emergencies like Covid and monkeypox. They can help determine the long-term effectiveness of many treatments, especially those subject to the expedited approval process, such as those used for rare diseases, and can help determine the value of drugs in general. In many cases, clinical trials are not enough to understand how well drugs really work. Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, has said that the clinical trial system is “broken” and that more use of real-world evidence could be an effective addition to the approval process.
The FDA has been taking steps toward using more real-world data outside of public health emergencies like Covid and monkeypox. In 2018, the agency issued guidance for use of such evidence in approving drugs. By 2021, when the FDA issued enhanced guidance on the topic, real-world evidence had been used in approving 90 medical devices and the new use of a drug, Prograf. But this is not happening enough in practice.
Failing to use real-world data means missing out not just on better understanding of the effectiveness of individual drugs but also on a chance to Improve the entire pharmaceutical sector, including addressing issues like rising costs. The availability of more data on real-world outcomes from using drugs, especially gene therapies and other innovative and often very expensive treatments, would pave the way for pricing to take patient outcomes into account through approaches like value-based contracting, when health insurers base drug prices on how well drugs work in the people who take them, rather than just in premarket clinical trials.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said that the ideal approach would be a hybrid system that uses both clinical trials and real-world evidence, with the real-world evidence serving as a way to further validate clinical trials, which are often limited to a small number of people and include only those participants likely to respond positively to the therapy.
Drugs will always need to go through supervised levels of lab tests and clinical trials. But real-world data can and should play a bigger role. Although changing the dose of the monkeypox vaccine due to a shortage is not ideal, if officials leverage this opportunity to collect and study data on its effectiveness amid an ongoing outbreak, they can show the important role that such data can play in evaluating drug effectiveness. Real-world data and evidence, when used in the right ways, can help better determine the effectiveness and value of a drug or vaccine, ensuring a more efficient approval process. This, in turn, could lead to a better and more fair health care system.
Girisha Fernando is the founder and CEO of Lyfegen, a Switzerland-based company focused on software analytics for value-based contracting in health care.
The Hill 1 day ago
Today, more than 100 million Americans are living with medical debt totaling nearly $200 billion. A exact study found this debt leads to increased rates of eviction, food insecurity and bad health outcomes, regardless of health insurance status or income. While the debt is widespread, it is also unevenly distributed; patients of color disproportionately bear its burden. This is a story we’ve heard too many times before, and it’s time for our nation’s leaders to take action.
This month, Consumers for Quality Care (CQC) has marked Health Literacy Month by educating consumers about medical debt and what they can do to avoid falling victim to this problem. Congress and the Biden administration can implement commonsense reforms to help prevent Americans from sinking further into medical debt.
Congress sought to tackle a major source of medical debt — surprise medical bills — in 2021. The No Surprises Act protects patients from receiving a bill when they are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. However, a exact survey found that 20 percent of patients have continued to receive surprise bills since the law went into effect earlier this year. Soung Luy, for example, was stuck with a surprise bill after he got blood work from a lab he was directed to by his in-network doctor’s office. The lab was in the same building but out-of-network.
Congress also took on prescription drug costs in this year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Now it’s time for legislators and regulators to address other cost drivers in the health care ecosystem, such as the lack of transparency in hospital pricing, the lack of standards to ensure nonprofit hospitals deliver on their commitment to patients and communities, and health insurance practices that shift high out-of-pocket costs back to patients.
It’s impossible to plan for bills when you don’t know what the cost of medical visits, treatments or procedures will be, and too often patients are forced to make a choice between not getting care or risking a potentially astronomical medical bill. All Americans should be able to shop smart for the care they need, but just 16 percent of hospitals nationwide were found to be in full compliance with a federal price transparency law. Regulators must hold hospitals accountable for failing to comply.
Many of America’s hospitals are nonprofits, meaning they are organized as charities, and in return for significant tax breaks, they are legally obligated to deliver affordable care in their communities. However, there are no federal standards against which charity care is measured. U.S. hospitals routinely fail to inform patients they could be eligible for charity care and are sending medical bills to low-income patients who qualify for charity care — creating more medical debt for those who can least afford it.
Choosing the wrong insurance plan can also lead to crushing medical debt. The steady rise of plans with high deductibles, coinsurance, and copays that typically have lower premiums means patients seeking care are often left with large bills from the plans’ high out-of-pocket costs. Carla and John Jordan had a high-deductible plan, and after a series of medical crises, they could not afford to meet their deductible and went into bankruptcy.
Short-term limited duration insurance plans (STLDI plans) — also known as “junk plans” — are exempt from many Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements and can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, have dollar value limits on covered services, and are not required to cover preventive services, among other substantial risks for consumers. The Trump administration issued a rule expanding the maximum period for which STLDI plans can be offered from three months to a year, with a possibility of being renewed for up to 36 months, causing junk plans to proliferate. The Biden administration so far has failed to crack down on these barebones, inadequate health plans.
Americans with chronic diseases best treated with prescription medications also should be careful about which insurance plan they select. Copay adjustment — or accumulator adjustment — programs (CAAPs) allow insurers to prevent drug cost-sharing coupons from counting towards patients’ deductibles or caps on total out-of-pocket costs, leaving them with unexpected costs at the pharmacy counter when their coupons run out. Annabelle Gurwitch relied on copay assistance to afford her cancer medication, and when her insurer contracted with a CAAP, her copay assistance no longer applied to her deductible, leaving her to foot a significant bill for her medication. Unfortunately, the Biden administration reversed a federal rule that would have put a stop to this bad insurer practice.
As consumers head into ACA open enrollment on the heels of Health Literacy Month, they must carefully examine their options for coverage so they can make the best possible decision for themselves and their families and mitigate the risk of falling into medical debt. But the burden shouldn’t be shouldered by patients alone. All policymakers — especially federal lawmakers and regulators — must address the root causes of medical debt to ensure every American can access quality, affordable health care.
James P. Manley is a Democratic communicator with more than two decades of experience working in Congress. He served as senior communications adviser and spokesman for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Senate Democratic Caucus. He is on the board of directors of Consumers for Quality Care. Follow him at @jamespmanley.
Marylanders who live near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport may be bearing a costly health burden, according to a new study out of the University of Maryland.
In the neighborhood just south of BWI-Marshall Airport, airplanes are constantly flying over and a new study finds that all that noise may cause some health concerns.Sign up for our Newsletters
As planes take off over the Munson Heights neighborhood, people like Judy Rice say they have some sky-high concerns.
"In our neighborhood, you can have planes flying over in a series. There's one right now, in a series, in different patterns throughout any part of the day it seems like," Rice said.
So, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy looked into the disturbance.
"We found significant health and economic burden associated with aircraft noise," said Dr. Zafar Zafari, of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
It comes after the Federal Aviation Administration changed flight paths in 2015, designed to limit delays and carbon emissions planes fly closer to the ground.
Zafari said his study measured the effects of that noise on people's health. With the projected cost over the next three decades for increased cardiovascular disease, anxiety and low birthweight -- equaling $800 million.
"If we do not mitigate noise in general and aircraft noise in particular, over long-term there's going to be a significant health and economic societal burden," Zafari said.
The airport's spokesperson said their team is reviewing the report, saying: "We remain committed to help address community concerns related to aircraft noise." Adding that a roundtable to address the issue recently voted for improvements to procedures.
Those with BWI-Marshall said they do have a comprehensive noise program to make sure they're supporting local communities.
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According to data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), roughly one in every 10 kids in middle school or high school across the country have used e-cigarettes within the last 30 days.
In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Dr. Seth Noar, Professor at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, discusses the findings of a new study published in JAMA Network Open, in which researchers looked at the effectiveness of vaping prevention ads in minimizing teens' susceptibility to vaping. "Use of e-cigarettes and vaping among adolescents continues to be an important public health issue, and levels of vaping appear to be increasing now that we are coming out of the pandemic," Dr. Noar explains, emphasizing the need for increased research around the subject. "We still have limited science on what types of vaping prevention strategies are effective, and more studies on this are urgently needed."
Dr. Noar and the research team showed vaping prevention ads to more than 1,500 teen participants between the ages of 13 and 17 in the U.S. who were either current users of e-cigarettes or were susceptible to vaping, as per the study. Participants were shown either a neutral video about vaping, or vaping prevention ads focused on related health harms or themes of addiction. "These advertisements were among several that the FDA has produced as part of its national The Real Cost vaping prevention media campaign," Dr. Noar tells Health Digest. "The health harms ads focus on harmful chemicals and metals that those who vape are likely inhaling, and the possible lung damage that can result from vaping. The addiction ads focus on how highly addictive nicotine is, and how nicotine addiction can negatively affect your mood and relationships with others." Such advertisements used in the study included Epidemic, Vaping Mistake, and Nicotine Addiction Isn't Pretty, amongst others.
Research findings showed that after three weeks, teens who had watched the Real Cost ads were less susceptible to vaping compared to adolescents who had watched a neutral vaping video. Even more, researchers saw the effects of the study also extend beyond just e-cigarette use.
In addition to decreases in vaping susceptibility, the study also showed that teens exposed to the Real Cost ads were less susceptible to smoking cigarettes as well. "This is now the second study where we have found what we call positive spillover effects of tobacco prevention ads," Dr. Noar explains. "Vaping has many similarities to smoking -- the look of the product, the hand-to-mouth motion when someone is vaping or smoking, the addictive nature of nicotine, and the negative effects of smoke or aerosol on the lungs."
Offering a possible explanation for this outcome, Dr. Noar adds, "It may be that as adolescents better understand that vaping is not risk-free -- that it in fact has harms associated with it -- that it reinforces the already negative view that most adolescents have about smoking cigarettes." As reflected in the study, teens in the Real Cost ads groups were also reported to have less positive attitudes towards vaping and smoking by the end of the study than teens in the control group.
Although the study points to prevention ads as an effective means to curb teen smoking behaviors, Dr. Noar notes that just because one may work doesn't mean they all will. He elaborates, saying that there are many factors that influence the effectiveness of vaping prevention ads. "The impact of an ad is a function of many things, including its content or theme, look and feel, production value and style, and source, as well as the amount of exposure adolescents have to it," Dr. Noar states.
Even so, Dr. Noar emphasizes the significance of their study findings, stating, "This study is one of the very first studies to show -- in a randomized clinical trial -- that communicating about the addiction and health harms of vaping to adolescents can have a measurable impact on discouraging vaping -- and smoking too." He concludes by declaring, "All in all, this study gives us a lot of confidence that understanding the consequences of addiction and the real health harms that can result from vaping are important messages that adolescents need to hear."
Learn more about Dr. Noar and the Communicating for Health Impact (CHI) Lab by visiting their website. You can read a similar study from their lab that was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Visit The Real Cost on YouTube.
If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Recent studies have shown a significant increase in Americans reporting mental health disorders. See how “in the know” you are with this general knowledge quiz.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
Since the pandemic, the landscape of mental health has changed drastically, impacting how hospital, university, and K-12 employees offer support to patients, students, and staff. Employees at these institutions regularly work or interact with both adolescents and adults who are struggling with their mental health — all while many are dealing with similar struggles themselves.
In honor of World Mental Health Day, we put together this general knowledge quiz to supply insight into the prevalence of mental health issues in the United States and those most prone to being diagnosed with a disorder. In 2017, we posted a similar quiz but the numbers have since largely increased, so we thought it was time to take another look at how things have changed.
Whether one study attributes the increase to the pandemic or another attributes it to people being more open about their mental health struggles, updated statistics show that a large percentage of our population is living with a mental illness and many are not receiving the necessary support. In Oct. 2021, several groups declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends at least one counselor for every 250 students, however, the national average is 444 students per counselor.
Teachers are being impacted as well. In February of this year, a survey from the National Education Association (NEA) found 55% of educators want to leave teaching early due to burnout over massive labor shortages. Some studies have even found burnout symptoms can resemble that of depression.
According to a nationwide survey of nearly 1,200 college students by TimelyMD, 69% of students reported experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
A study published in April in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic suffered from the same type of trauma as combat veterans. The study found soldiers who experienced combat and healthcare workers who treated patients with COVID both experienced potential mortal injury (PMI), a form of post-traumatic stress.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and may need support, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.
Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.
In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family.