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Brainstorm Health: Child Gun Deaths, Concussion Blood Test, Teva and Warren Buffett

Once kids get to the first year of kindergarten, they are remarkably stable organisms, biologically speaking. Among children ages five to fourteen, there were just 13.2 deaths for every 100,000 individuals in the U.S.—from all causes—during the year 2015. That’s just under half of the death rate of children ages one to four, and less than a tenth of that for adults between age 25 and 34. Kids, for the most part, are pretty indestructible.

That biological stability lasts for a while. By the time they hit their teenage years and their young twenties, many young people certainly believe they’re invincible—and, from a disease standpoint, they mostly are. Considering just the pathological causes of death, the annual mortality rate among those aged 15 to 24 is less than about 18 deaths for every 100,000 Americans. (Unintentional injuries—from car accidents to falls and accidental poisonings—account for 28.5 deaths per 100,000 people in this age group.)

And then there are gun deaths. In 2015, 143 kids between ages five and 24 died as the result of a firearm discharging accidentally. Another 2,601 kids in this age group—It’s okay if I call them kids, right?—took their own lives with a firearm. And another 4,330 were shot dead intentionally.

In the year 2015, there were 35,905 deaths of Americans between the ages of five and 24 from all causes put together. One in five of these young deaths—that’s 7,074 burials in all—were due to firearms. One in five.

Cancer, by comparison, claimed 2,334 lives in this age group. Pneumonia and the flu: 267. Diabetes: 219. Indeed, there were nearly 2,800 fewer deaths in this precious young cohort from drugs than there were from guns. (I, for one, didn’t believe it at first—and had to do the calculation several times to be sure.)

Guns in this country have unleashed a lethal infection that is stealing young lives in every county, city, and town. To call it less than a raging epidemic is to fool ourselves. To pretend it will go away on its own is to con ourselves. To do nothing to try and stop it is to betray ourselves and every generation to come.

It’s hard for many of us to accept, but we are culpable in spreading one of the worst child-killing diseases there is.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

FDA clears blood test for concussions. The Food and Drug Administration has given marketing authorization for the first-ever blood test for concussions in the U.S., the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator from Banyan Biomarkers. This diagnostic could help doctors figure out whether or not it’s necessary for someone with a brain injury to get a CT scan; many concussion patients don’t need one, and test could help them avoid unnecessary radiation exposure (and also cut down on health care costs). (Fortune)

Nokia’s digital health business is getting a thorough review. Nokia may be giving up on wearables just two years after acquiring French firm Withings; the company announced that it may shed up to 425 jobs as it conducts a strategic review of its digital health portfolio. (Engagdet)

INDICATIONS

Pfizer, Merck KGaA cancer drug fails key trial. Pfizer and partner Merck KGaA announced that a late stage trial of the companies’ cancer immunotherapy drug avelumab failed to meet its primary goal in lung cancer patients. The drug has already been approved for treating certain types of skin and bladder cancer; however, lung cancer is a substantially larger and lucrative market. And competitors like Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Roche are way ahead of Pfizer and Merck KGaA in this specific cancer immunotherapy space, called “checkpoint inhibitors.”

Teva stock flies up on Warren Buffett interest. Generic drug giant Teva is saddled with a mountain of debt and has had setback after setback in recent years amid mounting competition and downward drug pricing pressure; but the company’s stock spiked more than 8% in Thursday trading on news that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has taken a $358 million stake in Teva. If the firm actually does turn itself around, it could wind up being a smart bet given that the drug maker’s shares have fallen more than 43% in the past 12 months. (Fortune)

THE BIG PICTURE

U.S. health spending to spike 5.3% this year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projected a 5.3% rise in 2018 health care spending—a substantial boost from the 4.6% climb seen in 2017. The main factor driving the inflation? The ongoing boom in Medicare as more and more Americans retire and a rise in the cost medical goods and services—especially prescription drugs, which is expected to see the sharpest increase in spending over the next decade due to rising drug prices and costly new specialty medications. (Reuters)

The best companies to work for in health care. Fortune is out with its 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and a slew of health care companies made the cut. These are firms where employees feel empowered, proud of their work, receive career development, and enjoy good benefits. Three biopharma companies made the list: Genentech at #8, Regeneron at #49, and Novo Nordisk and AbbVie at #95 and #97, respectively. Another 11 health care companies also ranked this year, including Texas Health Resources, Southern Ohio Medical Center, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Check out the full list here. (Fortune)

REQUIRED READING

Why Peter Thiel Is Leaving Silicon Valley for L.A.by Chris Morris

Uber’s CEO On His First 5 Months: “It Looked Messy and It Was Messy”by Verne Kopytoff

Gun Stocks Rise Again In Aftermath of Florida School Shootingby David Meyer

SpaceX’s Satellite Broadband Plans Gets Key Endorsement from FCC Chairby Emily Price

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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