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“U.S. life expectancy has not kept pace with that of other wealthy countries and is now decreasing.”
That grim conclusion comes from a new study by researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
It’s the latest study attempting to unravel the mystery of falling U.S. life expectancy. As the researchers note, life expectancy has seen a dropoff since 2014 (it stood at about 78.6 years, on average, in 2017 compared with 78.9 years in 2016).
That may read like a blip, but it’s a serious decline—especially considering that life expectancy had consistently grown over the previous 50 years.
So what’s causing this tragic trend? The researchers point to a number of potential culprits: Drug overdoses, suicides, and organ system diseases (the kinds of disorders affecting the heart and lungs, or potentially linked with conditions such as diabetes).
This early mortality spike is also concentrated among certain groups, according to the study, especially younger and middle-aged people. And the largest relative mortality increases have occurred in the Ohio Valley and New England (regions that have had to grapple with opioid addiction).
The public health costs here are clearly unsustainable. The literal loss of life is a catastrophe.
Read on for the day’s news.
Global Blood Therapeutics nabs FDA approval for sickle cell drug. Global Blood Therapeutics' first-ever Food and Drug Administration approval is a big one. The agency has cleared Oxbryta to treat the blood disorder sickle cell disease. It's a unique treatment—the action mechanism works to boost hemoglobin levels in red blood cells. And it marks yet another pioneering treatment approved by the FDA well ahead of schedule this year.
The scandal behind a landmark dengue vaccine. My colleague Erika Fry has a (typical) must-read—but I'm going to dub this one as a must, must-read. Erika dove into the political and public health controversy following the rollout of French pharma giant Sanofi's pioneering dengue fever vaccine Dengvaxia in the Philippines. She spoke with the parents of dead children, with attorneys and public health experts, and many others to shine light on this complex and nuanced story. I encourage you to read it. (Fortune)
THE BIG PICTURE
Students with disabilities are getting more training at U.S. medical schools. A new study from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor suggests that medical schools may be recruiting more students with disabilities, chronic health conditions, and psychological disorders. The topline number sounds impressive (a spike of nearly 70% between 2016 and 2019 among students reporting disabilities), though the absolutes remain low (4.6% in 2019). But the trend, researchers note, is important since a more diverse medical industry could ultimately benefit patients. (Reuters)
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