US suicide rate fell last year after decade of steady rise

The U.S. suicide rate fell slightly last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade

NEW YORK — The U.S. suicide rate fell slightly last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade, according to new government data.

It’s a small decrease and the data is preliminary, but the decline is “really exciting,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The fall may be partly due to years of suicide prevention efforts, like increasing mental health screenings, she said. Other factors, like the pre-pandemic economy, might also have played a role, she added.

Suicides had been on the rise since 2005. In 2018, the national suicide rate hit its highest level since 1941 — 14.2 per 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new death rate data this week showing that for 2019, it dropped to 13.9.

Drug overdoses rose in 2019, and deaths from falls were up, too. But death rates for the nation’s two biggest killers — heart disease and cancer — were down, as were death rates for flu, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The firearm death rate was flat, probably because the small decline in suicides was offset by a slight uptick in gun homicides.

When all that is factored together, the U.S. life expectancy calculation for 2019 should stay the same as it was in 2018 or maybe even increase slightly, said Robert Anderson, who oversees death data for the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“I think 2019 will turn out to be a pretty good year for mortality, relatively speaking,” Anderson said. “2020 will not.”

There have been at least 300,000 more deaths this year than expected, the CDC said this week in a separate report. About two-thirds of those are being attributed directly to COVID-19, but many of the others are believed to be related to the pandemic.

It’s not yet clear whether suicides are up this year.

The pandemic sparked a wave of business closures, some temporary and some permanent. Millions of people were forced to stay at home, many of them alone. Surveys suggest more Americans are reporting depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Adding to that dangerous mix, firearm purchases rose 85% in March, when the virus was first surging.

“There are clear forces pressing suicide risk factors in a negative direction,” Moutier said, but that’s doesn’t mean suicide rates will automatically rise.

There are some “silver linings” to the pandemic, she added. One is increasing acceptance that mental health distress is normal, and that it’s OK to seek counseling. Another is increasing availability of telemedicine.

Anderson noted many COVID-19 deaths have been in the same set of late-middle-aged white people who are considered at high risk for

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Germany readies for coronavirus vaccine before end of year: Bild

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is making preparations to start vaccinations against the coronavirus before the end of the year, Bild daily reported on Friday.

The health ministry plans to create 60 special vaccination centres to ensure the vaccines can be stored at the proper temperature and has asked the country’s 16 federal states to provide addresses for them by Nov. 10, Bild reported without citing its sources.

At a video conference earlier this week, Health Minister Jens Spahn, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, said Germany’s BioNTech was close to getting a vaccine approved, Bild cited participants as saying.

Asked when he expected the first vaccinations, Spahn replied: “That could happen before the end of the year,” participants told Bild.

BioNTech is developing its vaccine in partnership with Pfizer Inc.

Last month, Germany awarded $745 million in funding to biotech firms BioNTech and CureVac to speed up work on COVID-19 vaccines and expand German production capacity.

On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the start in Japan of combined Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of their mRNA-based vaccine candidate against the coronavirus.

Their U.S. vaccine trial could yield initial results as soon as later this month.

Germany’s infection rates have been accelerating. Data released on Thursday showed the number of confirmed cases rose by more than 10,000 in a single day for the first time.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Relugolix Combo Effective for Uterine Fibroids Through 1 Year

A combination therapy using the experimental drug relugolix was effective in treating pain and heavy bleeding from uterine fibroids for a full year, according to findings from a long-term extension study of the phase 3, open-label LIBERTY trials.



Dr Ayman Al-Hendy

The drug was also well tolerated, with retention of bone mineral density and no new adverse events, said Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, PhD, who presented the results October 17 at the virtual American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 2020 Scientific Congress.

“Relugolix combination therapy represents a potential long-term treatment for women with heavy menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids,” said Al-Hendy, a gynecologist and endoscopic surgeon at the University of Chicago, in Illinois.

Al-Hendy, who consults for the company that makes the drug, on October 20 presented results showing improvement in quality of life with relugolix therapy.

“The fact that this longer-term study shows continued, persistent results at a year really gives us confidence that we’ll be able to use these drugs as a long-term therapy to treat fibroids,” Hugh S. Taylor, MD, president-elect of ASRM, told Medscape Medical News. Taylor, a professor and chair of ob-gyn and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, was not involved in the study.

“A drug like this is so necessary,” Taylor continued. “We don’t have any other drugs on the market approved for long-term use.”

Relugolix is an oral gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor antagonist under investigation for long-term management of uterine fibroids. The once-daily combination therapy includes 40 mg relugolix, 1 mg estradiol, and 0.5 mg norethindrone acetate.

Extension Study Shows Prolonged Benefits

The extension trial enrolled women aged 18 to 50 years who were experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding from uterine fibroids and who completed the 24-week phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled LIBERTY 1 or 2 trials. Heavy menstrual bleeding was defined as bleeding in which at least 80 mL of blood was lost per cycle for two cycles or 160 mL was lost during one cycle. Ultrasound imaging was used to confirm the presence of fibroids.

In LIBERTY 1 and 2, women were randomly assigned to receive relugolix combination therapy, placebo, or relugolix alone for 12 weeks followed by combination therapy for the remaining 12 weeks (delayed group). Those trials found that relugolix combination therapy was effective through 6 months in reducing menstrual blood loss and pain in women with uterine fibroids without loss of bone mineral density.

LIBERTY 3 extended the trial to 52 weeks, with all participants receiving relugolix combination therapy.

As in the earlier trials, the primary endpoint was reduced menstrual blood loss. By the end of the study, women needed to have at least a 50% reduction in blood loss from the initial study’s baseline while maintaining a blood loss of <80 mL. The investigators also evaluated the mean percentage of menstrual blood loss reduction, amenorrhea rate, and improvements in anemia as secondary endpoints and assessed changes in bone mineral density.

The extension study enrolled 78% (n = 477) of the 610 women

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U.S. likely to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for all vulnerable Americans by year end

By Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – The United States is likely to have enough safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans by the end of 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> or Moderna Inc <MRNA.O>, will be available by the end of the year and can begin to be distributed to Americans, officials said during a news conference.

Azar said he expects all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders will be able to receive a vaccine as soon as January, with the rest of the American public able to get a vaccine by April.

Companies participating in the U.S. government’s effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, have begun developing manufacturing capabilities even before any vaccinations have been authorized by regulators.

In an open letter published last week, Pfizer said it is unlikely to have enough data to submit for a U.S. regulatory authorization until late November, after the U.S. presidential election.

The coronavirus outbreak has been worsening in recent weeks as cold weather pushes Americans indoors, raising the chance of contracting the virus. Some 38 U.S. states and two territories have reported rising case counts. More than 8 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 200,000 have died.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Tom Brown)

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U.S. Likely to Have Enough COVID-19 Vaccines for All Vulnerable Americans by Year End – Official | Top News

(Reuters) – The United States is likely to have enough safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans by the end of 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government is “cautiously optimistic” that one or two vaccines, likely from Pfizer Inc or Moderna Inc, will be available by the end of the year and can begin to be distributed to Americans, officials said during a news conference.

Azar said he expects all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders will be able to receive a vaccine as soon as January, with the rest of the American public able to get a vaccine by April.

Companies participating in the U.S. government’s effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, have begun developing manufacturing capabilities even before any vaccinations have been authorized by regulators.

In an open letter published last week, Pfizer said it is unlikely to have enough data to submit for a U.S. regulatory authorization until late November, after the U.S. presidential election.

The coronavirus outbreak has been worsening in recent weeks as cold weather pushes Americans indoors, raising the chance of contracting the virus. Some 38 U.S. states and two territories have reported rising case counts. More than 8 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 200,000 have died.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Tom Brown)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Polluted air killing half a million babies a year across globe

Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world, data shows.



a hand holding a baby: Photograph: Angela Hampton Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Angela Hampton Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality.

Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.

The discovery is reported in the State of Global Air 2020 report, which examined data on deaths around the world alongside a growing body of research that links air pollution with health problems.

Medical experts have warned for years of the impacts of dirty air on older people and on those with health conditions, but are only beginning to understand the deadly toll on babies in the womb.

Katherine Walker, principal scientist at the Health Effects Institute, which published the report, said: “We don’t totally understand what the mechanisms are at this stage, but there is something going on that is causing reductions in baby growth and ultimately birth weight. There is an epidemiological link, shown across multiple countries in multiple studies.”



a hand holding a baby: Premature baby. Exposure in the womb to air contaminants can cause pre-term births and low birth weight, experts say.


© Photograph: Angela Hampton Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo
Premature baby. Exposure in the womb to air contaminants can cause pre-term births and low birth weight, experts say.

Babies born with a low birth weight are more susceptible to childhood infections and pneumonia. The lungs of pre-term babies can also not be fully developed.

“They are born into a high pollution environment, and are more susceptible than children who went to term,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in the US.

Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles), who was not involved with the study, said the indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London.

“This is not the air pollution we see in modern cities [in the rich world] but that which we had 150 years ago in London and other places, where there were coal fires indoors. Indoor air pollution has not been at the forefront for policymakers, but it should be,” Ritz said.

She pointed out that the harm to children went beyond the deaths; reducing air pollution would also lessen harm to survivors. “There is also damage to the brain and other organs from this pollution, so just surviving is not enough – we need to reduce air pollution because of the impact on all these organs too,” she said.

Some of these effects are likely to have existed, unnoticed, for centuries, as people have long cooked upon fires in enclosed spaces, an activity that causes particulate matter to be breathed in, particularly by women and children, who spend more time in

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U.S. reports about 300,000 more deaths during pandemic than in typical year

By Vishwadha Chander

(Reuters) – Nearly 300,000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than would be expected based on historical trends, with at least two-thirds due to COVID-19, a government report released on Tuesday showed, adding that COVID deaths likely were undercounted.

The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 299,028 more people died between Jan. 26 and Oct. 3 than the average numbers from past years would have indicated.

CDC said that about 216,000 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus had been reported by the middle of this month. “This might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality,” it said.

“There are many factors that could contribute to an increase in deaths indirectly due to the pandemic, with disruptions to health care being one factor,” study author Lauren Rossen, from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told Reuters.

The count could miss deaths indirectly related to the pandemic, caused by disruptions in healthcare access or utilization, and from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and respiratory diseases, the report said. But it also could reflect rises in non-COVID-19 related deaths.

The data show disproportionate increases among racial and ethnic groups that have been seen as particularly affected by COVID-19.

The CDC found the largest average percentage increase in deaths compared with previous years occurring among Hispanic people (53.6%), with deaths 32.9% above average among Black people and 36.6% above average for Asians.

A Reuters tally finds about 220,000 coronavirus-related U.S. deaths have been reported.

The CDC found that excess deaths have occurred every week since March 2020 and reached their highest points in the weeks ended April 11 and Aug. 8.

The largest percentage increase in excess deaths from all causes was among adults aged 25–44 years at 26.5%.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Stephen Coates)

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Key ObamaCare premiums drop for third straight year

Average ObamaCare premiums will decline by 2 percent for the 2021 year for a benchmark plan, the Trump administration announced, marking the third straight year of declines.

Premiums for the benchmark plan have declined by 8 percent on the HealthCare.gov platform over the three-year period since the 2018 plan year, the administration said.

The announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is an indication of how the Trump administration is claiming credit for its stewardship of the Affordable Care Act while at the same time backing a lawsuit to scrap the law.

“Bottom line – The President has delivered, lower cost and more choice,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Our changes to the regulations and how we have managed the Exchanges have proven to be more effective than previous administrations.”

On the other hand, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: ‘The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it’ Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE made clear last month that he still wants ObamaCare struck down.

“Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!” he tweeted.

The administration argues, however, that as long as law is still on the books, it is being managed well.

The simple passage of time is also a factor in the stabilization of the ObamaCare markets. Insurers initially underpriced their premiums when the law kicked into gear in 2014, and then had to raise them to avoid losses. As the years have gone on, insurers have more experience in the marketplaces and have priced more accurately.

More insurers are also participating in the law’s marketplaces, the administration said. Just 9 percent of counties will have only one insurer offering ObamaCare coverage, down from 50 percent of counties in 2018.

Democrats have pointed to cuts in outreach funding and the expansion of cheaper, skimpier “short-term plans” to argue that the Trump administration is undermining the law.

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Obamacare Open Enrollment Starts Nov 1. Here’s What’s Changing This Year : Shots

Open enrollment is about to start for those buying private insurance off state or federal exchanges.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto


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PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Open enrollment is about to start for those buying private insurance off state or federal exchanges.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Facing a pandemic, record unemployment and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases for 2021.

“What’s been fascinating is that carriers in general are not projecting much impact from the pandemic for their 2021 premium rates,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Although final rates have yet to be analyzed in all states, those who study the market say the premium increases they have seen to date will be in the low single digits — and decreases are not uncommon.

That’s good news for the more than 10 million Americans who purchase their own ACA health insurance through federal and state marketplaces. The federal market, which serves 36 states, opens for 2021 enrollment Nov. 1, with sign-up season ending Dec. 15. Some of the 14 states and the District of Columbia that operate their own markets have longer enrollment periods.

The flip side of flat or declining premiums is that some consumers who qualify for subsidies to help them purchase coverage may also see a reduction in that aid. Subsidies are determined by a mix of a consumer’s income and the cost of a benchmark plan.

Here are a few things to know about 2021 coverage:

It might cost about the same this year — or even less.

Despite the ongoing debate about the ACA — compounded by a Supreme Court challenge brought by 20 Republican states and supported by the Trump administration — enrollment and premium prices are not forecast to shift much.

“It’s the third year in a row with premiums staying pretty stable,” said Louise Norris, an insurance broker in Colorado who follows rates nationwide and writes about insurance trends. “We’ve seen modest rate changes and influx of new insurers.”

That relative stability followed ups and downs, with the last big increases coming in 2018, partly in response to the Trump administration cutting some payments to insurers.

Those increases priced out some enrollees, particularly people who don’t qualify for subsidies, which are tied both to income and the cost of premiums. ACA enrollment has fallen since its peak in 2016.

Charles Gaba, a web developer who has since late 2013 tracked enrollment data in the ACA on his ACASignups.net website, follows premium changes based on filings with state regulators. Each summer, insurers must file their proposed rates for the following year with states, which have varying oversight powers.

Gaba said the average requested increase next year nationwide is 2.1%. When he looked at 18 states for which regulators have approved insurers’ requested rates, the percentage is lower

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COVID-19 Related Breast Cancer Surgery Delays Could Result in Nearly 3,000 Additional Deaths Over a 10 Year Period

Delays in treatment also place patients at higher risk of metastasis, increasing cost of care by more than $375 million during that time

Delays in breast cancer surgery due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an additional 2,797 deaths over the next decade according to Kantar Health, a leading global healthcare data, analytics and research provider, Delays in treatments could result in an additional $376 million in treatment costs over that time period due to more patients developing metastasis. The analysis, released as part of World Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is based on Kantar Health’s CancerMPact® Patient Metrics database, a decision support resource for oncology market analysis, strategic planning and identifying commercial opportunities.

Research from the American Association of Cancer Research found that 32% of those who were diagnosed with breast cancer reported a delay in care. Of these patients, 22% reported a delay in screening and 9.3% reported a delay in treatment.

Kantar Health’s CancerMPact Patient Metrics database1 estimates the incidence of breast cancer in the United States in 2020 to be 335,779. Of those, 319,700 patients will be diagnosed with non-metastatic disease. If these patients with non-metastatic disease receive appropriate and timely care, they have good potential for a positive outcome. However, delays in care, especially surgery, compromises this. For breast cancer, a delay in surgery of 60 days is estimated to cause an increase in the number of deaths of 4% and 7% at five and ten years post-diagnosis respectively2.

Based on Kantar Health’s estimates of the total annual number of new cancer patients, it is expected that the number of patients diagnosed with non-metastatic during the first three months of the pandemic totaled 79,925 patients.

Of these patients, Kantar Health forecasts that deaths among breast cancer patients could increase by 1,598 deaths five years post-diagnosis and 2,797 deaths ten years post-diagnosis.

Further, Kantar Health expects an excess in the overall costs of cancer treatment due to COVID-19, as a proportion of patients will develop metastasis over the course of their disease. In the five years post-COVID-19, additional costs will total $215.2 million for breast cancer patients. In ten years, this number could almost double, to $376.7 million for breast cancer care.

“The effects of the pandemic will be felt deeply in many disease areas, but none more so than in oncology,” said Jeremy Brody, Chief Strategy Officer, Kantar Health. “It is important that patients continue to maintain their regular appointments and screenings to detect and treat breast cancer. The COVID-19 global pandemic needs to be a catalyst for the healthcare system to seek new ways to reach patients and ensure early detection screenings continue.”

Refs

  1. CancerMPact Patient Metrics Database [Internet]. Kantar Health. 2020 [cited May, 2020]. Available from: www.cancermpact.com.

  2. Bleicher RJ, Ruth K, Sigurdson ER, Beck JR, Ross E, Wong YN, et al. Time to Surgery and Breast Cancer Survival in the United States. JAMA oncology. 2016;2(3):330-9.

About Kantar Health

Kantar Health, a division of Kantar, provides data, analytics and

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