New guidelines for older people with diabetes, the CDC reports over 40 million illnesses during flu season and more.

1. Diabetes drug benefits heart and kidneys

Diabetes drug Canagliflozin lowered the risk of kidney failure and cardiovascular problems in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Janssen, the drug’s manufacturer, funded the study.

Researchers in 34 countries gave Canagliflozin or a placebo to over 4,000 patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Patients who took the drug lowered their relative risk of renal-related death by 34 percent and the relative risk of end-stage kidney disease by 32 percent. They also lowered their risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, stroke and heart failure-related hospitalizations. Canagliflozin goes by the brand name Invokana.

2. Over 54,000 deaths this flu season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 54,800 deaths and 40.1 million illnesses during the 2018-2019 flu season. Here are the latest stats:

  • Flu-related hospitalizations increased from 56.4 percent per 100,000 for the week ending March 30 to 59.9 percent per 100,000 for the week ending April 6.
  • The total count for pediatric flu deaths so far this season is 86, including four for the week ending April 6.
  • Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina and Virginia experienced the highest levels of recent flu activity.

3. BCBSA reports show an increase in mental health diagnoses

Mental and behavioral health diagnoses are on the rise and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) wants providers and insurers to address the issues.

“As more Americans, especially millennials and adolescents, are diagnosed with major depression each year, it’s increasingly important that there’s continued research and resources allocated towards new ways to treat depression,” said Vincent G. Nelson, MD, vice president of medical affairs at BCBSA.

In addition to depression, BCBSA explored the rise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in pediatric patients and the burgeoning battle against opioid abuse. BCBSA suggests integrating mental health counselors or behavioral specialists into the primary care environment. The association also suggests increasing the number of patients with mental health coverage.

4. New nutrition label could save billions of dollars

A new nutrition label could prevent up to a million cases of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, found a study out of Tufts University’s School of Nutrition Science and Policy. The new label, which was proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016, would add a new line under total carbohydrates, detailing the amount of added sugar on top of the product’s naturally occurring sugar.

This label could save the U.S. $31billion in healthcare costs and $62 billion in productivity, says Renata Micha, a senior researcher and a Tufts associate research professor. Micha hopes the food industry will jump on board and remanufacture products to carry less added sugars.

“If this added sugar label prompts the food industry to reformulate even a portion of its products to have fewer added sugars, these health and financial benefits would be doubled, which is a staggering impact,” Micha said. The FDA will require manufacturers to update their labels by 2020.

5. Less is more for older patients with diabetes

Did you know that the balance between benefits and risks of low blood sugar shift as we age? That’s why the Endocrine Society has revised its guidelines for the treatment of diabetes, particularly in older patients.

Recommendations include higher A1c and glucose levels for older individuals with chronic diseases and cognitive impairment. Lower blood sugar may help reduce the risk of complications such as the need for dialysis or amputation.

“It’s important in shifting the thinking that lower is always better,” said Kasia Lipska, MD, a Yale School of Medicine endocrinologist, in a New York Times article.


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