The Rundown | Week of 11.5.2018

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FDA Approves New 23andMe Test

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a direct-to-consumer test made by 23andMe that analyzes drug-metabolizing enzyme variants to gauge someone’s receptivity to certain medications. However, the “Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports” test’s approval came with a notable caveat: that “healthcare providers should not use the test to make any treatment decisions.” The agency analyzed the test’s accuracy and reproducibility as well as the company’s marketing materials to ensure that consumers would understand that any decisions should be made together with their providers.
>> Read More: FDA Authorizes First Direct-to-Consumer Test for Detecting Genetic Variants That May Be Associated With Medication Metabolism

Peer Support Tied to Better Diabetes, Depression Management  

A supportive peer network was linked to better clinical outcomes in patients with diabetes according to a new study published in Diabetes Care. The results show diabetic patients were more adept at managing their blood sugar levels as well as their mental health when they had a peer network. Furthermore, the study indicated that a peer support group resulted in lower healthcare costs. The study’s lead author, Andrea Cherrington, MD, estimated that between 10 and 30 percent of the 30.3 million Americans with diabetes also experience depression. A related study indicated that diabetics are twice as likely to develop depression. Researchers found that those with peer networks reduced hospitalizations by 70 percent and acute-care visits by 50 percent compared to those without peer support. The findings are closely related to the “Loneliness Epidemic,” which affects 20 percent of patients and has been linked to negative health outcomes.
>> Read More: Impact of Peer Support on Acute Care Visits and Hospitalizations for Individuals With Diabetes and Depressive Symptoms: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

Stress Can Shrink Your Brain, Affect Cognition

A new study published in Neurology correlated high stress levels to a decrease in brain size and cognition. While many studies have analyzed the relationship between dementia risk in elderly patients and cortisol, this study featured more than 2,000 people with an average age of 48 and no signs of dementia. “We found memory loss and brain shrinkage in relatively young people long before any symptoms could be seen,” said study author Sudha Seshadri, MD. High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that originates in the adrenal gland, can lead to anxiety, depression, heart disease, insomnia, and cognitive difficulties. Researchers concluded that cerebral volume and cerebrums, the areas of the brain associated with thought, speech, emotions, and muscle regulation, shrank in response to stress.
>> Read More: Stress Might Lead to Memory Loss and Brain Shrinkage, Study Says

Babies of Older Fathers Face Increased Health Risks

A recent study indicated that babies born to older fathers are more likely to experience health issues such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and respiratory problems. Study co-author Michael Eisenberg, MD, noted, “From an evolutionary standpoint, we’re used to reproducing in the late teens, early twenties,” while the average age of fatherhood has increased from 27.4 to 30.9 from 1972 to 2015. Researchers analyzed more than 40 million live births between 2007 and 2016, categorized fathers by age, then accounted for factors such as mother’s age, demographics, and parents’ health. The results were especially pronounced in cases with fathers older than 55, whose babies scored lower on the Apgar test, were 10 percent more likely to require breathing assistance, and had a 28 percent higher risk of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. Researchers speculated that the increased risks may be due to accumulated genetic mutations that men experience as they age.
>> Read More: Association of Paternal Age With Perinatal Outcomes Between 2007 and 2016 in the United States: Population-Based Cohort Study

Medicare to Accept Remote Patient Monitoring

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ruled that home health agencies will be able to bill Medicare for remote patient monitoring (RPM). This ruling for the home health industry “focuses on patient needs and not on the volume of care,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Using new technology and reducing unnecessary reporting measures for certifying physicians will result in annual cost savings and provide home health agencies (HHAs) and doctors what they need to give patients a personalized treatment plan that will result in better health outcomes.” As baby boomers age, the home health industry is expected to grow exponentially, which, when measured in 2016, included 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries and $18.1 billion on services. Furthermore, CMS is removing the requirement that providers estimate the duration of home health services when “recertifying the need for continued” care. Tune in to our podcast — ”The Murky Ethics of Wearables” — to learn more about remote patient monitoring!
>> Read More: CMS Takes Action to Modernize Medicare Home Health

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