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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Mental health care claims in private insurance on the rise

Private insurance claims for mental health conditions including depression and anxiety have increased by 108% since 2007, according to a new report. Here’s a rundown of the findings:

  • By disorder: Major depressive disorder was the most common reason for filed claims in 2007 and 2017. Claims for opioid dependence increased by nearly 1,200% during this time, but dropped by half between 2015 and 2017.

  • By age: The increase was largely due to increased claims from those aged 22 and younger. Those who were 18 and younger had the most claims for cannabis abuse.

  • A caveat: Since the report only used claims from private insurers, it doesn’t reflect those with public insurance or the uninsured.

Read more on the report and what might be driving the increase in these claims here.  

Changes in brain cells linked to severity of autism 

A new analysis finds that changes in certain types of brain cells and circuits correspond to the severity of autism spectrum disorder. Scientists looked at brain tissue samples from 15 patients with autism and compared them with tissue from controls, and found that most of the differences were concentrated in a part of the brain responsible for higher order functions, including communication, and correlated with severity of the disease. By performing RNA sequencing on the samples, the researchers found certain genes associated with synapses were expressed differently in those with autism as were genes in nerve cells that help protect neurons. The findings of the study open the door for new therapeutic targets, but larger studies with more patients are needed to highlight specific molecular changes to better explain the disease and its symptoms.

Children of teen mothers in India more likely to have stunted growth

Children born to teenage mothers in India are of lower-than-average height, weight, and overall proportions due to factors that place the mother at a disadvantage, according to a new study. Here’s what else you need to know:

  • The design: Researchers looked at more than 60,000 first-time mothers in India, roughly 14,000 of whom were adolescents.  

  • The findings: Adolescent mothers were shorter, less educated, and underweight compared to adult mothers in the study group. They also were poorer. Taken together, the various factors that adolescent mothers experienced meant an 11% higher prevalence of stunting in children born to them versus to adults.

  • The takeaway: “Policies and programmes to delay childbearing have the potential to help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and undernutrition,” the authors write.

Inside STAT: As CBD gains popularity, Washington struggles to keep up

The $300 billion CBD industry is giving Washington a major headache. The cannabis extract is used as a home remedy for everything from pain to anxiety, and celebrities are even considering adding the extract to wine. But this lack of a clear line between therapeutic and food additive means that the FDA is unsure whether to regulate the product as a therapeutic or to treat CBD the way it treats vitamins and other nutritional supplements. “The FDA needs to take a leadership position as quickly as possible to make sure that the wild west of CBD doesn’t harm the public health,” Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA official, told STAT’s Nicholas Florko. Read more here.  

Colorectal cancer increasing among younger adults in high-income countries

Colorectal cancer rates among those aged 50 and younger have steadily increased in recent years, according to a new report. Looking at data from 21 patient registries across seven high-income countries, researchers found that incidence of colon cancer ranged from a 1.8% increase in the U.K. to a 3.1% increase in Denmark. There were larger spikes in the incidence of rectal cancer in those aged 20-29: 18% annual case increase in Denmark and nearly 11% in Norway. At the same time, colorectal cancer rates in those aged 50 and older dropped in many of these countries. More studies are needed to identify the causes behind the trends, the authors write, in order to develop ways for early detection and intervention. 

Staying safe during summer fun

Summer is around the corner — even though it hasn’t felt like that here in New England — but don’t relax just yet. A new survey finds that even though nearly 70% know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, fewer than half of people report wearing sunscreen on parts of their body exposed to the sun. At the same time, new statistics from the CDC highlight the importance of being safe around pool chemicals such as chlorine. There were roughly 13,500 emergency room visits between 2007-2017 because of pool chemical-related injuries, including burns and poisoning. Most of these happened in residences, and two-thirds occurred between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Be safe out there!

What to read around the web today

  • Family awarded $30m after baby delivered at MGH suffers brain injury. The Boston Globe
  • As suicides rise, insurers find ways to deny mental health coverage. Bloomberg
  • The University of Maryland waited 18 days to inform students of a virus on campus, leaving vulnerable students in the dark. The Washington Post
  • ‘Sham’ sharing ministries test faith of patients and insurance regulators. Kaiser Health News
  • Was it an invisible attack on U.S. diplomats, or something stranger? The New York Times Magazine

I'm off for the next few days, but you'll still get your daily dose of news from my colleague Elizabeth Cooney, who is kindly filling in for me. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend and I'll see you on Wednesday!   


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Friday, May 17, 2019


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