Happy New Year!

From Washington, DC

Congress returns to legislative and Committee business next week.

The Hill discusses four ways the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations issues can play out in January.

The Chief Justice, Hon. John Roberts, released his year-end report on the federal judiciary. The report focuses on generative artificial intelligence.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • Fortune Well considers the reigning Omicron subvariant JN.1 or Pirola.
    • “As always, it’s impossible to distinguish COVID from the flu, RSV, and other common winter illnesses like rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, and parainfluenza viruses by symptoms alone. Even with the new, highly mutated COVID variant “Pirola” JN.1, now globally dominant, this remains true. What’s more, it’s possible to have two or more infections at the same time.
    • “As always, testing—at a health care facility or at home, in the case of COVID—is the only true way to determine the source of your illness. And while you should consult your health care provider, if your symptoms are mild and you don’t have other health conditions, the cause may not matter.”
  • The article wades into Pirola specifics.
  • The Washington Post shares what’s known about long Covid.
    • “An analysis of nearly 5 million U.S. patients who had covid, based on a collaboration between The Washington Post and research partners, showed that people infected with the coronavirus’s omicron variant are less likely to develop symptoms typical of long covid than those who had covid earlier in the pandemic. Patients exposed to the coronavirus during the first wave of pandemic illness — from early 2020 to late spring 2021 — were most prone to develop long covid, with 1 in 12 suffering persistent symptoms, the study showed.”
  • The Post points out,
    • “Although HDL helps remove cholesterol from people’s arteries, the researchers wrote that, at very high levels, HDL’s structure and actions change, and it “may become deleterious to health” in various ways.
    • “For more than six years, they tracked 18,668 study participants, all 65 or older and all physically and cognitively healthy at the start of the study. In those years, cognitive dementia was diagnosed in 850 participants (4.6 percent).
    • “Those with very high HDL levels were more likely to have developed dementia than were those with more optimal HDL levels. For instance, the oldest participants with high HDL levels (those 75 or older) were 42 percent more likely to have developed dementia than those with normal HDL levels, and overall, anyone with high HDL levels had a 27 percent increased risk for dementia.”
  • and also offers exercise-based strategies for people experiencing trouble standing up or lying down.
  • Medscape tells us
    • “Researchers made important gains in 2023 in the fight against cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) annual list of key scientific developments in the field.
    • “Every year, we compile an overview of scientific research that advances our understanding of how to prevent, treat, and manage heart disease and stroke,” Mariell Jessup, MD, AHA chief science and medical officer, said in a news release.
    • “Whether the science points to new ways to treat long-known health conditions, disparities in care, or how to prevent some of our most pressing problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity, the findings help people, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and others make better informed healthcare decisions,” Jessup added.
    • “[The article provides] a brief summary of some of the year’s most noteworthy developments, according to the AHA.”
  • The Wall Street Journal informs us,
    • “One of the best strategies for good health in the new year: Reduce the amount of sugar you eat.
    • Sugar sneaks into our diet in surprising ways, from coffee drinks you don’t realize are sugar bombs to small amounts that add up in bread or sauces. Looking more closely at nutrition labels and little tricks like putting a few cookies onto a plate rather than eating them straight from the bag can help.
    • “It’s worth the effort, nutrition researchers say. Studies have found that diets high in added sugars are linked to a higher risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 
    • “U.S. guidelines recommend that Americans limit their consumption of added sugars to 10% of daily calories. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 6% of calories. While overall sugar consumption has decreased in recent years, Americans still get an average of about 13% of their daily calories from added sugars, according to federal data. 
    • “Still, there’s an important distinction between added sugars—which are found in processed foods such as soda, cereal and yogurt, as well as honey and sugar itself—and sugar that occurs naturally in foods like fruit and dairy products. Foods that naturally contain sugar provide nutrients that people need and most Americans aren’t eating enough of them, nutrition researchers say.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Medscape reports,
    • “Drugmakers including Pfizer, Sanofi and Takeda Pharmaceutical plan to raise prices in the United States on more than 500 drugs in early January, according to data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.
    • “Excluding different doses and formulations, more than 140 brands of drugs will have their prices raised next month, the data showed. * * *
    • “More drug prices are likely to be announced over the course of January – historically the biggest month for drugmakers to raise prices.
    • “In 2023, drugmakers raised prices on 1,425 drugs, down from 2022, when they raised prices on 1,460 drugs, according to data published by 46brooklyn.
    • “While drugmakers have pared back their price increases for established drugs, prices for newly launched drugs have hit record levels.
    • “In 2022, the price of newly launched drugs topped $220,000 from around $180,000 in the first six months of 2021 suggesting a more than 20% increase. That’s in line with a JAMA-published study on drug prices which showed that between 2008 and 2021 U.S. drug launch prices grew 20% annually.”