Health Highlights: June 3, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Cancer Deaths Dropped Over 20 Years

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 1999 to 2018 the U.S. rate of cancer deaths has significantly declined.

According to the report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics:

  • Death rates from cancer dropped 26% largely because of declines in cigarette smoking.
  • Cancer death rates dropped every year from 1999 to 2018.
  • Death rates remain higher among men than women, but the gap has narrowed.
  • Death rates decreased for 16 common cancers including cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and colon.
  • Death rates ticked upwards for 3 common cancers: pancreas, liver and uterus.
  • Lung cancer still kills more people than any other cancer, but death rates for lung cancer have dropped by 20%.
  • Since 1964, the percentage of Americans who smoke has dropped from 42% of adults to about 14% in 2018.


COVID-19 Drug Studies Questioned

Two premiere medical journals are questioning the validity of the data in two studies: One that said the use of blood pressure drugs was safe; and the other that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine was dangerous, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

A study published May 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that certain blood pressure drugs were not raising the risk of death for COVID-19 patients.

The journal’s editors have now questioned the quality of the data and asked the researchers for more evidence.

The British journal The Lancet has also questioned the validity of data in a study that said that use of malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine was linked to an increased risk of death for COVID-19 patients.

President Donald Trump has long touted the usefulness of the drugs against COVID-19, even claiming to have recently taken a 2-week course of hydroxychloroquine to help prevent the disease. However, studies conducted so far have shown the medicines to be ineffective and even potentially harmful.

The Lancet research caused the World Health Organization to halt an ongoing French hydroxychloroquine study, and France has stopped using the drug in its hospitals.

However, both studies now being questioned by The Lancet relied on the same data, which was provided by the Chicago-based company Surgisphere Corp, the AP noted.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said the authors of the New England Journal of Medicine paper have started an audit of their data, and data from The Lancet paper would be reevaluated too, the AP reported.

Surgisphere said it stands behind the findings of both studies.


Coronavirus Pandemic Creates Shortage of Antidepressant Zoloft

The coronavirus pandemic has made the popular antidepressant Zoloft harder to come by as fear of COVID-19 increased demand, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday. Zoloft is used to treat depression, OCD and PTSD, and is sold under the generic name sertraline

Since Friday, the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration has put Zoloft on its list of drugs in short supply.

Prescriptions for Zoloft rose 12% in March compared to last year, reaching nearly 5 million — the greatest number ever, Bloomberg said. Prescriptions did drop a bit in April, to 4.5 million.