Health and Healthcare Systems

New Alzheimer's drug trial, heat deaths, and other health stories you need to know about 

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Dr. Seth Gale points out evidence of Alzheimer's disease on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham And Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 30, 2023.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A global trial of new Alzheimer's drug donanemab demonstrates a slow in cognitive decline. Image: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Shyam Bishen
Head, Centre for Health and Healthcare; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum

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  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: A global trial of new Alzheimer's drug donanemab demonstrates a slow in cognitive decline; Extreme European heat could have killed 61,000; US FDA approves over-the-counter birth control.

1. New Alzheimer's drug hailed as turning point

A new Alzheimer's drug, donanemab, has been shown to slow cognitive decline in patients in a global trial by 35%.

The antibody-based treatment cannot cure the disease, but can make a difference in the early stages by helping to clear a protein that builds up in the brains of those affected. It works similarly to another new drug, lecanemab, which was recently granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. The drugs have been hailed as a turning point in the management of dementia.

The news comes as the process of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease is being revamped. Experts have created a seven-point scale that rates patients according to biological and cognitive changes. The system is similar to that used to assess cancer progression, and replaces guidelines issued in 2018.

Fears about loss of independence due to dementia among adults age 40 and older and healthcare providers in the US in 2021.
Fears about loss of independence due to dementia among adults age 40 and older and healthcare providers in the US in 2021 Image: Statista

2. Extreme heat in Europe could have killed 61,000 last year

Soaring temperatures seen throughout Europe last summer may have led to the deaths of as many as 61,000 people, new research suggests. The study found that Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain saw the most heat-related deaths by population size as Europe experienced its hottest-ever summer.

Although many countries have national plans to deal with extreme heat, the researchers argue this is evidence they are not working as well as needed.

The research comes as Europe is yet again baking in extreme temperatures, which are becoming more regular as a result of the climate crisis. Italian authorities have issued "extreme" health risk warnings for several cities as temperatures threaten to reach their highest-ever point in Europe across the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first over-the-counter contraceptive pill for sale in the country. The move grants millions of women access to birth control without prescription and comes as a number of states ban abortion following a Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned a decision to legalize the procedure across the country.

Eighteen million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine, RTS,S/AS01, will be allocated to 12 African countries over the next two years. These include Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, which have been administering the vaccine through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme since 2019. In that time, 1.7 million children have received the vaccine, resulting in a substantial reduction in severe malaria and a drop in child deaths. The remaining nine countries receiving the vaccine for the first time are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. The allocation prioritizes areas with the highest need.

Scotland has outlined proposals to decriminalize drug possession in a bid to tackle the worse drug death rate in Europe. The government said the move would mean people with a drug problem would be supported and have a better chance of recovering and finding a job.

An estimated 795,000 Americans die or are permanently disabled because of diagnostic errors, new research from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence and the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions has found. Vascular events, infections, and cancer make up three quarters of that number.

4. More on health from Agenda

Summer 2023 could be even hotter than summer 2022, having a huge impact on the many people with health conditions that make them vulnerable to extreme heat. Here are some of the ways countries are dealing with the intense heat.

Kate Kelland of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, tells Radio Davos that the world needs to be better prepared for future pandemics. Mapping Disease X means governments and the health community can be more responsive next time a pandemic looms.

Most of us spend the majority of our time inside, breathing indoor air. But how much do we really know about the quality of that air? There are lessons learned from the pandemic that could help improve indoor quality in the way the 19th-century cholera pandemic revolutionized water and sewage treatment systems.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsWellbeing and Mental Health
1. New Alzheimer's drug hailed as turning point2. Extreme heat in Europe could have killed 61,000 last year3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world4. More on health from Agenda

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