Brainstorm Health: Teen Suicide Attempt Spike, IQVIA Accuracy, Novartis Cohen Fallout

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The number of young Americans and adolescents contemplating or attempting suicide rose sharply between 2008 and 2015, according to an analysis of hospital data published in the journal Pediatrics. The troubling increase disproportionately affects girls, and suicidal thoughts and attempts are more likely to occur during the school year.

“Encounters for [suicidal ideas and suicide attempts] at U.S. children's hospitals increased steadily from 2008 to 2015 and accounted for an increasing percentage of all hospital encounters,” wrote the study authors. “Increases were noted across all age groups, with consistent seasonal patterns that persisted over the study period.”

Researchers used hospital billing data to suss out the teen suicide trends over six years. In 2008, 0.66% of hospital visits across 31 children’s hospitals were related to suicide; by 2015, that had risen to 1.82%, a near tripling of the rate. Young Americans aged 15 to 17 experienced the most significant increases, as did girls, and suicidal thoughts and attempts peaked in the spring and fall while declining in the summer.

It’s unclear exactly why more teens are contemplating suicide and self-harm. But the new study adds to evidence that mental health problems are taking a bigger and bigger toll on adolescents.

Suicide rates, teens aged 15 to 19

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that there “were 1,537 suicides among males and 524 among females aged 15-19 years” in 2015, representing a significant increase from the early 2000s. Suicide is typically the third leading cause of death for young Americans, but rose to the second leading cause of death in 2016.

It’s hard to gauge how much any single given factor may be fueling this effect. But the rise in suicides during the school year--a departure from adult suicide trends--may indicate a correlation with teen social interactions, including the prospect of bullying and cyberbullying in adolescent social circles. The cyberbullying issue has become prominent enough to draw the attention of First Lady Melania Trump, and social media giant Facebook is attempting to use artificial intelligence to combat suicidal behavior.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Verily filed a patent for a "smart diaper." Alphabet life sciences arm Verily, it turns out, filed a patent for a "smart diaper" that can distinguish between different kinds of waste like urine and feces. "Sensing devices that separately determine whether urine or feces is present in a diaper have been developed, but they are large, expensive, reusable sensors that attach to the exterior of the diaper, which is inconvenient and less functional for use by caregivers," the company wrote in the application, as flagged by science journalist Jenny Morber. "Accordingly, there is much room for significant advancement in the technology in order to lower the cost and enhance the convenience and functionality thus making them a more affordable and reliable option." Ok! (MobiHealthNews)

INDICATIONS

Novartis' Michael Cohen fallout rages on. Novartis group general counsel is falling on his sword following the drug maker's $1.2 million payment to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. "As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end," Felix Ehrat said in a statement announcing his upcoming departure from Novartis in June. Forbes' Matt Herper spoke with said former CEO Joe Jimenez on the same issue. "I brought him into the company, so I would ... we as a company were looking for people who could help us on policy," said Jimenez. "I'm accountable for everything that happened so, yes. I'm accountable for everything that happened at Novartis over my eight years." (Fortune)

IQVIA faces an FDA reckoning. Shares of IQVIA (formerly Quintiles IMS Holdings) is getting the Scott Gottlieb public shaming treatment: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday reported that it had found inaccuracies in sales data for opioids provided by IQVIA. This could turn out to be a major issue down the line if the alleged data inaccuracy is widespread--IQVIA is a major data vendor for government agencies, and its information therefore can have a tangible impact on public health policy. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

Obamacare repeal, round one million. What is dead may never die. The White House and conservative Congressional allies plan on yet another go at repealing Obamacare following last year's multiple, dramatic failed efforts (despite a GOP-controlled House, Senate, and presidency). The latest bill will reportedly be a rehash of the Graham-Cassidy legislation (more on that bill here) seen as one of the most extreme retrenchments of the Affordable Care Act, including because of its steep cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor. (The Hill)

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[ceo_attribution author="Produced by Sy Mukherjee" email="sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com" twitter="the_sy_guy"]
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