Trending News Today: Treatment Advances Extend Human Lifespan

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Between 2011 and 2015, more than $1 billion has been spent by US government health plans on Mylan’s EpiPen, according to new figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In less than a decade, Mylan has raised the prices of the lifesaving EpiPen six-fold, making it unaffordable to an increasing number of families, reported The New York Times. CMS stated in a letter that the Medicaid plan for the poor spent $797 million on the EpiPen over the 5-year period, including rebates from Mylan, or $960 million before rebates. For the Medicare Part D program for the elderly, it was nearly $335 million, the Times reported. US Senator Amy Klobuchar and other lawmakers state that Mylan underpaid rebates to state Medicaid programs by misclassifying EpiPen as a generic, rather than a branded drug. Although CMS could not determine how much was owed to the government for EpiPens, they agreed that Mylan had misclassified the product.

Theranos CEO and founder, Elizabeth Holmes, announced in an open letter that the company will be closing its clinical labs and wellness centers, reported The Washington Post. Holmes once boasted that a simple and inexpensive pinprick blood test would change the world. As investors and consumers jumped on board, the company grew and, at one point was valued at $9 billion, making Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire. However, questions and concerns began to arise about Theranos’ technology. In a series of skeptical reports that started in October 2015, the Wall Street Journal recounted how even Theranos’ own employees questioned the accuracy of the test results, and disclosed that government regulators had been looking into the issue, according to the Post. Although Theranos vehemently defended themselves, they eventual acknowledged over the summer major defeats. In June, Walgreens terminated its partnership with the company, and in July, CMS imposed harsh sanctions against Theranos with a fine that revoked its certificate for a lab. Holmes was banned from owning, operating, or directing a blood-testing lab for at least 2 years, the Post reported.

Thanks to advancements in the prevention and treatment of diseases, human life spans have been increasing for decades, prompting the question, “What is the upper limit on human aging?” In a new study published in Nature, researchers concluded that this rise in life span may have hit a ceiling of about 115 years. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, researchers discovered that the age of the oldest people dying was steadily increaseing. The researchers told NPR that the absolute maximum human life span may be as high as 125, but the chances of a person living that long is less than 1 in 10,000. Experts say that it’s not surprising that human longevity may have hit the ceiling at about 115 years. “Right now, all we’re doing is we’re combating one disease at a time: heart disease, cancer, stroke,” said S. Jay Olshansky in a commentary article cited in the NPR report. “It’s like a game of whack-a-mole. You know: one disease goes down another comes up.”