Here’s to a year of hope. We have slowly come out of this pandemic a little dazed and confused but for most of us all the better and knowledgeable about how precious life is. There were astounding new technologies and medical breakthroughs in 2022. Here is Wellcast’s top 10 Health Breakthroughs:
10. “Smart stethoscopes” are stethoscopes that identify heart murmurs before they can be heard. It can detect the slightest of murmurs which is important since 5-10% of people have one form of valvular heart disease or atrial fibrillation.
9. Hearing Aids: Over-the-counter (OTC) versions have arrived. Close to 90% of people with hearing loss have mild to moderate losses which these OTC versions would help. It is best to get a hearing test first. Learn more at aarp.org/hearing.
8. Eye Implants: For those who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of severe vision loss in those over age 50, you can now opt for an eye implant device instead of monthly eye injections. This is primarily for the more severe type (“wet AMD”). The implant releases a steady dose of a drug, ranibizumab, to control blood vessel growth.
7. Ceramic teeth: Titanium implants have been the gold standard for dental implants. Ceramic options are worth mentioning because it is an option that is good for people with metal hypersensitivities and it is healthier for your gums. It also doesn’t show gray metal through the gum tissue.
6. Focused Ultrasound for Parkinson’s Patients: Like a magnifying glass concentrating sunlight… focused ultrasound beams of sound waves pinpoints an area deep in the brain, heating up and destroying cells associated with the movement problems of both Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. This FDA-approved procedure has helped calm shaking, stiffness and other movement problems that are due to these nervous system disorders.
5. Blood Test that detects early cancers called the Galleri, multi-cancer early detection (MCED) from the health company Grail screens for more than 50 different cancers. It searches a blood sample for tiny scraps of DNA released by cancer cells. There are some questions about false positive test results which could lead to expensive, invasive and anxiety-provoking procedures and treatments. But then, the earlier a cancer is found the better the outcome. Follow-up studies are currently being done.
4. A new drug to treat Lp (a): Lipoprotein (a) is an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic heart disease. A new drug, Olpasiran is a small RNA molecule that interferes with the synthesis of Lp(a) in the liver. This is a major breakthrough because it is so difficult to treat Lp(a) outside of using oral Niacin (which commonly causes flushing so many people cannot tolerate it) and injectable drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors (ie Repatha) given every 2 weeks. Olpasiran is a subcutaneous injection given every 12 or 24 weeks. More studies are being done before it comes out to market.
3. Inhaler Sensors that monitor your meds are now available. Nearly 1/3 of older adults miss doses on their inhaler schedule, and 74% use their inhalers improperly. Propeller Health’s FDA-approved sensors use a smartphone app linked to the senses to keep track of your inhaled medications. For more information go to inhaler sensors
2. Next generation of mRNA vaccinology: An effective COVID-19 vaccine was developed, produced, approved and delivered in less than a year!! New mRNA vaccines are being developed to prevent cancers, Zika virus and others. The world needed a new vaccine technology and what better way than a pandemic to get things started.
1. Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir-ritonavir): an oral pill for the treatment of mild-moderate COVID-19. Prior treatments were intravenous medications at hospitals and certain service centers. This pill that could be easily prescribed reduced hospitalization from 50-80%. A real deal breaker in getting people better and avoiding severe complications and disease progression.
Wishing you a very healthy, peaceful and hopeful New Year!
References: Harrar, S. Medical breakthroughs that are changing lives now. AARP. Oct/Nov 2022, p. 51-59.
Reale-Cooney, A. Cleveland clinic unveils top 10 medical innovations for 2022. Cleveland Clinic Newsroom. Feb 16, 2022.
Lin, P. Paxlovid use is associated with decreased hospitalization rates among adults with COVID-19. Practice Update, The New England Journal of Medicine, Dec 20, 2022.
Ostrominski, J. Efficacy and safety of Olpasiran for Lp(a0 level reduction. Practice Update, The New England Journal of Medicine, Dec 18, 2022.