United Health & Johnson & Johnson beat Q1 predictions
Keeping medical costs...
US health insurer, United Health has posted positive first quarter results, where its total revenue rose by 13.3% to over $55bn.
Keeping medical costs under control despite rampant demand, the company has undertaken a number of mergers and acquisitions to further its offerings to consumers, such as its $4.9bn acquisition of the DaVita Medical Group.
The incorporation of new technologies and development of its health unit, Optum, has also provided a 29% rise in earnings, where the company is looking to launch several clinics and medical centres long-term.
"If you look forward to the future, I think you're going to see the real strong implications of technology on helping to curtail health care costs," UnitedHealth Group's CEO, David Wichmann: informed CNBC.
"I think the systems of the benefits and the health systems broadly going to more value-based mechanisms will drive greater efficiency and effectiveness in health care," he said.
Regarding the company’s Optum unit, Wichmann added: "Optum has data of around 200mn people on the administrative side, and then another 100mn or so in terms of medical records."
- Proctor & Gamble acquires Merck’s consumer health arm for €3.4bn
- Novartis invests $100mn to research and develop next-generation antimalarials
- Sanofi enters into negotiations to sell its European generics unit
"That is used by us for AI, machine learning, advancing ... technologies broadly in health care and making a difference on the predictive values of understanding who may get sick and under what circumstances we need to help them with their care.”
Johnson and Johnson have announced similar successes, with sales of $20bn in the first quarter of 2018, an increase of 12.6% in the same period last year.
Operational sales results increased 8.4%, domestic sales by 6.1% and international sales by 19.9%.
"Our Pharmaceutical business continues to deliver robust growth and we are pleased with the improvement in our Consumer business,” explained Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
“In our Medical Devices businesses, we continue to make investments to improve performance."
With strong performance across a number of pharmaceutical brands, with worldwide pharmaceutical sales reaching $9.8bn, new US tax laws have also positively impacted both companies’ capabilities within its research and development operations and invest more in the development of new health products.
Long haul Covid, the brain and digital therapies
It is estimated that around 10% of people who get Covid-19 develop long haul Covid, a debilitating condition that can last many months and cause breathlessness, exhaustion and pain.
Research is underway to find out who is more likely to get it and how to treat it. Here neuroplasticity expert and owner of Harley Street Solutions in London Ashok Gupta tells us how the condition affects the brain.
What is long Covid exactly?
Long Covid is when patients who have experienced Covid-19 go on to have continuing symptoms for weeks and months afterwards. These symptoms can include breathlessness, exhaustion, brain fog, gastric issues, pain, and post-exertional malaise. It is estimated that around 10% of Covid-19 infections may result in developing long haul symptoms, and in the USA, this may be affecting over 3 million people.
How does it affect the brain?
Here at our clinic, we hypothesise that it is due to a malfunction in the unconscious brain, creating a conditioned response that keeps the body in a hyper-aroused state of defensiveness. At the core of this hypothesis is the idea that we are here because our nervous system and immune system have evolved to survive. We are survival machines!
When we encounter something such as Covid-19, the brain perceives it as life threatening, and rightly so. And in the era of the pandemic, with more stress, anxiety and social isolation, our immunity may be compromised, and therefore it may take longer for the immune system to fight off the virus and recover.
If the brain makes the decision that this is potentially life threatening and we get to the stage where we’re overcoming the virus, a legacy is left in the brain; it keeps over-responding to anything that reminds us of the virus. Even if we’ve fought off the virus, the brain will react in a precautionary way to stimuli reminiscent of the virus.
The brain may get stuck in that overprotective response, and keeps stimulating our nervous system and our immune system, just in case the virus may still be present.
What symptoms does this cause?
These signals cause a cascade of symptoms including breathlessness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and many others. And these are caused by our own immunes system.
In the case of long-haul Covid, symptoms in the body get detected by a hypersensitive brain which thinks we’re still in danger. The brain then chronically stimulates the immune and nervous systems, and then we have a continuation of a chronic set of symptoms.
This isn’t unique to long-haul Covid. Many patients develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as “ME”, for example, after the flu, a stomach bug, or respiratory illness. Covid-19 may be a severe trigger of a form of chronic fatigue syndrome or ME.
How does long-haul Covid affect mental health?
Anxiety is a very common symptom in long haulers. It can be frightening to wonder about what may be happening in your body, and what the prognosis is going to be for one’s long term health. Reaching out for support for mental health is crucial for long-haulers.
How does neuroplasticity treatment work for long-haul COVID patients?
We have been working with patients for two decades with a brain retraining programme using neuroplasticity or “limbic retraining.”
We believe that through neural rewiring, the brain can be “persuaded” that we are no longer in danger and to come back to homeostasis. But to be very clear, we are not saying it is psychological in any way, but we believe there are novel ways of accessing the unconscious brain.
We recently worked successfully with a 56-year-old male with long-haul Covid, who prior to contracting Covid-19 in March of 2020 was running half-marathons and cycling, but afterwards he struggled to get off the sofa for months. Within 3 months he’s now back to 100% and running half marathons again.
At our clinic, we train the patient to be able to recognise those subtle unconscious danger signals on the periphery of consciousness. This, coupled with supportive techniques and the natural hallmarks of good health such as sleep and diet help prepare the patient to respond to perceived threats that might trigger the response.
The natural state of our brain is to default to protection. The brain prioritises survival and passing on our genes to the next generation, over any other impulse. It cares more about that than you feeling healthy and well. Protective responses are evolutionary, and are the right thing for the brain to do – it’s survival.
What digital therapies or apps are proving effective at treating long-haul Covid?
It seems that long haul patients are availing themselves of many online therapies and services, including meditation apps and wellness websites. We have an online neuroplasticity “brain retraining” video course called the “Gupta Program” which hosts 15 interactive videos and many audio exercises. This is proving very popular with long haul patients, and we are currently conducting a trial to test the effectiveness of this therapy.
What is the danger of leaving long-haul Covid untreated?
The longer it goes untreated, we hypothesise that it may become more entrenched in the brain, and become chronic in the longer term. Therefore we advise all patients to get help and advice as soon as possible.