TUE AM News: Research shows Alzheimer’s risk higher for those with Down syndrome; Evers unveils members of prescription drug prices task force

— New research out of UW-Madison finds that adults with Down syndrome are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. 

Lead author Eric Rubenstein is a postdoctoral researcher at the UW-Madison Waisman Center and a coach for the Special Olympics. He says community members aren’t aware of this risk. 

“We hope these population-level estimates raise awareness in the population with Down syndrome,” he said in a release. “As researchers and public health professionals, the prevalence and incidence data show us areas where we need to invest resources in services, treatment and research.”

About one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition in the country. 

Rubenstein says care for individuals with Down syndrome is largely focused on physical health, while mental health can often be overlooked. Improvements in treatment have helped people with Down syndrome live longer lives, but that has revealed a troubling trend: these individuals are at increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age than the rest of the population. 

The study, published yesterday in the scientific journal JAMA Neurology, included 3,000 people aged 21 or older with Down syndrome. It found that by age 55, three in five will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar condition. People without Down syndrome typically aren’t diagnosed with dementia before age 65.

See more: http://www.wisbusiness.com/2019/research-shows-alzheimers-risk-higher-for-those-with-down-syndrome/ 

— Gov. Tony Evers has unveiled the members of a task force aimed at reducing prescription drug prices.

The panel will be chaired by Nathan Houdek, the deputy commissioner for the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. Members include designees representing the state departments of Justice, Health Services, Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Employee Trust Funds as well as a bipartisan group of three lawmakers. 

The 21-person task force will also include 12 private sector representatives from across the health care industry.

The panel is scheduled to meet for the first time on Nov. 20.

See the full list of task force members: http://www.wispolitics.com/2019/gov-evers-announces-appointments-to-governors-task-force-on-reducing-prescription-drug-prices/ 

— State health officials continue to warn against vaping THC products after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that most people who have died from vaping-related injuries used products containing the psychoactive chemical. 

“Knowing that CDC is reporting similar trends across the country shows that the sale and distribution of unregulated THC oils requires further investigation both here in Wisconsin and nationally,” said Dr. John Meiman, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health. 

The state Department of Health Services identified the connection to THC vaping in August, but Friday was the first time the CDC confirmed the link. 

“These conclusions only validate what we have been seeing in Wisconsin for some time, and won’t alter our approach to vigorously investigating all possible leads,” Meiman said in an email.  

Based on data from about half of the 1,600 patients experiencing lung illnesses across the country, CDC says 85 percent reported using products containing THC. Another 10 percent reported only using nicotine vapes. 

DHS previously reported a similar proportion of the Wisconsin cases involved THC. And Meiman says interviews with affected users continue to support that trend. 

The ongoing state-level investigation involves interviews with affected patients, medical record reviews and collection of vaping products for testing by the CDC and FDA. 

“The best advice we can give to the people of Wisconsin is to avoid vaping THC products altogether,” he said. “Until we know more about what particular constituent or aspect of production is responsible for the illnesses, it is simply not safe to vape THC products, period.” 

As of Thursday, DHS was tracking 78 confirmed and probable cases, with 18 more patients under investigation. 

Follow the state’s investigation here: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/outbreaks/index.htm 

— GOP lawmakers are circulating legislation for co-sponsorship that would aim to increase funding for independent living centers, which provide services related to health and employment to people with disabilities and older adults. 

The bill would increase the appropriation to the state Department of Health Services to provide grants to independent living centers. It was authored by Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa. 

According to the memo, the state has eight designated ILCs that are run by a board and staff made up of a majority of people with disabilities. Services provided include:  supporting access to employment, transportation and housing, as well as maintaining or attaining independence. 

The bill’s authors say these centers are facing mounting requirements while funding has remained flat for the past 20 years. They say requests for “core services” have increased 229 percent during that time. 

“Wisconsin’s ILCs are being asked to provide more services, for more people, and these requirements necessitate additional funding to be sustainable,” they wrote in the memo. 

The current funding for ILCs is around $2.9 million, but the bill’s authors claim more than $5.2 million is needed, based on the state’s Plan for Independent Living approved by state and federal agencies. To meet that level of funding, they say another $2.3 million of state funding is needed. 

The deadline for co-sponsorship is Friday, Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

See the co-sponsorship memo: http://wisconsinlobbyists.com/resources/Co-Sponsorship%20Memos/10.25.2019/LRB-4580%20grants%20to%20independent%20living%20centers%20and%20making%20an%20appropriation%20Memo.pdf 

— The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation through Nov. 15 will take applications for the winter cohort of its UpStart entrepreneurship program for women and people of color, organizers recently announced.

The free nine-week program will begin Jan. 21 and end March 24. The classes are held from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in Madison. 

According to the website, UpStart connects participants to area professionals, helps them gain the skills needed to launch a business and helps them establish strategic goals and identify next steps.

Applications can be found here: http://www.warf.org/through-programs-and-events/for-inventors-entrepreneurs-and-researchers/upstart/upstart.cmsx 

See more at Madison Startups: http://www.madisonstartups.com/upstart-winter-2020-applications-open/ 


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