September 26, 2023

The very time period “power illness” would possibly suggest that little modifications — or improves — over time. However there’s a lot percolating on the power illness entrance, from the mysterious (lengthy Covid) to well-known issues. For the tens of millions of individuals in america who’ve a number of power situations, a small scientific stir can result in a huge effect. 

Listed below are three developments we’re watching in 2023:

Weight problems’s new foes

The U.S. has seen a surge in weight problems charges up to now twenty years, with about 42% of adults now having the situation, in response to officers’ latest count. However 2023 might see the beginning of a brand new, tumultuous section within the lengthy wrestle towards weight problems.


Drugmakers are racing to develop novel weight problems remedies, and extra are set to be out there subsequent 12 months. The most recent permitted drug, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, was in shortage this 12 months attributable to manufacturing points, however the firm this week reported all doses are now available to retail pharmacies nationwide. The FDA late final week approved it for teenagers 12 and older, which is more likely to enhance demand for the weekly injection much more. Eli Lilly is anticipating a choice from regulators subsequent 12 months on whether or not to approve certainly one of its medicine, tirzepatide, for weight problems. Pfizer and Amgen are additionally testing merchandise.

A giant query about these remedies is how accessible they’ll be and the way they’ll have an effect on current well being inequities. Many insurers, together with Medicare, don’t at present cowl weight-loss medicine that may be costly. Wegovy, for instance, prices over $1,300 monthly and is taken over the long run, so many sufferers can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket.


One other query is how a lot these drugs will profit sufferers based mostly on well being indicators aside from weight, corresponding to cardiovascular outcomes.

Finally, an extended Covid trial

The beginning of the brand new 12 months will mark nearly three years since Covid-19 broke into the lives of individuals worldwide and began to go away a number of the contaminated with mysterious, lingering well being issues. Not solely did folks postpone routine physician’s appointments, screenings and vaccinations, however lengthy Covid emerged as an apparently new, power situation. An unknown quantity of people that had been wholesome earlier than are newly disabled by power fatigue, immune dysregulation and others of the over 200 signs related to lengthy Covid. 

Thus far, analysis into lengthy Covid has been characterised by stagnation and frustration — extra questions than solutions. Will that change in 2023? RECOVER, the NIH’s $1 billion effort to know the long-term results of Covid, expects to provoke a handful of medical trials within the first half of the brand new 12 months. However partisan battles over NIH funding might threaten the sustainability of that analysis sooner or later. 

Nonetheless to determine: Whether or not folks with lengthy Covid have long-term impacts to their well being, or their signs fade over time. Will some folks have decades-long or lifelong well being issues? And, within the greater image, how does the addition of so many chronically unwell folks change medication, the workforce, main sectors of the financial system, or the best way we view and deal with power situations? Will science and society grow to be resigned to lengthy Covid? 

For some, lengthy Covid may be deadly, in response to a current report from the Nationwide Middle for Well being Statistics. And, as connections emerge between Covid an infection (and, to a lesser diploma, vaccination) and different situations, such as POTS, they increase the chance that the lengthy tail of Covid is kind of lengthy — and sophisticated.

The price of care

Even earlier than historic ranges of inflation, well being care was unaffordable for an unlimited swath of the inhabitants. In 2023, with the financial system standing on the diving board, dialogue round the price of take care of power situations might attain a boiling level. 

Specifically, eyes are on the Inflation Discount Act, and its potential impacts on everything from drug analysis and improvement (stifling, some drugmakers predict) to the price of insulin and other prescription drugs (useful, for some sufferers). 

Instruments tailored from the pandemic, corresponding to telehealth companies, might assist offset some well being care prices, and a number of the prices to sufferers (transportation, missed work, baby care, parking, and so on.) However payers and suppliers are nonetheless determining how finest to handle hybrid care fashions, and states are nonetheless massaging laws round telehealth. Subsequent 12 months might largely decide the place telehealth matches into well being care, and who it serves. 

Take into account the already-astronomical value of power illness care in america: trillions of {dollars} dedicated to diabetes, coronary heart illness, kidney illness, most cancers and different situations, and nonetheless so many individuals unable to entry vital care and coverings. Take into account the pressure of Covid on the well being care system, the decimation of public well being staffing, and the shortage of well being care staff — and the way all these prices make their approach to sufferers. What daring strikes may be made in 2023 to assist scale back the price of care? We’ll see. 

STAT’s protection of power well being points is supported by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Our monetary supporters should not concerned in any selections about our journalism.

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