From the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak which sickened more than 1,400 people in the U.S. to autism and vaccines as well as bisphenol A in baby bottles, 2008 certainly generated its share of medical scare stories. We have likely not heard the end of these stories, but experts from different fields of medicine are now sharing their predictions about what we will be seeing more -- or less of -- in 2009.
By and large, the common thread tying together all the specialties in 2009 is the growth of personalized medicine -- a relatively new field in which doctors match therapies to prospective patients based on their genetic make-up. This way they can tell in advance which cancer, arthritis, or heart disease patients will respond to which therapies, eliminating trial and error. Pretty cool stuff.
Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.
But that's not all; 2009 will likely bring the first new drug for gout in over 40 years, a smart insulin pump with a mind of its own, and the beginning of an overhaul of the failing health care system.
Here's what the experts are saying about health predictions for 2009.
Health Care Reform: All Eyes on Obama
Health care reform will take center stage in 2009, says health care economist Karen Davis, PhD, president of The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation in New York City. "For eight years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of uninsured -- and the numbers of underinsured have jumped," she says.
"I definitely think President-elect Obama will seize this opportunity to mend our broken health care system. It is a top priority for him," she tells WebMD. "He will move health reform forward. The question is whether he will do it all at once or in pieces."
For starters, Davis predicts Obama will increase federal support for Medicaid, a government program that helps people with low incomes pay for medical care, and extend the time that people without jobs can hold on to COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986). COBRA currently allows people to keep the health insurance they had through their former employer for up to 18 months.
"It's possible the reauthorization or renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) could also be part of .... Obama's economic stimulus package," Davis predicts. "Stimulating the economy by investing in children's health is good for the productivity of work force."