Special Report

Top Health Stories to Watch For in 2020

Source: FG Trade / Getty Images

Opioid litigation settlements

The decades-old and ongoing story of drug addiction in the United States may continue to evolve in 2020 to include the litigation of pharmaceutical makers. For the first time in history this year, these drug companies have started to be held accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, an addictive opioid painkiller, agreed in April to pay Oklahoma state $270 million rather than face trial on charges of misleading marketing practices and misrepresentation regarding the drug. By August, the pharmaceutical company agreed to pay up to $12 billion to settle thousands of opioid addiction lawsuits brought against it by states, cities, and counties. In October, two Ohio counties settled with four drug companies — McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and Teva — which agreed to pay a total of $260 million. Nationwide, there are still thousands of ongoing opioid addiction lawsuits.

Source: Courtesy of Beyond Meat / beyondmeat.com

Plant-based meat alternatives

About a decade ago, two different California companies — Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — developed plant-based meat substitute products whose flavor and texture closely approximated actual ground beef. Today, an ever-increasing number of restaurant chains and grocery stores have been adding products made by these companies and smaller competitors.

The Impossible Burger is now sold in more than 17,000 restaurants and appeared in supermarkets in September. Beyond Meat, meanwhile, claims to be in “over 58,000 grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, universities and beyond.” The global plant-based meat, valued at $10 billion in 2018, is expected to reach $31 billion by 2026, according to Reports and Data, a market intelligence and strategic consulting firm.

Source: OlegMalyshev / Getty Images

Products with CBD oil

America may be on the verge of going CBD-crazy. Cannabidiol, or CBD — an active but not psychoactive compound found in marijuana — has been credited with near-magical powers, including fighting everything from acne to depression to Parkinson’s disease. (CBD research is still in its infancy, so whether such products are effective is still unclear.)

According to a new Gallup Poll on CBD use, 14% of U.S. adults (about 1 in 7) use CBD products. Some 40% of those who use CBD products take them for pain of various kinds. The next most common uses are for anxiety (20%). CBD products with extremely low concentrations of the psychoactive compound THC have proliferated since the federal government, after approving the CBD-based seizure medication Epidiolex in 2019, removed CBD from its list of controlled substances. States now regulate CBD products, and most allow their sale. Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota still don’t.

Source: vm / Getty Images

Shortage of primary care physicians

The United States could be facing a severe shortage of doctors by the end of next decade – not enough people are becoming physicians. There could be a nationwide shortage of more than 122,000 medical professionals by 2030, according to research by the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is an increase of about 15% compared to previous projections about the lack of doctors in the near future. In 2017, the AAMC estimated a shortage of up to 105,000 physicians in 2030.

Already,13% of Americans live in counties where a single doctor must serve 2,000 or more residents, according to UnitedHealth Group, an insurance company.

Source: danchooalex / Getty Images

Vaping and lung injuries

2019 was marked by an outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette — and news about their use and risks are likely to make headlines again in 2020. The National Institutes of Health calls the rise in vaping among teens “alarming.” About 37% of 12th-graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017.

Vaping of nicotine, flavored liquids, marijuana, and hash oil have all increased. At least 52 deaths and 2,409 lung injury cases have been confirmed by the CDC as a result of vaping as of Dec. 10, 2019. The agency has identified vitamin E acetate, an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarettes as the possible source of the injury. As much as 82% of the patients reported using THC products.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.