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Health Highlights: Sept. 4, 2014

Comedian Joan Rivers Dead at 81 A Suicide Every 40 Seconds: WHO Pharmacist First to be Charged in Meningitis Outbreak U.S. Will Have Larger Health Care Spending Increases in Coming Years: Report

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Comedian Joan Rivers Dead at 81

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, her daughter Melissa said in a statement.

Rivers was rushed to the hospital Aug. 28 after she stopped breathing while undergoing surgery on her vocal cords at an endoscopy clinic.

She was unconscious and on life support, in critical but stable condition, for a week. On Wednesday, she was moved from intensive care to a private room, USA Today reported.

"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers," Melissa Rivers said in a statement. "She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother."

Rivers, with her trademark "Can we talk?" opening many of her performances, will be remembered by many as a pioneer for women in comedy.

Beginning in the late 1950s, she used an acerbic, self-deprecating style of comedy to win over audiences and later became Johnny Carson's favorite guest host on the "Tonight Show." But that friendship ended in 1986 when Rivers hosted a short-lived, late-night talk show on Fox.

Age didn't dim her energy, as she transformed in recent years into a caustic fashion critic -- her "Fashion Police" show continuing to pull in high ratings, USA Today said.

Speaking to the newspaper at age 77, Rivers said "I love what I do, why should I rest? How lucky am I, doing what I want to do? That's heaven."


A Suicide Every 40 Seconds: WHO

A suicide occurs somewhere in the world every 40 seconds, according to a World Health Organization report.

An analysis of 10 years of data and research from around the world revealed that about 800,000 people kill themselves every year, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 29, BBC News reported.

The report also said that people older than 70 are most likely to commit suicide, and that three times as many men as women die by suicide in richer countries.

Suicide is a "major public health problem," said the WHO, which wants to cut the global suicide rate by 10 percent by 2020. However, it also noted that only 28 countries have a national suicide prevention strategy, BBC News reported.


Pharmacist First to be Charged in Meningitis Outbreak

A pharmacist who worked for a New England pharmacy linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak was arrested Thursday as he tried to board a flight for Hong Kong, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said.

Glenn Adam Chin, was apprehended at Logan International Airport and charged with one count of mail fraud and was expected to appear in federal court Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Chin oversaw the sterile clean rooms at the New England Compounding Center, which has been blamed for a 2012 meningitis outbreak that sickened about 750 people in 20 states and killed 64. The outbreak was caused by a contaminated steroid injections for back pain.

Chin is the first person to be charged in what federal prosecutors said is part of a larger criminal investigation, the AP reported.


U.S. Will Have Larger Health Care Spending Increases in Coming Years: Report

After a few years of slower growth, the pace of health care spending in the United States will speed up again in coming years, according to a federal government report.

Health care spending rose less than 4 percent a year for five straight years, through 2013. The report from the Office of the Actuary says that spending will rise an average of 6 percent a year from 2015 to 2023, the Associated Press reported.

Factors contributing to the higher increases in health care spending include an improving economy, an aging population, and more people with health insurance.

The report said that spending on health care will account for 19.3 percent of the U.S. economy in 2023, compared with 17.2 percent in 2012, according to the AP.

"The period in which health care has accounted for a stable share of economic output is expected to end in 2014, primarily because of the (health care law's) coverage expansions," the government report said.

It noted that about 9 million uninsured people signed up for coverage this year, and another 8 million will be added next year. A larger number of insured people leads to greater demand for, and more spending on, health care services, the AP reported.

While there will be larger yearly increases in health care spending, it will not reach the inflation rates of 7 percent or more a year seen in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the authors of the report published online in the journal Health Affairs.

Between 2016 and 2023, Medicare and Medicaid will see average annual spending increases of 7.3 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The federal, state, and local government share of health care spending will increase from 44 percent in 2012 to 48 percent in 2023, while the share covered by businesses will fall from 21 percent to 19 percent, the AP reported.

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