Cancer drugs, though cheaper in the developing world, remain unaffordable in poorer countries

first_img Talia Bronshtein/STAT Source: Global differences in cancer drug prices: A comparative analysis Leave this field empty if you’re human: Many of the countries in the survey have single-payer, government-run health care systems, so those drug costs are coming out of the national treasury, at least in part, as well as from cancer patients who pay some or all of the cost out of pocket.Yet, the sticker prices studied by Goldstein’s team might not perfectly track drug expenditures, because the calculations reflect list prices, not discounted prices. Although drug makers often have discount programs, they are so opaque and difficult to qualify, Goldstein cautioned, that it’s almost impossible to learn what they are.“It’s often a secret,” he said. Cancer patients in the United States may envy the low prices that people in, say, India pay for chemotherapy and other cancer drugs. But in fact, prices are less affordable in low- and middle-income countries, new research shows.And just as poorer countries’ inability to afford HIV/AIDS drugs ignited bitter controversy, the price of cancer drugs “also raises ethical questions,” said Dr. Daniel Goldstein, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago on Monday.“If there are effective cancer therapies available in the West and not in developing countries, it will become a serious issue in coming years,” said Goldstein, an oncologist at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center.advertisement Sharon Begley About the Author Reprints Related: Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. @sxbegle The median price for eight branded cancer drugs such as Avastin and Gleevec ranged from $1,515 in India to $8,694 in the US, the researchers reported. For 15 generics such as docetaxel and paclitaxel, the cost of a month’s supply ranged from $120 in South Africa to $654 in the US.advertisement But US patients were better able to afford the drugs, when “affordability” is calculated as a percentage of per capita gross domestic product required to pay for a month’s supply of the median-priced drug, the study found.Per capita GDP can roughly be thought of as each person’s “share” of a country’s total economic output. By that measure, cancer patients in Australia pay 71 percent of their monthly economic output for a month’s supply of a brand-name cancer drug; it’s 313 percent in India, 286 percent in China, and 192 percent in the US.“The trend we’re seeing is that even though drug prices in India and China are much less than in the US, because their GDP is so much lower, the drugs are significantly less affordable,” Goldstein said.For generics, affordability ranged from 6 percent of monthly per capita GDP in Australia to 8 percent in Israel to 33 percent in India to 48 percent in China. Please enter a valid email address. BusinessCancer drugs, though cheaper in the developing world, remain unaffordable in poorer countries The affordability of cancer drugs remains a problem for many Chinese patients. Eugene Hoshiko/AP Global Differences in Cancer Drug PricesExplore the affordability of brand-name and generic cancer drugs in seven countries with this data visualization. We’ve compared the drug prices to an economics metric known as GDP PPP per capita per month, which stands in for an average individual’s purchasing power. Hover over the data points to see how easy, or hard, it is to afford cancer drugs on a typical monthly income in each country.$0$484$1,091$1,110$2,761$3,319$3,879$4,531GDP PPP ($ per month)IndiaSouth AfricaChinaIsraelUKAustraliaUSPatented drug price as % of GDP PPP100% – monthly GDP PPPGeneric drug price as % of GDP PPP Privacy Policy Sharp rise in cancer drug spending forecast, but access remains a problem Goldstein and his colleagues from four countries calculated the prices of a month’s supply of 23 cancer drugs in Australia, China, India, Israel, South Africa, Great Britain, and the United States. Senior Writer, Science and Discovery (1956-2021) Sharon covered science and discovery. [email protected] By Sharon Begley June 6, 2016 Reprints Tags cancerChinadrug pricesIndialast_img read more

Watch: Keeping the faith: A doctor logs long hours at work while fasting for Ramadan

first_img Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. By Suzanna Masih July 8, 2016 Reprints Balancing work and faith during RamadanVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsEnabledDisabledPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9 facebook twitter Email Link EmbedCopiedLive00:0002:0402:04  Please enter a valid email address. Kharal had to wake up at 3 a.m. some days to get in a meal before the fast, and worked 12- to 14-hour shifts with no sustenance. He even had some days when he was on call 24 hours straight at the hospital.Kharal says being with sick patients, especially during Ramadan, fulfills not only his medical duties but his religious obligations as well.advertisement Imagine not eating or drinking anything from dawn until dusk each day for a month, with no break. Now, imagine doing that as a doctor working long shifts, handling dozens of daily patients who sometimes need intensive medical interventions.This is exactly what Dr. Ghulam Abbas Kharal did this summer.Kharal, a neurology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, observed Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, which ended this week and is obligatory for all Muslims.advertisement Privacy Policycenter_img Leave this field empty if you’re human: VideoWatch: Keeping the faith: A doctor logs long hours at work while fasting for Ramadan During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Dr. Ghulam Abbas Kharal must manage a busy patient schedule without eating or drinking from dawn to dusk. Suzanna Masih/STAT “Fasting every day gives me strength, it challenges me, but each day it makes me stronger, a better person. It makes me become closer to my Lord and to the humanity that I surround,” he said. Tags fastingneurologyramadanlast_img read more

Delivered from death by a ‘miracle,’ a survivor walks gingerly among the living

first_imgEndnotesDelivered from death by a ‘miracle,’ a survivor walks gingerly among the living Privacy Policy Maria Fabrizio for STAT Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. It was June of 2016 and they’d soon leave Hyde School for good, and so they gathered in the old mansion on a rainy night with their classmates and teachers for a tradition known as “the cards are dealt.”One by one their time came and they stood and spoke of their parents’ divorce or a physical setback or a parent’s death, and then explained how they’d played those cards. The ritual calls for them to recognize resilience, to see shelters they’ve already built against adulthood’s storms.At the edge of the group sat a 43-year-old teacher who’d been dealt the worst card. Days before, doctors told Lisa Geller they could no longer treat her endometrial cancer, which had spread with stunning pace. Her supervisor asked if she’d like to address the kids. She spoke last.advertisement “I remember saying — it was really difficult for me — but I felt like my light was not ready to go out. And I don’t think that was bullshit. I don’t think that was me sitting in front of 17- and 18-year-olds trying to make them feel better.”Geller only fell apart once over the next couple of days: during a student performance of the hit song “Good to Be Alive.” But weeks later she was in her parents’ bed with sunlight through the window and the sound of children in the ballfields out back, and she had nothing left.advertisement Tags cancerend of life Geller curled one hand around her mother’s fingers. She was in blinding pain, fogged by painkillers, and tucked into a ball with her rescue dog, Sadie, at her hip.“I want to be buried where Nana is,” she told them. And she told them of her regrets: of never experiencing true love, or career pinnacles or financial security — milestones her peers had achieved in the years she was trying to stay alive.And now it is a year later, and Geller sits at the big window of a Boston cafe with her coffee and pastry, with people stopping in from yoga and shopping, oblivious to the miracle in their midst. She is brightly dressed with blond-tinted hair and colorful glasses. She could pass for 30.About that miracle (even her doctors called it that): “It sounds so cliché, but it was like pouring water on a dead plant and it comes back to life.”Not long after the day in her parents’ bed, Geller’s doctor prescribed a long-shot immunotherapy drug that wasn’t yet approved for her particular cancer, but that has shown some promise in other tumor types. Within two weeks her pain had subsided and her tumors had started melting away, and by the autumn her cancer was gone.And now she is wondering what comes next.“I feel stalled, I guess you’d say. We’re all supposed to be married and in a committed relationship and buy a house and achieve professional success, and that all sort of happens during the seven-year span I’ve been in treatment.“I’m not in crisis anymore, but now I’m faced with dealing with my real issues, missing those milestones.”Considerable obstacles remain. She revisits the trauma of her near-death experience, and confronts the physical damage and scars that remain. She lives in constant fear, fueled by immunotherapy’s short history, that her cancer will return.Because of these new drugs, cancer and palliative care specialists are seeing more people who were dying and then suddenly were not. Some of them never feel the weight of that process, and they lift an eyebrow at those who express anything but gratitude for a second chance. Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Please enter a valid email address. Leave this field empty if you’re human: But for those like Geller, stranded in the liminal state between dying and living, the story is more complicated than perhaps we like our miracles to be.She’s trying to craft a social life around her adopted hometown of Bath, Maine, despite her need to sleep sometimes 15 hours a night because of immunotherapy side effects, and she’s dialing down her goals around 50-hour workweeks.Even with a counselor to help her weave her anger and gratitude into something more manageable, it is a steep challenge.“There’s part of me that feels like I have to say something that I’m struggling with, for people to understand that my normal is a lot different than their normal. And I really struggle with that — with wanting to say, ‘I just want to tell you I’m fucking angry and I’m sad because of the lost time.’”But she doesn’t.Instead she meets her 75 students where they are and then sleeps through the night, and she writes and knits and goes for coffee and drops subtle clues to those around her that she is not who she appears to be. She is someone in waiting: waiting for the next card to be dealt, hoping it is one that might deliver her into the complication of a normal life. Trending Now: By Bob Tedeschi Sept. 12, 2017 Reprintslast_img read more

Purdue’s secret OxyContin papers should be released, appeals court rules

first_img Please enter a valid email address. Andrew Joseph Privacy Policy Leave this field empty if you’re human: The decision comes as Purdue and other prescription opioid makers face an investigation of their marketing practices by a coalition of attorneys general from more than 40 states. In addition, hundreds of cities, counties, tribes, and states have in recent months filed a fresh round of lawsuits against Purdue alleging OxyContin was deceptively marketed; the suit brought by Massachusetts also named the Sackler family as defendants.The documents in Kentucky could shed new light on the allegations made in those cases. In 2007, Purdue paid more than $600 million in fines and three executives pleaded guilty to a criminal charge to resolve a federal investigation that the company falsely claimed OxyContin was less addictive than other narcotics.The three-judge panel in Kentucky heard oral arguments in the case in June 2017. In their ruling Friday, the judges rejected Purdue’s arguments to deny the public access to the records based on Kentucky law.“We have exhaustively examined legal principles underpinning Kentucky’s common law right of access to court records,” they said in the ruling. “We conclude that the Pike Circuit Court’s … order to unseal records is consistent with our analysis and well within the trial court’s discretion.” The ruling stems from a motion filed by STAT in March 2016 to unseal records filed as part of a lawsuit the state of Kentucky brought against Purdue, alleging the company illegally promoted OxyContin. The case was settled in December 2015 when Purdue agreed to pay the state $24 million.As part of the settlement, the Kentucky attorney general agreed to destroy its copies of 17 million pages of documents produced during the eight-year legal battle.But some of the same documents remained in a sealed file in a rural Eastern Kentucky courthouse. At the request of STAT, the judge in that case ordered the unsealing of the marketing documents filed with the court, as well as the deposition of Sackler.“The court sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs wrote in a May 2016 ruling. General Assignment Reporter Andrew covers a range of topics, from addiction to public health to genetics. About the Authors Reprints Related: STAT goes to court to unseal records of OxyContin maker Purdue lawyers urged the appeals court during a June 2017 hearing to overturn the decision by Combs, arguing the judge did not have the discretion to order the release of the records. The company’s lawyers also contended that the documents sought by STAT were not relied upon by the court in approving the settlement of the lawsuit brought by Kentucky and were therefore not “judicial documents” subject to public release.STAT’s lawyers argued that Combs’ decision was based on “well-settled law” and that judges in the state are given “tremendous deference” when it comes to decisions regarding public access to court records. STAT was represented by Jon Fleischaker of Kaplan & Partners and Jeremy Rogers of Dinsmore & Shohl, both in Louisville, Ky.“Really what the court is saying is these are public records,” Fleischaker said Friday. “The public has an interest in them, and the public has a right to them.”He added that he’s received calls about the case from other private attorneys, as well as officials from government agencies. Related: The appeals court supported that reasoning. The opinion by Judge Glenn Acree noted that the attorney general reached the settlement and agreed with Purdue to seal the court records. Acree wrote: “Without access to court records, how can the public assess whether a government employee’s decision to compromise a valuable claim of the people adequately protected their interest or maximized the claim’s value?”The deposition of Sackler, taken in 2015 in Kentucky, is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the marketing of OxyContin and the addictive properties of the pain reliever. Richard Sackler played a key role at the company over three decades, serving as president and co-chairman of the board.His father, Raymond, founded Purdue with his two brothers in 1952. Several members of the family continue to serve on the board of directors. All of the company’s profits, including the billions of dollars from the sale of OxyContin, go to Sackler family trusts and related entities.The family is well-known for its philanthropy, and the Sackler name is affixed to hospitals, universities, and museums across the world.Timeline of the caseMarch 15, 2016: STAT files a legal motion in Kentucky, asking a judge to unseal documents that could provide new information on how Purdue marketed OxyContin. STAT’s lawyers argued that the public had a constitutional right to the records.May 11, 2016: Pike County Circuit Judge Steven Combs orders the records to be made public. Purdue files an appeal a few days later, putting a hold on the release of the documents.June 26, 2017: The Kentucky Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in the case. STAT argues that trial courts in Kentucky have great discretion to open their files and that this is a matter of enormous public interest. Purdue’s lawyer argues there is no common right of law “to pry into affairs of individual litigants.”Dec. 14, 2018: Kentucky Court of Appeals rules in favor of STAT.As Purdue has come under more scrutiny, it has sought to repair its image. Earlier this year, the company famous for its once aggressive courtship of doctors announced it would cease actively marketing opioid products. A Purdue advertising campaign launched last year highlighted the steps it was taking to help stem the opioid crisis.Purdue has maintained it did not know the risk of addiction OxyContin posed until well after it was approved in 1996, but federal prosecutors discovered in 2006 that company officials had received concerning evidence about the drug soon after it landed on the market, according to the book “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic,” which was excerpted in the New York Times. “We’re tremendously encouraged by this ruling,” said Rick Berke, the executive editor of STAT. “More than two years after we filed this suit, the scourge of opioid addiction has grown worse, and the questions have grown about Purdue’s practices in marketing OxyContin. It is vital that that we all learn as much as possible about the culpability of Purdue, and the consequences of the company’s decisions on the health of Americans.”Click here to read the ruling from the Kentucky Court of AppealsDespite Friday’s ruling, the company records will not be made public immediately. Purdue has the opportunity to decide whether it wants to request another hearing before the appeals court or ask the Supreme Court of Kentucky to overturn the decision. The company has 30 days to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.advertisement Secret trove reveals bold ‘crusade’ to make OxyContin a blockbuster Drug maker thwarted plan to limit OxyContin prescriptions at dawn of opioid epidemic [email protected] @DrewQJoseph A Kentucky appeals court on Friday upheld a judge’s ruling ordering the release of secret records about Purdue Pharma’s marketing of the powerful prescription opioid OxyContin, which has been blamed for helping to seed today’s opioid addiction epidemic.The records under seal include a deposition of Richard Sackler, a former president of Purdue and a member of the family that founded and controls the privately held Connecticut company. Other records include marketing strategies and internal emails about them; documents concerning internal analyses of clinical trials; settlement communications from an earlier criminal case regarding the marketing of OxyContin; and information regarding how sales representatives marketed the drug.The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel is a victory for STAT, which filed a motion more than two years ago to unseal the records — which were stored in a courthouse in a rural county hit hard by overdose deaths. STAT won a lower-court order in May 2016 to release the documents, but after Purdue appealed, the judge stayed that order.advertisement “We’re disappointed with the Court of Appeals’ decision today,” Purdue said in a statement. “The documents in question were never entered into evidence and did not play a role in any judicial decision. Under Kentucky law, such documents should remain private as outlined in the Protective Order with the Commonwealth of Kentucky.“This decision raises important issues under Kentucky law, and we intend to pursue our rights to seek judicial review of the decision.” Douglas Healey/AP By David Armstrong and Andrew Joseph Dec. 14, 2018 Reprints Related: HealthPurdue’s secret OxyContin papers should be released, appeals court rules Newsletters Sign up for Morning Rounds Your daily dose of news in health and medicine. Tags addictionlegalopioidslast_img read more

We wish we’d written that: STAT staffers share their favorite stories of 2018

first_imgDon’t MissWe wish we’d written that: STAT staffers share their favorite stories of 2018 Newsletters Sign up for Weekend Reads Our top picks for great reads, delivered to your inbox each weekend. Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research JournalsWhat These Medical Journals Don’t Reveal: Top Doctors’ Ties to IndustryBy Charles Ornstein and Katie Thomas, ProPublica and The New York TimesFinancial conflicts are seldom called out in medicine. And that stems from something even more insidious: the failure of researchers to fully disclose their financial relationships with pharmaceutical and health care companies when their work is published in medical journals. The New York Times and ProPublica did a masterful job of using publicly available data to spotlight inadequate disclosures by leading clinicians and researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Yale Medical School, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, among others. The reporting also exposed serious lapses by medical journals in vetting these disclosures. Many of the relationships could have been easily detected on a federal database, but no one was looking. They are looking now.— Contributed by Casey RossCrossFit’s “Holy War”: The Rise And Fall Of Its Science CrusaderBy Stephanie M. Lee, BuzzFeed NewsLike so many news events this year, I saw the tweets about the tweets first. Stephanie M. Lee’s thorough profile of CrossFit’s spokesperson seemed to follow them impossibly quickly and is a wonderful example of how to profile a controversial figure.Russell Berger’s comments — which, among other things, called celebrating LGBTQ pride a “sin” — weren’t directly related to the main chunk of the story about the hunt for data discrepancies in a study about CrossFit. But glossing over them would have been a huge omission, particularly because Berger was fired from his position as a result of them.Instead, Lee used the controversial tweets and the fallout as a clear structure for her story; as she writes, with these tweets “[Berger] went from being CrossFit’s greatest defender to its most urgent threat.”Lee’s reporting on industry funding in food and exercise science has been remarkable all year, as have her follow-ups on Brian Wansink and research from his Food and Brand Lab at Cornell. This story was no exception.— Contributed by Kate SheridanThe Comforting Fictions of Dementia CareBy Larissa MacFarquhar, The New YorkerThis gripping narrative lays out the emotional challenges inherent in caring for individuals who have dementia. The beautifully structured piece takes you inside the lives of patients and caregivers as they struggle with the existential question — what actually makes people happy? The story made me question the beliefs I held about how to treat people, and left me with plenty of things to think about.— Contributed by Ike SwetlitzIt’s 4 A.M. The Baby’s Coming. But the Hospital Is 100 Miles Away.By Jack Healy, The New York TimesThis story grabs you right from the first sentence: “A few hours after the only hospital in town shut its doors forever, Kela Abernathy bolted awake at 4:30 a.m., screaming in pain.” Dozens of rural hospitals across the country have shuttered since 2010, and experts estimate that fewer than half of rural counties in the U.S. are home to a hospital that provides obstetric care. This story gives a compelling, critical look at what that means for pregnant women and newborns.— Contributed by Megan Thielking [email protected] 13 Suicide Attempts, 18 Hospitalizations, Few Options: Lost in Tennessee’s Mental Care SystemBy Jessica Bliss and Anita Wadhwani, The TennesseanAn assertion like “Tennessee is 46th among states in access to mental health care” doesn’t exactly rope you in, so The Tennessean brought that statistic to life. This fine-grained portrait of a young woman who has attempted suicide 13 times and been admitted to psychiatric hospitals 18 times for short-term care examines the human toll of a failed and failing system, in particular the revolving-door readmissions due to the lack of follow-up care when someone is discharged after a psychiatric hospitalization.— Contributed by Sharon Begley Privacy Policy It’s been a busy 2018 here at STAT, reporting on the latest on “CRISPR babies,” drug pricing squabbles, IBM Watson, and the ongoing Ebola outbreak, just to name a few. But we, of course, still find the time to see what other journalists are writing — and get jealous we didn’t do it ourselves.So as we take a little breather before 2019 ramps up, we present another year of the stories we wish we would have written.Speaking of jealousy, we must admit we got the idea for this list from Bloomberg Businessweek — so head over there for more great reporting from the year that was.advertisement Exclusive analysis of biopharma, health policy, and the life sciences. 1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 HoursBy Katharine Q. Seeyle, The New York TimesGiven that so much has been written about the opioid crisis, the bar is high for journalism that truly captures how addiction has destroyed families across America. Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times surpassed that high bar. For nearly a year, Seelye and photographer Todd Heisler shadowed Patrick Griffin and his family in Pembroke, N.H., as he tried to stay alive despite his addiction to heroin and fentanyl. In one day alone, Patrick overdosed four times over six hours. Seelye and Heisler were there to witness so many horrible moments, including an intervention in Patrick’s mother’s living room captured by stunning photographs.As Seelye put it, “Most drug users do not die. Far more, like Patrick, are snared for years in a consuming, grinding, unending cycle of addiction.”— Contributed by Rick BerkeOn a Bat’s Wing and a PrayerBy Lena Sun, The Washington PostI was jealous from the get-go. When do you get to placeline an article Bat Cave?Sun and photographer Bonnie Jo Mount travelled to western Uganda with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who are trying to track the movements of a species of fruit bats — Rousettus aegyptiacus — that carry the Marburg virus. Marburg is a cousin of Ebola and as deadly, though Marburg outbreaks are less common, perhaps because the bats that are its source are cave dwellers.The CDC scientists were catching male bats and kitting them up with tracking devices; Sun and Mount went along for the adventure. She takes you into caves pungent with the nostril-burning ammonia of bat guano, which colonies of tens of thousands of bats share with pythons and cobras.Come to think of it, maybe it was better that it was Lena, not me.— Contributed by Helen BranswellThese New Pharma Bros Are Wreaking Havoc on Prescription Drug PricesBy Jared Hopkins and Andrew Martin, BloombergThis story did as much as any other to demonstrate our country’s often absurd system of pricing drugs and the reasons lifesaving prescription medicines sometimes see list price increases as high as 4,116 percent. That was the case with a skin gel manufactured by Novum Pharma, Bloomberg revealed, after a pair of Chicago-based consultants swooped in to revamp the company’s pricing model. Such price hikes became a pattern.Reporters Andrew Martin and Jared Hopkins retraced the consultants’ steps across the country, where they often left behind a trail of sky-high list prices, suspiciously low patient copays, and higher insurance premiums as a result. It’s not just the deeply reported business and policy insight in this piece that stands out. It’s the fact that two Chicago men were able to impact so many businesses and, more importantly, so many patients’ lives — and then simply walk away.— Contributed by Lev FacherThe Promise of Vaping and the Rise of JuulBy Jia Tolentino, The New YorkerYou can’t be a health reporter on Capitol Hill without at some point hearing about the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette youth. Jia Tolentino’s New Yorker article explains in illuminating — and sometimes horrifying — detail how one e-cigarette company, Juul, has become a part of youth subculture and what that means for the future of public health.Tolentino’s ability to energetically explore the brains of teens is a feat in and of itself, but that isn’t the only reason why I wish I wrote this story: It also effortlessly explains the more benevolent reason why companies like Juul were created in the first place, and the difficult choices that now face federal regulators, who want to combat rising youth use of e-cigarettes while also encouraging the use of these products to wean smokers off combustible nicotine. The 8,000 words fly by, I promise.— Contributed by Nicholas Florko Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson STAT+: Trending Now: Leave this field empty if you’re human: How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 MillionBy Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times MagazineAs a science reporter, I probably don’t pay as much attention to what wellness gurus are touting as I should — much of which is ripe for a rigorous gut check. I’m not the target audience, but none of that stuff has ever made sense to me as a consumer, either, with its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-evidence mumbo jumbo. Which explains why this behind-the-curtain look at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has stuck with me for so long. First, it’s hilarious. Second, I have never related to a person more than when Brodesser-Akner describes being trapped in traffic on an airport bus while desperately needing to urinate. But most important — and definitely important for scientists and clinicians to absorb — the piece provides a glimpse at why people are willing to turn to someone like Paltrow (or Dr. Oz, or Andrew Wakefield, or …) for health advice as they turn away from mainstream medicine. The scientific community — including us science journalists — needs to figure this out. The only way to bring people back is to understand why they left in the first place.— Contributed by Andrew JosephPatients’ Drug Options Under Medicaid Heavily Influenced By DrugmakersBy Liz Essley Whyte, Joe Yerardi, and Alison Kodjak, The Center for Public Integrity and NPRMedicaid is notoriously hard to dig into, as health policy subject matter goes — every state’s program has different (and complicated) rules, different disclosure policies, different relationships with transparency. It’s a massive program (so much bigger than Medicare!) but the sheer intricacy of it stops so many reporters from digging in.But, man, look what The Center for Public Integrity and NPR found when they did! This investigation looked at the way the pharmaceutical industry — infamous for its lobbying prowess in Washington — was doing to influence and, in some ways, outright buy votes on the key committees that decide which drugs get preferential treatment by state Medicaid programs. Their reporting yielded eyebrow-raising anecdotes and mind-boggling figures in state after state, again and again — it’s worth your time.— Contributed by Erin MershonHalf-LifeBy Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican and ProPublicaThis maddening story chronicles the life and death of Chad Walde, a worker at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons labs. Walde died last year at age 44 of a brain cancer linked to radiation of the kind he was exposed to for years at his workplace. Before he died, Walde filed a claim for federal benefits — but the government denied responsibility, and Walde and his family were denied compensation. How did that happen? Through her meticulous reporting, Moss paints a damning portrait of Los Alamos as a place besieged with safety problems and shoddy record-keeping. The story is an important piece of accountability journalism — and you won’t soon forget the haunting, heartbreaking scene from Walde’s funeral.— Contributed by Rebecca Robbins STAT staff Bernice Abbott/New York Public Library By STAT staff Dec. 21, 2018 Reprints Please enter a valid email address. About the Author Reprints Story of a Face: How a Transplanted Face Transformed Katie Stubblefield’s LifeBy Joanna Connors, Photos by Lynn Johnson and Maggie Steber, National GeographicAt age 21, Katie Stubblefield was the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant. Photographers Lynn Johnson and Maggie Steber documented this process before, during, and after surgery. Steber photographed tender, quiet moments of Stubblefield and her family in the months leading up to surgery while Johnson captured the surreality of the operating room. This long-term project is a remarkable story spanning science, medicine, and personal narrative.— Contributed by Alissa Ambroseadvertisementlast_img read more

How genetically engineered viruses — and a rotten eggplant — prolonged a teenager’s life

first_img General Assignment Reporter Eric focuses on narrative features, exploring the startling ways that science and medicine affect people’s lives. How the Navy brought a once-derided scientist out of retirement — and into the virus-selling business Privacy Policy Eric Boodman Of the three viruses that helped, Muddy’s origin story is by far the most conventional. After all, scientists have plucked phages from the dirtiest places imaginable and used them as last-ditch therapies before, harnessing the viruses’ natural bacteria-bursting powers to save patients’ lives. The two other viruses, meanwhile, had to go through a kind of reverse domestication — converted, with genetic engineering, from relatively docile microbial parasites into efficient killers of infection.“It is exciting. … This study is the first that we’re aware of using an engineered phage,” said Dave Ousterout, chief scientific officer of Locus Biosciences, a company not involved in the paper that is also working on enhancing the antibacterial capabilities of phages.advertisement While sifting through the vials in his freezer, he also sent out members of his lab to collect yet more soil and sludge. They visited flowerbeds and compost heaps, collected bits of poop from chicken and duck farms.But the only phage they could find that would work came from the freezer. It was Muddy.His concern was that giving a single phage as therapy would allow the bacteria to quickly evolve resistance to it. He needed at least two more, to make a cocktail. “We have one good one,” he remembers thinking. “Where on earth are we going to get anything else?”His team knew that they had other phages that were active against the patient’s bacterial strain — they just weren’t very good at killing it. Some of them slipped peaceably inside its genome; others did a little damage but hardly made a dent in a Petri dish full of bugs. “With a phage that kills efficiently, all the cells are dead,” Hatfull said. “You could read a newspaper through the hole it’s made in the lawn of bacteria.”These ones just made little cloudy spots.So they chose a few of them, and began tinkering with their insides. The technique they used took advantage of the microbial proclivity for rearranging genetic material — “They’re willing and able to exchange their genes,” Hatfull said — to delete the bits of DNA that suppressed these phages’ murderous instincts. Without those pieces, they were free to replicate like crazy, the asexual equivalent of rabbits, causing their host cell to explode. Related: First phage therapy center in the U.S. signals growing acceptance [email protected] For months already, excited whispers about this news have been spreading, with cryptic hints dropped at conferences, rumors passed from biologist to biologist, academic to entrepreneur. “I kept hearing tidbits,” said Jessica Sacher, who runs a directory that connects clinicians and patients looking to try phage therapy as an experimental last resort with the microbiologists who keep collections of the viruses. “Some other researchers were saying, ‘Just wait, there’s going to be the first report of engineered phage in therapy soon.’”But as with all such case reports, the impressive details of how this work was accomplished — on top of the eggplant scraping, it involved a chance encounter in the Republic of Georgia, a close examination of some bird guano, and a loophole in British regulation of genetically modified organisms — make clinicians wonder to what extent the development can be scaled up to help combat the global crisis of antibiotic resistance.“I still have real reservations about whether this kind of approach could be developed into something that could be usable on a large scale,” said Dr. Marcia Goldberg, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The amount of science that needs to go into developing a therapeutic against any single strain is huge.”For the teenager in question, it all began with a double-lung transplant. She’d been born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that clogs the chest with mucus, allowing opportunistic bacteria to invade. The surgery itself, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in London, was uncomplicated, and her doctors had blasted her bloodstream with antibiotics to keep any infections at bay. But the intravenous drugs gave the teenager severe nausea, diarrhea, and anorexia, and had to be stopped.Within a week, the surgical wound became red with infection. It turned out Mycobacterium abscessus, a slow-growing cousin of tuberculosis, was proliferating in her fluids, organs, and skin. The physicians tried all of the antibiotics they could, but the medications caused liver damage and didn’t have much effect. “Imagine your liver enlarging and coming down all the way to your groin area — that’s painful,” said Dr. Helen Spencer, the lung specialist in charge of the case. In the nine months after the transplant, Spencer watched her patient go from a sociable teenager to one who spoke only in monosyllables, if she talked at all. The medical team had no hope that she’d recover. She couldn’t eat. All they could do was to send her home with palliative care, so she could see her friends and her dog as she waited to die.It was at this point that the patient’s mother brought up the idea of phage therapy. Spencer didn’t know much about it, but there was a hospital microbiologist, Dr. James Soothill, who’d worked on the viruses and agreed to help.He knew that phages had been widely tried as therapy in the early 20th century, but that the practice had mostly disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. Back in the 1990s, when there was a small resurgence of interest in the West, he’d traveled to Tbilisi for what he called “a very strange meeting organized by an American startup company.” That’s where he’d first met Graham Hatfull, who studied the genetics of mycobacteria-attacking phages.So, late in 2017, when Spencer told Soothill about this teenager’s desperate situation, he sent an email to Hatfull’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The place had become an international repository for phages through a program Hatfull had helped develop in which college students around the world isolate and identify phages, learning about biology while expanding knowledge about these viruses that thrive by the trillions within and around us. Contributing to the scientific literature, he believes, is a lot easier than most people tend to think. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, you don’t need a Ph.D. — in fact, you don’t need anything,” he said. “You just need to have a scintilla of curiosity and you can come discover something new.”That was how Muddy ended up in his freezer, alongside more than 10,000 other viruses. Now, Hatfull agreed to look for a few that might help the English adolescent, so Soothill shipped him a smudge of the bacteria that was killing her.The trouble is that phages are notoriously picky, infecting only very specific strains of very specific bacteria. And most of Hatfull’s viruses were parasites of Mycobacterium smegmatis, a whole different species from the Mycobacterium abscessus that was multiplying inside the patient. They needed to find viruses that were versatile in exactly the right way. In 2010, an undergraduate in Durban, South Africa, found herself scraping muck from the underside of a partially decomposed eggplant. It was, in a sense, homework. She was taking a University of KwaZulu-Natal course on viruses that attack bacteria, and a semi-rotten vegetable seemed like a good place to find them. The “enriched soil sample,” she wrote, was dark and moist, wriggling with worms and other spineless lovers of decay.The sludge proved lively on a microscopic level, too, and the student had soon picked out exactly what she was looking for: a never-before-described bacteriophage virus that kills certain mycobacteria. She named it Muddy and got on with her life, earning more degrees, landing a job at a communications agency. Muddy, meanwhile, landed in a lab freezer in Pittsburgh — one frost-filigreed tube among thousands.But then, on Wednesday, a paper published in Nature Medicine pulled Muddy and two other viruses out of their frozen obscurity. These bacteriophages, the authors reported, beat back an antibiotic-resistant infection festering inside a 15-year-old in London. The patient wasn’t completely cured, but after more than six months of injections and topical treatments, she’d gone from bed-bound and tube-fed to school-attending and sushi-eating — a remarkable result given that some elements of her “phage therapy” had not previously been tested in humans.advertisement STAT+: Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. @ericboodman Leave this field empty if you’re human: For one of the viruses, they also looked for mutants among the population that proved especially efficient, using a toothpick to select the best killers of the lot.According to Hatfull, it was the fact that they had erased part of the viruses’ genetic code, without adding anything, that allowed them to get those two phages through regulations on genetically modified organisms and send the live cocktail to London, where it was first used on the patient’s external wounds, and then injected into her bloodstream. During the first two days of treatment, she felt sweaty and flushed, but the doctors didn’t find any other side effects.Slowly, the surgical wound on her chest began to close. The redness faded. The infected lumps in her skin flattened out into scars. The bacteria disappeared from her blood serum and her phlegm, the colonies in her organs began to subside. Nearly a year later, the mycobacteria are still present in some of her skin nodules, but she’s eating, writing exams, learning to drive.Spencer worries about the phage resistance they’ve seen when they’ve taken the fluid from the last remaining skin lumps and tested it in the lab, so Hatfull has been looking for new viruses to add into the mix. Exclusive analysis of biopharma, health policy, and the life sciences. As electrifying as the results are for the patient and her family, and as promising as they seem to companies working on similar personalized phage therapies, the story is exactly that: a story, albeit one with careful documentation in photographs, PET scans, and laboratory values. It doesn’t have the weight of a clinical trial.Companies are now trying to develop phage cocktails — some personalized, some pre-packaged, some natural, some engineered — into biologic drugs. Many say that studies in humans are imminent. But it’s still unclear whether the companies will be able to amass the kind of evidence needed to get these treatments approved.To Hatfull, the study doesn’t necessarily mean that other engineered-phage therapies will be easy, effective, or safe. But it does give him hope that phages might help with the worldwide crisis in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which is caused by another bacterium in the same genus. “If you could use phages to simplify, improve, shorten TB therapy, to minimize the chance of antibiotic resistance, then that is a big general impact,” he said. “This case study, it sort of kicks the door open just a little bit.”For Lilli Holst, who’d first unearthed Muddy as an undergraduate, the excitement was more immediate. Hearing that one of her phages may have prolonged someone’s life gave her a “body reverberation kind of feeling.” After all, who expects this kind of news to emerge from a rotten eggplant in your parents’ compost pile? About the Author Reprints A patient’s legacy: Researchers work to make phage therapy less of a long shot Related: By Eric Boodman May 8, 2019 Reprints Related: HealthHow genetically engineered viruses — and a rotten eggplant — prolonged a teenager’s life Please enter a valid email address. Adobe Tags infectious diseaseresearchvirologylast_img read more

Using social distancing to test if technology can solve the loneliness epidemic

first_imgFirst OpinionUsing social distancing to test if technology can solve the loneliness epidemic Tags Coronavirusmental healthpatients Robin Utrecht / SOPA Images/Sipa USA The dangers of diminishing human contact don’t end with mental health. As a physician, I’m struck by an emerging body of evidence that links social isolation to poor physical health. People who are socially isolated are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure, and experience musculoskeletal problems. They’re more susceptible to viral respiratory infections (including, more than likely, Covid-19). They’re also at an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. All told, social isolation increases the odds of dying prematurely — from any cause — by roughly 50%, on a par with smoking, and exceeding the risks of obesity or a sedentary lifestyle. Related: In a time of distancing due to coronavirus, the health threat of loneliness looms Nicole Van Groningen Leave this field empty if you’re human: A new wave of social platforms aim to enhance the quality of our digital interactions by actively eschewing the traditional volume-based constructs of “likes” and “follows.” Ikaria and Cocoon, for instance, are social networks built to include only the special people in our lives and are designed to enhance the quality of these existing relationships. Beyond social media, virtual assistant services like Monaru prompt users to take steps toward deepening connections with loved ones. Even artificial intelligence chatbots and robotic pets have been developed to reduce loneliness, particularly in older individuals, and research on their effectiveness has been promising.Companies that offer technological solutions such as these could leverage the public’s increased demand for their services to test their effectiveness. This could come in the form of measuring loneliness with one of several validated scales before and after a period of use. It could also be done by studying how users interact with the platforms to identify the highest-yield strategies for mitigating loneliness.Researches in public health, psychology, and sociology could offer expertise in collaboration. To expand the availability of digital loneliness solutions, companies might even consider offering some services for free, as other platforms such as fitness websites and streaming services have done. Even more important, they could consider providing additional technological support to older users, who are at highest risk for loneliness but tend to be less digitally inclined.At this point in the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing appears to be our reality for the foreseeable future. Let’s use this time to optimize technology to enhance our collective social health.Nicole Van Groningen, M.D., is an internal medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Before the emergence of Covid-19, conventional wisdom held that the cure for loneliness was intentional disconnection from our phones and devices in favor of good, old-fashioned face time. But now that human congregation is decidedly at odds with the interests of public health, let’s view this as an opportunity to test if we can use technology to help us feel less alone.Video messaging is an obvious option that is within reach for most people, even for those with limited technical literacy. In a 2018 study of older adults, those who used video chat platforms such as Skype and FaceTime had almost half the estimated probability of depressive symptoms — a common byproduct of loneliness — as participants who used text-based communication. The researchers attributed the lower depression rates to the enhanced social and emotional connectedness that video messaging provides.If video messaging isn’t feasible, even vocal communication is preferable to text or email. A study of preteen girls found that after experiencing a stressful event, girls who heard their mothers’ voices experienced a surge in the bonding-hormone oxytocin and a drop in cortisol, a stress hormone. These effects were not observed in girls who were allowed to interact with their mothers only through instant messaging.Social media, though previously linked to a higher rate of loneliness and associated depressive symptoms among its users, may prove effective in combatting loneliness if used wisely. Recent research suggests that how people interact with social media is more important than how much they do. Instead of scrolling through feeds and offering likes, users who share personal thoughts through direct messaging or comments may foster goodwill and kinship in both themselves and their recipients. As the coronavirus spreads exponentially across the United States, widespread social distancing is thought to be our best weapon against rampant transmission. Minimizing human contact can slow the rate of spread — flattening the curve — and avoid a surge of sick patients that would strain our health care system to a point where it cannot effectively care for them. State and local governments have imposed increasingly severe restrictions on the movement of Americans, and have ordered roughly 1 in 5 Americans to stay home.The conundrum is that these mandates — prudent and necessary as they are — are overlaid against the backdrop of an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. Avoiding events, parties, cafes, and even family gatherings is likely to increase social isolation among millions of Americans who already describe themselves as lonely. If the ultimate goal is holistic public wellness, we cannot ignore the unintended consequences of social distancing on other metrics of health.In some ways, social distancing began well before the current coronavirus outbreak. From 1985 to 2009, the average size of an American’s social network, defined by number of confidants, declined by more than one-third. In a recent survey of 10,000 people, about 63% of men and 58% of women qualify as lonely. Considering the tight link between social isolation and depression, it is no surprise that young people today are more depressed than their parents or grandparents.advertisementcenter_img Newsletters Sign up for First Opinion A weekly digest of our opinion column, with insight from industry experts. Privacy Policy Much of our collective loneliness has been attributed to our growing reliance on technology. Social networking apps, online shopping, and on-demand streaming offer opportunities to streamline our lives that seem appealing at first blush but have inexorably reduced the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other. The great paradox of our hyper-connected digital world is that we are actually driving ourselves further apart.advertisement About the Author Reprints @NVanGroningenMD [email protected] By Nicole Van Groningen April 7, 2020 Reprints Please enter a valid email address.last_img read more

Innovent starts China’s first trial of a novel cancer immunotherapy

first_img About the Author Reprints Biotech Innovent starts China’s first trial of a novel cancer immunotherapy Human oral squamous carcinoma cell Anne Weston/Francis Crick Institute/Wellcome Cancer drug developer Innovent Biologics started an early-stage clinical trial for its monoclonal antibody IBI939, the first anti-TIGIT drug to be tested in China.The Suzhou biotech is hoping to develop the antibody into a potential treatment for advanced forms of cancer, either as a monotherapy or in combination with Tyvyt, its approved PD-1 drug for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Log In | Learn More What is it? By Jonathan Chan June 2, 2020 Reprints Unlock this article — plus daily coverage and analysis of the biotech sector — by subscribing to STAT+. First 30 days free. GET STARTED STAT+ is STAT’s premium subscription service for in-depth biotech, pharma, policy, and life science coverage and analysis. Our award-winning team covers news on Wall Street, policy developments in Washington, early science breakthroughs and clinical trial results, and health care disruption in Silicon Valley and beyond. What’s included? [email protected] Daily reporting and analysis The most comprehensive industry coverage from a powerhouse team of reporters Subscriber-only newsletters Daily newsletters to brief you on the most important industry news of the day STAT+ Conversations Weekly opportunities to engage with our reporters and leading industry experts in live video conversations Exclusive industry events Premium access to subscriber-only networking events around the country The best reporters in the industry The most trusted and well-connected newsroom in the health care industry And much more Exclusive interviews with industry leaders, profiles, and premium tools, like our CRISPR Trackr. GET STARTED @JChanPharma Jonathan Chan Tags biotechnologycancerChinaSTAT+last_img read more

Invest in community-based organizations to put health dollars where they are really needed

first_img Related: Leave this field empty if you’re human: With basic needs met, the men can start to address any underlying chronic conditions exacerbated by homelessness and reduce relapses that send them back to the hospital for another costly stay. Through its value-based payment arrangement with AmeriHealth and other plans in the market, Volunteers for America Chesapeake and Carolinas can secure revenue based on successful outcomes.The thousands of community-based organizations in the U.S. represent an untapped source of health care value, waiting to be identified, properly compensated, and scaled up. There is also strong growth in the $500 billion impact investing market, which aims to generate positive social and environmental results along with financial returns. The evolution of value-based payments for human and social service providers will increasingly allow them to tap into the pool of impact capital to expand their footprints.While investors are important to this growing industry, the critical foundational work is being done by managed care and community-based organizations: the former by investing in prevention and reducing low-value health care spending, and the latter by creating more innovative programs where performance is tied to specific and measurable outcomes.Their efforts could be accelerated by continued pressure from state Medicaid agencies in the form of rules, bidding processes, and contracts that encourage managed care organizations to invest in partnerships and programs that focus on holistic health needs and deliver better outcomes at lower cost.In the midst of a pandemic and a surge in unemployment that is rapidly adding to the ranks of the needy, we should seize this opportunity. Redirecting resources to services that clearly drive better health can make big improvements in people’s lives, reduce overall health care spending, and help insulate millions of Americans from this crisis — and others to come.Eric Letsinger is the founder and CEO and Alison Rein is vice president of health and human services at Quantified Ventures, which works with managed care organizations and community-based organizations to create and finance programs that address social determinants of health. [email protected] [email protected] Increases in federal spending have traditionally been viewed as the remedy for this resource shortfall, but those proposals end up competing for scarce discretionary dollars and usually come up short. And if recent events teach us nothing else, we can’t afford a strategy of wait and hope.Instead, we need to see more managed care organizations rewarding community programs that deliver results. When health care companies pay community-based organizations to achieve outcomes, everybody wins: The recipients of the services are healthier and happier, health care spending decreases, and community-based organizations have service contracts that provide the solid financial platform they need to fully meet their missions.The real magic happens when community-based organizations use the income from these service contracts to borrow money, scale up operations, and invest more deeply in the communities they serve. The model can spark a virtuous cycle of payment based on outcomes while creating a revenue engine that is self-sustaining and independent of traditional funding sources.Right now, those with the biggest incentives to partner in this way with community-based organizations are Medicaid managed care organizations. These are health plans that contract with states to provide for the delivery of Medicaid health benefits and additional services at fixed payment rates. As Medicaid managed care organizations assume increasing responsibility for managing the health and cost of Medicaid beneficiaries in 41 states, more are seeking contracts with community-based organizations to increase spending on prevention and reduce spending on “sick care.”This trend is being accelerated by state Medicaid agencies like those in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Ohio that are looking to managed care organizations to invest in solutions that address the underlying causes of poor health, including food and housing insecurity.Covid-19 is putting far more pressure on states, and therefore on managed care organizations, to do more with less. And as jobless claims and Medicaid rolls expand, many of the needs of those new plan members are likely to be best addressed through programs offered by community-based organizations. This should serve as both a wake-up call and a massive opportunity for managed care organizations and community-based organizations to innovate new service and payment models together.That’s what’s happening in Washington, D.C., where the nonprofit Volunteers for America Chesapeake and Carolinas is working with managed care partner AmeriHealth Caritas D.C. to create a new care model for homeless men in which the provider is paid for improving health outcomes for participants and reducing health plan costs. Instead of going back to the streets or a shelter after a hospital stay, plan members are offered temporary housing in a community setting where they can get the medical care needed to recover as well as substance-use counseling and support to access more stable housing. @QuantifiedVTS Medically tailored meals save lives. Health plans should cover their cost First OpinionInvest in community-based organizations to put health dollars where they are really needed Yet programs like these operate on razor-thin margins and are supported by a patchwork of grants, donations, and government contracts that rarely cover actual program costs. This impedes innovation, expansion, and long-term planning. The lack of sustainable funding also inhibits widespread adoption of these solutions as service providers are unable to invest in infrastructure and attract the support of payers who require scale to comfortably contract out their services. Georgette Penzavecchia (left) delivers bags of groceries to a home health care worker caring for a senior in her home in Stamford, Conn. Local government and seniors aid organization SilverSouce have partnered to provide weekly food deliveries to seniors in Stamford to help keep them fed and stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. John Moore/Getty Images @QuantifiedVTS Privacy Policy If it wasn’t already clear that the U.S. does a poor job of investing in things that keep people healthy, the coronavirus crisis and its disproportionate effects on people of color has made this abundantly clear — even though we spend more per capita on health care than any other nation.If we could tie more of that investment to low-cost preventive services that deliver positive health outcomes, we could keep more people healthy in “normal” times as well as during a pandemic. The Trust for America’s Health has estimated that community-based interventions in areas like obesity prevention, wellness screening, asthma prevention, and pedestrian safety could return more than $5 for every dollar invested.Take Meals on Wheels. It provides a crucial service for home-bound seniors in the form of the “More than a Meal” program. By coupling food delivery with a short social visit and check around the home, it has been shown to help seniors avoid expensive trips to the hospital and support their ability to live at home as they desire instead of moving into costly nursing facilities.advertisement About the Authors Reprints Eric Letsinger To change this problematic cycle, we need new ways to channel funding to these underresourced community-based organizations and provide them with the capital they need to expand the essential services they offer, especially to vulnerable populations.advertisement Alison Rein By Eric Letsinger and Alison Rein July 15, 2020 Reprints Please enter a valid email address. Newsletters Sign up for First Opinion A weekly digest of our opinion column, with insight from industry experts. Tags financeMedicaidlast_img read more

Public health group calls for standardized data collection to more clearly track Covid-19

first_img Senior Writer, Infectious Disease Helen covers issues broadly related to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, preparedness, research, and vaccine development. “People are just drowning in case counts and testing numbers, and they’re not seeing what’s really important,” Frieden told STAT in an interview in which he explained the thinking behind the plan. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, which issued the report. Alex Wong/Getty Images Leave this field empty if you’re human: But Frieden said the public has the right to know these key facts, many of which need to be broken down by age, sex, race, and ethnicity.“If — and I admit it’s an if — if we can get states to report this, then we’re going to be in much better shape. And in the absence of strong national leadership, at least being on the same page is … something that can help us get our response to a much better shape,” he said.“What gets measured can get managed. And what gets measured and reported publicly, can absolutely get better,” he said. “Right now, we’re not managing this response well at all.’’Asked why an NGO, not the CDC — which he led through the 2009 flu pandemic —  is trying to rally states to collect standardized, useful data, Frieden sighed.“We are where we are.” By Helen Branswell July 21, 2020 Reprints Related: Actual Covid-19 case count could be 6 to 24 times higher than official estimates, CDC study shows In a new review of the Covid-19 response across the country, a group of public health experts conclude that critical data the public needs to assess their risks and tailor their behaviors is often unavailable.The assessment, released Tuesday by the nongovernmental organization Resolve to Save Lives, calls on states and communities to start recording and sharing standardized data on 15 key metrics, so that people — and health departments — can get a clearer picture of how the response to the pandemic is working in their area.Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve, which is an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, said there is currently both a glut of data and a scarcity of information — a situation that needs to change if the country has any hope of gaining ground against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.advertisement Please enter a valid email address. Privacy Policycenter_img About the Author Reprints Helen Branswell @HelenBranswell More important than the sheer number of Covid-19 tests administered is the number of tests processed within 48 hours, said Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many test results — he estimated maybe as many as three-quarters of tests conducted — are processed days after the swabs were taken. That tells the tested person whether they were infected at the time of testing, but can’t be used as an indicator of their current Covid infection status.advertisement HealthPublic health group calls for standardized data collection to more clearly track Covid-19 Newsletters Sign up for Daily Recap A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day. Other metrics that should be commonly collected and reported, the group said, include daily Covid-19 hospitalization rates per capita in each community and state; the percentage of licensed hospital beds occupied by confirmed or suspected Covid patients; the percentage of new cases among quarantined people; and the percentage of new cases with a known epidemiological link to previously confirmed cases.Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, said the type of standardized data collection and reporting that Resolve is proposing is a key tool for combatting the spread of the virus.“I don’t know how you can judge where you’re at if you don’t have this kind of information,” he said. “I think the information’s not just timely for what’s happening today but it allows you then to plan for what you must do to bring those numbers down tomorrow.’’Frieden acknowledged some state officials may have at least some of the information, but it isn’t being posted because they are afraid to share it for fear of being blamed for the sorry state of the pandemic response. “A lot of these indicators, if we reported them, would be bad,” he said. Tags Coronaviruspublic healthlast_img read more