Viewpoints: What Is The Future Of Telehealth?; Is Aducanumab The Alzheimer’s Answer?
Editorial pages tackle these various public health topics.
What’s Ahead For Telehealth?
Virtual healthcare visits surged during the peak of the pandemic, boosted by regulatory waivers. Telemedicine is here to stay, but in what role? (Mitchell Fong and Dr. Robert Berenson, 6/8)
FDA's Aducanumab Approval Sets Stage For Bigger Breakthroughs
The Food and Drug Administration yanked the fight against Alzheimer’s out of the mire with its approval of the first disease-modifying therapy. Although it’s a modest first step, it paves the way for more momentous breakthroughs. The drug — aducanumab by Biogen and Eisai — is a monoclonal antibody that clears a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from the brain. The drug can’t reverse Alzheimer’s-related damage once amyloid has seized a beachhead and symptoms of the disease emerge. Its promise lies in battling amyloid before it does irreversible harm. (Dana Goldman and Darius Lakdawalla, 6/7)
Approving Biogen's Alzheimer's Drug Aducanumab (Aduhelm) Is Big Mistake
"Follow the science" has been a consistent refrain during the pandemic, and it's usually a core mandate of the Food and Drug Administration in evaluating medicines. But when it came to one of the agency's most consequential decisions — the approval Monday of Biogen Inc.'s controversial Alzheimer's drug aducanumab — science took a back seat. Alzheimer's is a devastating illness with no treatments that do anything but ease symptoms. Biogen's drug is the first said to slow decline. If there was good evidence that it did so, it'd be a breakthrough, but the data is inconclusive at best. And while the FDA is and should be flexible when patients have no options, this decision does more than bend standards — it shatters them. (Max Nisen, 6/7)
Los Angeles Times:
How Science Is Fighting Big Food's Addiction Tactics
Robert Goldstein, a hedge fund manager in New York, was getting huge cravings for sweets when he came across a tropical plant called Gymnema sylvestre that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts. Compounds extracted from the woody vine keep the brain from getting overly excited for sugar by disabling the sweet receptors on the tongue. For an hour or so, brownies and doughnuts and Oreo cookies all taste like putty, which helped Goldstein control his cravings so well that he put the plant’s extract into little white pills, which he named Sweet Defeat. Said one review: “It’s like willpower in a bottle!” (Michael Moss, 6/6)
A Tool Doctors Use Every Day Can Perpetuate Medical Racism
COVID-19 exacerbated various preexisting racial health disparities, which ushered in a racial reckoning in the medical field. As a result, many medical institutions attempted to implement meaningful changes to dismantle systemic racism within their teaching and clinical environments. Yet, a tool used daily by almost every physician, the history of present illness (HPI), may still perpetuate medical racism. (Ashley Andreou, 6/7)
Los Angeles Daily News:
Placing Checks-And-Balances On Public Health Officials
The nation’s public health officials are terribly worried about a virulent new threat. Eight states are already in its grip, and more are teetering toward the abyss. No, it’s not a new COVID variant. The threat that is keeping public health officials awake at night is the rapid spread of new state laws putting limits on the authority of public health officials. A recent report by the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Network for Public Health Law concludes that legislation limiting flexibility or stripping authority from public health officials poses a “threat to life and health” and “violates the constitutional separation of powers.” (Susan Shelley, 6/6)
Scientific Publishing Needs To Embrace The Rapid Correction
Some observers have hailed the response to Covid-19 as a triumph for science. A hesitant triumph, perhaps. Full of missteps and recriminations, frustrations and death. Maybe more a hard-won victory. Scientific outcomes certainly support some optimism. The world has gained a better understanding of the relevant Covid-19 disease processes, assembled a solid clinical research base for managing the disease, and produced multiple vaccines that are driving down infections and deaths. Yet the infrastructure for producing empirical knowledge about the SARS-CoV-2 virus frequently failed, leading to potentially devastating public health consequences. (Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz and James Heathers, 6/8)