Latest Morning Briefing Stories
All eyes are on Gilead as the company decides on a price for the only treatment that has so far passed gold-standard trials in treating COVID-19. But experts say the company may be making false assumptions when it comes to setting the cost. Meanwhile, the federal government’s distribution of the drug has been better, but there’s still room for improvement.
The Lancet, one of the world’s top medical journals, retracted an influential study on the potential harms of hydroxychloroquine on Thursday. Just over an hour later, the New England Journal of Medicine did the same with a separate study from the same company. There has been growing concern in the scientific community that the usual process–which can be rigorous and time-consuming–is being compromised in favor of quick answers during the global pandemic.
The data is ”de-identified”, but ethics experts pose questions about a patient’s rights to opt out and what, if anything, is owed to them. The trades help companies develop digital products and services and are worth about $5 million to the Mayo Clinic. Other technology news is on teleheath, new discussions about the future of national patient identifiers and phishing targeting WHO.
“Congress intended these dollars to go to health care providers quickly to combat the pandemic,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s clear that the Trump administration’s distribution of this aid has been poorly targeted and too slow in coming.” Meanwhile, HHS changes its rules for provider relief grants.
More not-so-flattering information is coming to light about the contractors that were awarded government contracts in the early days of the pandemic. In particular, an event planning company that was awarded money to help distribute food to needy families has drawn criticism. Now the firms want to shift the story. In other news on food aid: New York City tries to keep up with surging demand, protests create food deserts in Minneapolis and consumers worry about rising prices.
Brian Miller, the White House lawyer tapped to oversee the Treasury Department’s $500 billion fund, said he will not be influenced by political pressure.
The Gilead-led study involved nearly 600 patients who had moderate pneumonia but did not need oxygen support. There were no deaths among patients on five days of the antiviral drug, two among those on 10 days, and four among patients getting standard care alone.
The FDA authorized the emergency use of six coronavirus at-home collection kits, which could help the country reopen and allow employees to more safely return to work. But after a rocky start, can they really be trusted to give accurate results consistently enough to be effective? Meanwhile, a look at how President Donald Trump’s plan for drive-in testing sites has largely failed.
The New York Times looks at things we know, like that the trauma from the illness will likely be long lasting in severe cases; and things we don’t, like what is the actual death rate. In other scientific news: WHO officials push back on the idea that the virus is weakening; experts offer tips on reading medical articles; doctors report a wide range of neurological symptoms; and more.
Some scientists see the antibody treatment as a way to bridge the gap while a vaccine is being developed. In other pharmaceutical news: the debate over horseshoe crab blood used to test contamination in vaccines heats up, anti-malarial drug debate slides into 2020 campaigns and more.
The report also found that eye gear can help as well, but that no single thing is the perfect solution. Meanwhile, a study reiterates the importance of health care professionals wearing N95s instead of just surgical masks. Other news on protective face coverings focuses on the challenges of kids wearing masks and state leaders’ efforts to secure protective gear.
The number is likely to be an undercount because only 80% of nursing homes submitted their reports. The numbers demonstrate a sobering toll among nursing home staffers, as well, with more than 34,400 getting sick and nearly 450 dying from the coronavirus.
The new drugs are extremely expensive, though. Tagrisso, for example, costs lung cancer patients $150,000 a year. Other cancer news is on a new immunotherapy treatment and positive study results for CAR-T cell treatments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already making clear Republicans will not support an extension of the extra unemployment benefits Congress passed in March. Democrats, on the other hand, want to push it further. Meanwhile, states and cities plead with lawmakers for more aid.
A lack of a national allocation system has created a patchy landscape of unequal testing access. In some places anyone can get a test. In others it’s a struggle. The divide threatens to worsen disparities that are already influencing the crisis. Meanwhile, Japan reports success in bucking the “test, test, test” model that’s being championed by public health experts worldwide. In other news: not everyone is rushing to get a test; should people get one even without symptoms?; costs continue to be a factor even with the promise of a free test; and more.
A ProPublica investigation looks at efforts in the long-term-care industry since the 2016 election to ease federal regulations designed to help eliminate the spread of illness among the most vulnerable patients. News on nursing homes comes from North Carolina, California and Massachusetts, as well.
An analysis by CNN finds that nearly 1 out of every 5 federal contracts for $1 million or more went to first-time contractors. And some had no previous experience producing or procuring personal protective equipment. ProPublica also continues to investigate such government awards, launching a database to track federal pandemic-related purchases.
Most Americans have only received that one $1,200 check. And for those laid off, the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits is set to dry up in the summer. The economic devastation from the pandemic, though, will likely continue on for months if not years, experts say. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New York consider legislation that would allow New York City to borrow $7 billion to pay for the pandemic.
Blood brokers are taking advantage of the high demand for plasma from companies that want to develop antibody tests. “Disease-state” blood for most conditions typically ranges from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per sample. In other scientific news on the virus: ventilation’s role in infections, what’s safe to do this summer, updates on the Kawasaki-like symptoms showing up in kids, and more.
Officials said the state of the economy is too fluid and volatile at the moment to accurately give a forecast. But critics note that President Donald Trump — who has tied his re-election campaign to the health of the economy — is in an election year.