Articles Posted in Testing

drugsinhand-201x300Whoa, Nelly. For Americans stuffing their heads with vague data about potential drugs to treat Covid-19 — including chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, remdesivir, ritonavir, lopinavair, Actemra, Oseltamivir, Ribavirin, Umifenovir, interferon, baricitinib, imatinib, dasatinib, nitazoxanide, camostat mesylate, tocilizumab, sarilumab, bevacizumab, fingolimod, and eculizumab — let’s get a little perspective, please.

Let’s put things simply, especially for most ordinary folks who have no desire to play at being pharmaceutical experts: As of this writing, as noted online in a meta-review by the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, this is the reality about drugs for the novel coronavirus:

 “No proven effective therapies for this virus currently exist.”

covidtestinggapnyt-300x185Public health experts and many politicians agree that the pursuit of any next steps in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic will rely on testing, testing, testing. The nation will need significantly more tests, with faster and better results, that show who is infected now. Further, many, many more people will need to take blood antibody tests to determine who was infected with the disease and may have some level of immunity from it.

This is the problem: Weeks after the novel coronavirus swept the nation, infecting hundreds of thousands and killing thousands, the testing available is too scant, takes too long, and — despite much bloviating and promises — is mired in unacceptable ways.

The gulf between the needed level of testing and what is occurring is Grand Canyon sized (see NYT graphic, based on Harvard University research, above), and this is a giant problem in potentially relaxing Covid-19 restrictions now in place.

hopkinsnursinghome-300x169The news about the institutional care of vulnerable seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic just keeps getting worse in too many unacceptable ways. Just consider:

coronamapjh-300x134As the Covid-19 pandemic slams the United States — with infections exceeding 100,000 and deaths spiking  beyond 2,000 — the battle with the viral outbreak underscores the axiom that a crisis brings out true character, good and bad.

Our highest praise continues to go out to first responders and medical personnel who have demonstrated huge courage and resolve in treating the sick and dying, despite too few resources still and at giant risk to themselves.

Institutions have stepped up to provide valuable information and services, including:

mammographyus-300x240As Americans live longer, clinicians may need to reconsider whether they need to subject older patients to routine screenings that may trigger even more costly, invasive, painful, and unnecessary medical testing and procedures. For women 70 and older, for example, yet more new evidence raises doubts about mammograms designed to detect breast cancers.

As the New York Times reported, researchers in Boston examined 2000-2008 Medicare claims “to follow more than one million women, ages 70 to 84, who had undergone a mammogram.” Quoting Dr. Xabier Garcia-Albéniz, an oncologist and epidemiologist at RTI Health Solutions and lead author of a new observational study of their women subjects:

“They had never had breast cancer and had a ‘high probability,’ based on their medical histories, of living at least 10 more years. ‘That’s the population who will reap the benefit of screening,’ Dr. Garcia-Albéniz said, because it takes 10 years for mammography to show reduced mortality. The researchers divided the subjects into two groups: one that stopped screening, and another that continued having mammograms at least every 15 months. They found that mammograms provided a survival benefit, if a modest one, for women ages 70 to 74. In line with previous research, the study found that annually screening 1,000 women in that age group would result, after 10 years, in one less death from breast cancer. But among the women who were 75 to 84, annual mammograms did not reduce deaths, although they did, predictably, detect more cancer than in the group that discontinued screening. ‘You’re diagnosing more cancer, but that’s not translating to a mortality benefit,’ Dr. Garcia-Albéniz said.”

drugpromotrump-300x178President Trump has stormed past accepted professional practices and triggered alarms about ethical decision making by caregivers, as he persists in his noisy advocacy for treating seriously ill patients with Covid-19 infections with an unproven pair of prescription drugs.

Promoting this drug regimen — on social media and in White House news conferences — has pitted the onetime real estate developer and reality show host with an undergraduate economics degree squarely against Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts at the National Institutes of Health.

They have squared off publicly, with the leader of the free world talking about how he “feels good” about giving patients two, long-used antimalarial drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (aka plaquenil) — while Fauci has insisted such prescribing has no basis now, and, at best, should be subjected to rigorous clinical trial to determine their effectiveness.

faucifacegrimace-300x210Even as Covid-19 wreaked unprecedented harms, there also have been actions that might lead even the most jaded observer to cry out:  What were these people thinking?

The pandemic’s global toll has risen to hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths. The U.S. toll at the end of the third week in March, the New York Times reported, exceeded 21,000 infections and nearly 300 deaths, with 1 in 5 Americans also now living under tough restrictions that have shut non-essential businesses, schools, colleges and universities, restaurants, gyms and health clubs, and sports and cultural events.

In the throes of such calamitous circumstances,  consider:

hhslogo2-150x150The Trump Administration, to its credit, has put out finalized new rules that aim to give patients greater access to and use of their all-important medical records, now mostly captured and contained in electronic form.

Federal officials had to battle a handful of wealthy, powerful corporations that own and install proprietary software and computing systems to try to help patients.

They also instantly created major new concerns with their “interoperability” regulations for doctors and hospitals:

curveflatten-300x175Across the nation, and throughout the DC region, Americans — finally — have started to come to grips with the gravity of a fast-spreading, new respiratory virus’ infections. The novel coronavirus has infected almost 150,000 internationally, killing thousands as part of what now is officially a global pandemic and a national emergency.

Cases of Covid-19 have been detected in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, as public health officials have urged the public to increase safeguards against contracting the disease, notably by staying home and practicing not only hygienic measures (washing their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes, and foregoing handshakes and hugs) but also keeping their distance from others.

Businesses have urged their people to work from home. Schools have shut their doors. Concerts, plays, museums, and cultural events and institutions have closed and canceled. Professional and amateur sports have suspended play. Travel, domestic and international, has screeched to a halt. Panic buying has broken out at groceries and big box warehouse stores.

beck-small-150x150President Trump has made it official: He intends to nominate Nancy B. Beck, a chemical industry insider and a scientist who built a record at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of scaling back safeguards against toxic substances, to lead one of the nation’s top and lately troubled consumer safety watchdogs.

The ascent of Beck to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been anticipated and is unsurprising. It still angered consumer groups and Democrats, who pointed to her record at the EPA, saying it already shows she is ill-suited to put the public’s interest above industry concerns.

As the Washington Post reported:

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