HPM Department News

UK approves anti-inflammatory drugs to treat sickest Covid-19 patients after strong results in clinical trial

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WASHINGTON POST - Two rheumatoid arthritis drugs that suppress the immune system may help critically ill patients survive Covid-19, providing a benefit even on top of steroids. The results had an unusual path into the public domain—via Twitter—after DSMB monitoring found that the drugs were so effective that it would be unethical to continue giving placebo to critically ill patients according to investigator Derek Angus (BCHS ’92).  

How Democratic wins in Georgia affect the odds on 3 health care policy proposals.

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VOX  - Asked to prognosticate on the likelihood that Democrats will approve Mediate negotiations for prescription drugs, HPM's Walid Gellad puts the odds at 50/50. “I think now you don’t have all those stories about insulin and EpiPen, plus you have positive stories about vaccines and other drugs," Gellad said. "You don’t have as fertile an environment for more extreme drug measures.”  

Head of Allegheny County board of health says highly contagious U.K. variant is likely already in western Pa.

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WESA / WITF — It is likely the new strain of the coronavirus that was first identified in the U.K. is already circulating in Allegheny County, according to the chair of the county’s board of health. “The public health messages don’t change [because of the new strain] … We need to continue to hunker down, follow all the masking, physical distancing, and other mitigation efforts that we’re already doing,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, a Pitt infectious d... 

FDA resists pressure to tweak vaccine dosages to stretch supply

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CENTRE DAILY TIMES—The top U.S. drug regulator is resisting calls to tinker with how COVID-19 vaccines are administered. HPM's Walid Gellad,  who supports stretching out the time between shots, anticipates states ramping up over the next week or two to reach people beyond front-line health care workers. The Pa. health department will begin listing public vaccination sites as early as this week that will serve general public.  

Study finds 35 percent of counties have two or fewer facilities to administer Covid-19 vaccines

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NBC NEWS -  With 200 million vaccine doses due by the end of March, states, and counties have been left to sort out where to send vaccines first and how to get them there. A study found tremendous variation in how far people would need to drive for the vaccine, with 35 percent of counties having two or fewer facilities to administer Covid-19 vaccines. Those with long driving distances between sites and a low number of sites overall “are going to... 

Doctors say state's mitigation orders will stem hospitalizations

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PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES  - Doctors say the state’s new mitigation efforts will help blunt the accelerating Covid-19 cases. “We have to close those down until we get enough of the vaccine around and enough people who are immune to stop the transmission," said HPM's Mark Roberts, adding that there are ways to mitigate the impact on businesses. Pitt’s advanced simulation system, called FRED, shows stricter physical distancing regulations can esse... 

Improving access to maternal care

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POST-GAZETTE - HPM's Marian Jarlenski calls for Medicaid policies to shift from pregnancy-specific benefits and toward a comprehensive approach that enables management of chronic conditions before, between and after pregnancies; enhances the ability to access and use contraception to avoid or delay pregnancy; and allows for people to obtain abortion care when faced with an undesired or medically risky pregnancy.  

Pitt public health expert anticipates surge in COVID cases

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WTAE NEWS — Like ACHD, HPM's Mark Roberts anticipates a surge in cases after Thanksgiving. "I would say that we should start seeing something in the next couple of days," he said. "Right now, the only way we can stop the spread is if people behave in a way that decreases their likelihood of spreading the virus: That’s socially distancing, wearing the mask, washing your hands. All the things that Dr. Bogen is suggesting."  

COVID-19 deaths in PA more than triple what CDC expected a month ago

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ABC27 News — Why were CDC forecasts for the “fall resurgence” of COVID-19 off by so much? Possibly because the biggest variable of all isn’t molecular. “In essence, models that do this kind of prediction, you have to predict human behavior, which is hard,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, who also directs Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. And human behavior, Roberts said, has been unhelpful.  

Trump to FDA: Why is Europe beating us on vaccine?

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POLITICO — A president who preached "America First" is demanding to know why the U.S. could end up third in the global vaccine race. Meanwhile outside public health experts also urge haste as the pandemic worsens. "Every day that goes by is 2,000 people dead. I don't know another circumstance where waiting on drug approval has such an impact on mortality," said HPM's Walid Gellad . "Sometimes in a crisis, you might have to cut corners."  

Al-Ahmadi becomes first woman to serve in leadership position in Saudi government

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ALKALEEJ TODAY – Hanan Bint Abdul Rahim Al-Ahmadi (HPM ’95) was appointed assistant president of the Shoura Council in Saudi Arabia. This appointment elevated her to the third-highest position of the council and made her the first Saudi woman to serve in a leadership position in the Kingdom’s consultative body.  

Monoclonal antibody drugs raise hopes for keeping high-risk COVID-19 patients out of the hospital. But it’s complicated.

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PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER — Monoclonal antibodies are not magic bullets. They must be given intravenously in a hospital or infusion center where COVID-19 poses a particular danger to immune-compromised chemotherapy patients. HPM's Walid Gellad summarizes “We don’t want people running to the emergency room to get this therapy. We don’t want people running to infusion centers, where there are patients with cancer."  

A look inside schools’ reopening decisions, HPM's Donohue weighs in

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TRIB LIVE - HPM's Julie Donohue said certain protocols are critical to stemming potential transmission, naming strategies such as universal mask-wearing, heightened sanitizing and hygiene practices, and “cohorting”—dividing students and staff into distinct groups with minimal interaction between each other—to reduce their number of contacts throughout the day. “It’s an incredibly challenging set of decisions to make,”  

As the pandemic worsens, ‘Please…just stay home’ advises Roberts

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MOUNTAIN STATE SPOTLIGHT -  As COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in West Virginia are rising and the holidays loom, the worst may be ahead. Regardless of all else, the most important thing going forward is our individual behaviors, said Mark Roberts, chairman of health policy and management.    

Richards: 2020 Delta Omega Initiates

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"I am fortunate to truly enjoy my work, as I have come to realize that not everyone can honestly say the same. Two things excite me. First, I look for stories in healthcare data. I get to identify variation in clinical, operational, and financial performance at hospitals and dig deep into their data to create actionable insights that drive change. Second, I manage and develop a broad staff. I get to be somewhat of a chameleon to harness their va... 

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