HPM Department News

Why do COVID death rates seem to be falling? Derek Angus weighs in.

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NATURE - Critical-care physician Derek Angus (BCHS ’92) of the University of Pittsburgh says that his hospital’s statistics team also saw reductions over time. “Without question, we’ve noticed a drop in mortality,” says Angus. “All things being equal, patients have a better chance of getting out alive.”  

Gellad weighs in on implications of latest COVID-19 treatment and vaccine options

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NEW YORK TIMES - “It’s kind of the best times for these therapies to enter, because they can have an impact,” said HPM's Walid F. Gellad, who leads Pitt's Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing. “It’s also the worst time because we don’t have enough doses, and it’s going to add to the backlog of testing.”  

Gilead’s Covid drug win could clog pipeline for other treatments

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BLOOMBERG LAW - The future of Covid-19 treatment research is cloudier after the FDA approved Gilead Sciences Inc.'s remdesivir. The approval solidifies the standard of care for hospitalized virus patients in the U.S. Shortages of remdesivir could slow down the development of other new Covid-19 drugs that might now be required to use it in their clinical trials. The approval doesn’t necessarily block other virus treatments from being authorized, ... 

Gellad criticizes how Science gets political as Trump touts experimental coronavirus drugs

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AXIOS - "We have an emergency use authorization that I want to get signed immediately," Trump said in a video Thursday. "The problem is every therapy for coronavirus has become politicized—every single therapy, and that's the last thing you want in a pandemic, so this is just next in line," said the Department of Health Policy and Management's  Walid Gellad , director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of P... 

Roberts says Gov. Wolf’s restrictions saved many lives

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PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE - Nearly 8,000 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in Pennsylvania. Had fewer restrictions been imposed, that toll likely would have been several times higher, said Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab. “It’s easy to project that there would be two to three times the deaths, at a minimum, with less social distancing.” His team developed a model to estimate the impacts of closings and reopenings.  

Hernandez says experimental medicines for COVID-19 could help someday, but home runs not guaranteed

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WBHM - This proof-of concept study suggests that the strategy of blocking virus with antibodies holds promise. Inmaculada “Inma” Hernandez (HPM ’16), Pitt School of Pharmacy, is hopeful, but she doubts that these drugs will be a game-changer. “These drugs are so complex to produce, probably we will not have antibodies available for treating everybody who gets coronavirus. They’re probably going to be considerably expensive.”  

Jalal research shows fatal overdoses in U.S. rebounded in 2019

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TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT – “We are concerned that policymakers may have interpreted the one-year downturn in 2018 as evidence for an especially effective national response or the start of a long-term trend,” said lead author Hawre Jalal, HPM. “Unfortunately, that isn’t supported by the data.” The data suggests there has been a 5.6 percent increase in fatal overdoses nationwide since 2018.  

Roberts on COVID-19 in Pittsburgh: A timeline of the first six months

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - "We had a pretty good early run," said HPM Chair Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab. "If you look at the graph of cases over time, back in April, we were doing pretty well with surprisingly few cases." The peak day of the early months of COVID-19 came with 73 new cases on April 3 - a number that would be considered an average day today.   

Hershey on how courts may reconsider temporary coronavirus restrictions as pandemic drags on

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WASHINGTON POST – HPM's Tina Batra Hershey agrees that there's a need for executive administrations to “provide clear and transparent communications about what they’re doing, to ensure that there is a tailored response.” That might mean articulating what steps will be taken to measure whether restrictions are working and when they can be lifted, she said. “I think the judiciary will require more from the executive.”  

Mark Roberts appointed to the rank of distinguished professor

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HPM's Mark Roberts has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Roberts is Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL). In addition to his academic appointments, Dr. Roberts has held many administrative appointments, such as Director of the Institute of Clinical Research Education (ICRE) from 2007 to 2010, Senior Medical Dir... 

Steroids can save lives among COVID-19 patients, UPMC and Pitt researchers say

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NPR – Pitt Medical Center’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92) said that while some worried that steroids could also prevent the body from fighting off the coronavirus, all the coordinated studies reached the same conclusion, which is, I guess we have to stop our trials. It is reassuring that we can get randomized trials executed successfully and rapidly in the face of a pandemic, and it definitely puts us on a sure footing.  

Angus says large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts

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LOS ANGELES TIMES – A comprehensive study from Iceland revealed that natural antibodies remained stable for four months, longer than was first thought. HPM’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92), UPMC’s critical care chief, said that “will be encouraging for people working on vaccines.” He added that the infection fatality rate of 0.3 percent is in keeping with recent estimates here in the U.S.  

Is pharma’s counteroffer enough? Gellad questions the proposal.

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POLITICO - The feedback: “Not only do voluntary discounts not last long, but discounts do nothing to address the prices of drugs that come out after any discount goes into place,” tweeted HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. “Also, what is a 10 percent discount when list prices increases by 9.9 percent a year?”  

Gellad says the FDA ‘grossly misrepresented’ plasma data

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NEW YORK TIMES – Many experts were bewildered about where a key statistic came from. HPM's Walid Gellad, who leads Pitt’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, said, “For the first time ever, I feel like official people in communications and people at the F.D.A. grossly misrepresented data about a therapy.” Millions will rely on the FDA' judgement. “That’s a problem if they’re starting to exaggerate data.”  

Angus has new questions about remdesivir COVID-19 efficacy

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REUTERS - HPM’s Derek Angus (BCHS '92) and Pitt's Erin McCreary coauthored a study editorial raising questions about whether some patients get more benefit from remdesivir than others and whether it matters if patients receive remdesivir and steroids together. It is still possible that remdesivir could improve recovery for millions of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, they added, but more research is needed before that becomes clear.  

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