Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

We're less than two weeks away from the 2020 STAT Summit, where some of the biggest names in industry, academia, and policy will discuss how the pandemic has reshaped health and medicine — and where things go next. Speakers include Bill Gates, Chelsea Clinton, Jennifer Doudna, and Anthony Fauci. Join us

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is strongly effective, trial data show

Pfizer and BioNTech announced this morning that their Covid-19 vaccine was strongly effective, results that exceeded expectations and are the first late-stage data among several candidates in development. An early analysis of the results, the companies said, showed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo. Researchers have been cautioning for months that a vaccine may only be 60%-70% effective. The Phase 3 study has not concluded, and additional data may change the results. The companies also said they are not yet filing for an emergency use authorization with the FDA. Read more.

President-elect Biden announces Covid-19 task force today

President-elect Joe Biden just announced a coronavirus task force made up of scientific experts and advisers. The 13-person task force includes people who had already been advising the Biden campaign, such as former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, and Yale physician-researcher Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will all serve as co-chairs. Other members include former BARDA director Rick Bright as well as surgeon and prolific author Atul Gawande. Biden has promised that the plan from the task force will be "built on bedrock science," but his allies have indicated that Biden will likely exercise caution in using the bully pulpit of the White House before his inauguration. Experts are concerned that, in the interim, the current administration will take a "scorched-earth approach" to the pandemic and continue downplaying its seriousness. The next 10 weeks, one expert tells STAT, are going to be “very, very scary.”

Alex Trebek dies at 80 of pancreatic cancer

Alex Trebek, the longtime and beloved host of trivia show "Jeopardy!," died from stage 4 pancreatic cancer yesterday at the age of 80. Trebek first shared his diagnosis in March 2019, and regularly kept fans in the loop about his illness. In May that year, he said that he was in remission after his tumors had shrunk by a "mind-boggling" 50%, but was back receiving chemotherapy in September 2019. In March this year, Trebek shared that he was among the 18% of pancreatic cancer patients who survived past the first year, while also being candid about his depression during the process, especially given the bleak statistics associated with this aggressive form of cancer. Only 7% of patients make it to the two-year survival mark, and an even fewer 3% are alive five years after diagnosis. 

Inside STAT: How should people of color get priority for a Covid-19 vaccine?

Latino workers cross the street in the Westlake area by MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. (APU GOMES/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

As the U.S. inches closer to a Covid-19 vaccine approval, the question on many experts' mind is how to ensure its equitable distribution, especially to communities of color. Black, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander individuals have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. And although experts want to prioritize those from these communities, they are also wary of litigation as a result of using race and ethnicity as frameworks to guide vaccine distribution. Health workers would not be allowed to skip a white person in line for a vaccine in favor of a person of color, for instance. But the historic mistreatment of Black individuals and other communities of color by the medical institution may make these people less likely to be among the first to sign up for a vaccine. STAT's Nicholas St. Fleur has more here

As Covid-19 cases spiral, leaders around U.S. lose urgency on prevention

Covid-19 cases and hospitalization rates are spiraling, but experts are worried that federal, state, and local leaders don't seem to be acting with a sense of urgency. Instead of doubling down on widespread measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, state governors and other public officials are relying on individuals to take steps to slow down the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The general public is worn out and tired of safety mandates, some leaders argue, and officials in turn are tired of backlash from trying to implement strict measures. The result, according to experts: "A dangerous combination of fatigue, fatalism, and forfeiture that will only result in more illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths," STAT's Andrew Joseph writes

U.K. expert panel issues recommendations for lower pricing, more innovation for cancer drugs

A group of experts in the U.K. is recommending that the country's National Health Service pay different prices for drugs based on the disease or condition they would be treating. The recommendation from the group — made up of experts from the Institute of Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK as well as representatives from 10 pharma companies — is among a list of nine suggestions to help keep the prices of drugs low while also allowing the NHS to adopt new cancer treatments without them being cost-prohibitive. Among the other recommendations: that the price for a drug be more closely linked to the benefits it actually provides patients, and accelerating research between the public and private sectors into those cancers for which survival rates are still poor. 

What to read around the web today

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Monday, November 9, 2020


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