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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

So much has changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, from the rapid expansion of telemedicine to the race to develop vaccines and therapies for SARS-CoV-2. What does all this mean for the future of health care? We'll be exploring that with top experts at this year's virtual STAT Summit in November. See our list of confirmed speakers and learn how you can join us here.  

A chaotic presidential debate highlights Covid-19 vaccines, ACA, drug prices

President Trump debated last night as if his campaign depends on the approval of a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, echoing dubious claims he’s made in recent months about an authorization, as he’s said, by “a very special date.” At one point, Trump said the directors of the CDC and Operation Warp Speed are “both wrong” on the likely vaccine timeline, pledging that a vaccine is “weeks away.” Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, accused Trump of undermining trust in vaccines — an assertion supported by recent polling. Read more from STAT's Lev Facher, here.

And it wouldn’t be a presidential debate in 2020 without a factually dubious claim about prescription drug prices. Last night, it was Trump’s claim that insulin is “so cheap, it’s like water.“ It's not.

More than 50 women in DRC accuse Ebola aid workers of sexual abuse and exploitation

More than 50 women are accusing aid workers from the WHO and other top NGOs who fought the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of sexual exploitation and abuse, according to an investigation from the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian. Many of the 51 women interviewed shared that during the 2018-2020 crisis in the DRC, men — most of whom were international workers and some of whom were associated with NGOs including UNICEF and World Vision — propositioned the women or forced them to have sex in exchange for jobs such as cooks or cleaners, or retaliated by terminating contracts if the women refused. At least two women said they became pregnant. In a statement, the WHO said it "was outraged" by these reports, that the perpetrators' alleged actions "are unacceptable," and these actions "will be robustly investigated."  

Drug company CEOs to testify today on some of pharma’s most controversial medicines

Today — after an 18-month investigation into drug companies' pricing practices — marks the first day of a two-part House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing with six CEOs. On deck today are executives from Celgene, its parent company Bristol Myers Squibb, and generics maker Teva. The Celgene/BMS leaders are likely to be asked about their multiple myeloma drug Revlemid, which retailed last year for $20,000 for a 28-day supply and which my Washington colleague Nicholas Florko describes as having "been a poster child for so-called bad behavior for years." Teva's introduction of a more convenient version of its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone just before generic forms of the older version came on to market is also likely to raise questions from lawmakers. 

Also happening in D.C. today is a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Covid-19 vaccine safety. A panel of public health experts, including Brown University School of Public Health dean Ashish Jha, will share their thoughts on building public trust as well as proper allocation when a vaccine becomes available. 

Inside STAT: New research shows older adults are still often excluded from clinical trials

For decades, researchers have called out that older adults are largely excluded from clinical trials despite having higher rates of many diseases. This issue has gained more traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, since the virus has disproportionately affected older individuals. Yet, a new analysis shows older adults are likely to be excluded from more than half of Phase 3 Covid-19 trials on A 2019 NIH policy requires investigators applying for funding to plan for accommodating all age groups (or explain why they're not). Still, a recent analysis of nearly 100 cardiovascular trials found a third of them had age limits — the same as before the policy was in place. “It’s imperative that we let patients across all ages have the opportunity to participate in trials and use thoughtful decision-making in who we include and exclude,” clinician-researcher Ethan Ludmir tells STAT’s Pratibha Gopalakrishna. Read more here.

Lack of affordability is major reason individuals are uninsured in the U.S. 

The lack of affordability is the biggest reason why adults in the U.S. don't have insurance, according to new CDC data. Here's more from the report, which looked at data from 2019: 

  • Overall trends: Nearly 15% of U.S. adults ages 18-64 were uninsured last year, and of these, nearly three-quarters said a lack of affordability was their reason for being uninsured. 
  • Reasons for lack of insurance: After cost, 25% of those without insurance reported being ineligible for coverage, while 1 in 5 said they did not want health insurance. Around 18% said the process was too confusing or that they couldn't find a plan that suited their needs. 
  • Demographics: Women were more likely than men to report being uninsured due to a lack of affordability, while men were much more likely to say they didn't need or want insurance. Responses about ineligibility were highest among Hispanic and Black individuals.  

New study examines PTSD risk factors among first responders to a major crisis

First responders to a major crisis may be most likely to experience PTSD if they are older and if they are personally affected by the disaster, a new study finds. Scientists looked at data from more than 56,000 first responders following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 and led to nearly 16,000 deaths. The responders were surveyed several times over the course of six years. Although only a 7% of the study group likely had PTSD overall, being personally affected by the disaster meant a 96% increase in likelihood of PTSD. Those who were deployed as first responders for longer than three months were 75% more likely to have PTSD symptoms than those whose time on the job was less than a month. Those aged 46 or older were more than twice as likely to probably have PTSD than those aged 25 or younger. 

What to read around the web today

  • Germany has its own Dr. Fauci—and actually follows his advice. Bloomberg
  • Many pregnant people aren’t getting flu shots, but these bills could help. The 19th
  • What Trump’s Supreme Court pick could mean for science. Nature
  • Regeneron’s Covid-19 antibody may help non-hospitalized patients recover faster, early data show. STAT
  • The end of deafness. Future Human

Thanks for reading! I'm off for the next few days, but my very kind colleague Kate Sheridan will be bringing you the news as usual. 


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Wednesday, September 30, 2020


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