HPM Faculty News

Roberts on whether the U.S. is entering a fourth wave of COVID-19

TIME - Public health experts are worried that the country is headed for a fourth major spike. There's good reason to think this one might be less disastrous than the previous three. HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab, points to the relatively small uptick in deaths as a sign that prioritizing high-risk people for vaccination may be resulting in fewer fatalities even as cases increase.   

Drake on increased federal aid to combat the opioid epidemic

PGH POST GAZETTE – An increase in federal aid means Pennsylvania has more money to spend on the opioid crisis and with fewer restrictions. HPM's Coleman Drake says easing access to medicine is an important part of continuing to make headway, noting that these benefits have been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I suspect we’ll find that these changes have some positive effects, and I hope the administration doesn’t close the spigot.”  

Discarded drugs: a wasteful and costly problem that requires whole-of-government approaches

STAT FIRST OPINION —  HPM chair Julie Donohue and National Academies colleagues advocate for a “whole of government” approach to reforming the biopharmaceutical supply chain: Drug developers, manufacturers, clinicians, payers, and policymakers should focus on reducing system inefficiencies in drug development, delivery, and payment that result in discarded drugs, rather than on trying to recover the financial worth of the unused portion.  

Johnson & Johnson vaccine could get green light on Thursday

WTAE NEWS — According to its trials, Johnson & Johnson was about 25% less effective than the two vaccines already on the market at preventing someone from getting COVID-19. But HPM professor Mark Roberts said Johnson & Johnson is just as effective as the other two at preventing serious illness. "When you look at the data for preventing serious disease, and preventing death, it’s almost indistinguishable from the Pfizer and Moderna."   

Drake: Next year, extend open enrollment of the ACA Marketplaces into January

HEALTH AFFAIRS - HPM's Coleman Drake and Duke University colleague David Anderson say that by offering an extended open enrollment period, the Biden administration can remove a major administrative burden that often stands in the way of families obtaining health insurance.   

COVID-19 Case counts have started falling in the U.S. This may be why

TIME  About 10% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. “We’re nowhere near where you need to be for herd immunity, even with the combination of vaccination and the number of people who had the disease,” says HPM's  Mark Roberts , director of Pitt's Public Health Dynamics lab. Each vaccination helps, but it may take months for immunizations to have a dramatic effect on case counts..  

Pitt public health expert sees vaccine distribution issues continuing, but overall COVID-19 situation improving

WTAE PITTSBURGH — HPM's Mark Roberts said this decentralized system where people are calling around to pharmacies and providers on their own is inefficient, but it may be too late to change it. Roberts was optimistic that as more doses become available to providers that the stress surrounding those over 65 will dissipate. "The fact is, it’s getting better. And as more and more, if we’re really going to be able to get 11, 12, 15 million vaccines ... 

Pitt study shows restaurant advertisements linked to weight gain

INSIDE LIFE CHANGING MEDICINE - HPM's Marian Jarlenski and fellow researchers looked at the medical records of patients with various socio-economic statuses and compared them to how much money fast food and casual dining chains spent on marketing per capita in the county where each of the patients lived. Not only did fast food chains spend more money advertising in low-income areas, but as the amount spent on advertising in these communities inc... 

J&J vaccine effective in preventing severe disease; a mother's COVID-19 antibodies may protect newborns

REUTERS -  Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe COVID-19 in a late-stage global trial with nearly 44,000 volunteers that includes regions with worrisome variants of the virus. "Right now, any protection and additional vaccine is great," said HPM's Walid Gellad . "The key is not only overall efficacy but specifically efficacy against severe disease, hospitalization, and death."  

Blame game begins over PA’s slow vaccine rollout

THE EXPRESS — Republicans are faulting the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf for Pa’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout even as Wolf himself says insufficient supply is the real culprit, setting up a fresh political fight over who’s to blame for the frustrations of eligible residents trying to get inoculated. HPM's Mark Roberts, the PHDL director, said it is difficult to blame the state, given the federal government’s primacy in vaccine distribution. ... 

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

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.

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.”  

FDA resists pressure to tweak vaccine dosages to stretch supply

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.  

Doctors say state's mitigation orders will stem hospitalizations

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... 

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