HPM Faculty News

‘Desperation science’ slows the hunt for coronavirus drugs, but Angus is speeding it up

AP NEWS - HPM’s Derek Angus, UPMC’s critical care chief, is using an innovative study using artificial intelligence to help pick treatments. Forty regional hospitals joined more from the United Kingdom to randomly assign patients to one of dozens of possible treatments, adapting treatments based on the results. If a drug looks like a winner, the computer assigns more people to get it. The system “learns on the fly.  

Roberts breaks down 'herd immunity' strategy to combat novel coronavirus (video)

WTAE NEWS - In the absence of a vaccine, said HPM Chair Mark Roberts, at least 60% of the population must contract and recover from the virus. But 1 percent of COVID-19 cases are fatal. “That’s a huge number of deaths in Allegheny County to achieve herd immunity.” If we continue without vaccine, eventually we will achieve herd immunity, but it comes at a cost of lives lost and overwhelmed hospitals.  

Allegheny County Health Dept. says new COVID-19 cases were among younger people who were traveling, visiting bars and restaurants

WTAE - Officials said the new cases ranged in age from four months to 97 years old, with a median age of 31 years old. HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, says he's concerned about this rise in cases, but at this point doesn't fear a larger spike in cases like other states. "It's not the virus. It's our response to the virus that causes the spike. It's not the virus getting stronger or weaker, it's how we respo... 

University draws on own experts to guide health and safety decisions

PITTWIRE - The new Healthcare Advisory Group, headed by Anantha Shekhar, new senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of Pitt Med, will monitor the health status of the campus and ensure compliance with legal regulations. Members, including HPM’s Mark Roberts, EPI’s Anne Newman, EOH’s Sally Wenzel, will develop recommendations for the Pitt community.  

James reimagines the nursing home industry after COVID-19

NEWMAN TIMES-HERALD – As COVID-19 ravages the U.S., many of the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes are among the most dangerous places to be. Interim Dean Everette James says fixing the situation would require federal law changes that support a “functioning long-term care insurance market,” so more Americans can afford the type of care the wish for in their final years.  

Roberts on agent-based modeling and finding the right balance to easing restrictions

CLEVELAND.COM - Pitt Public Health researchers are monitoring the coronavirus through FRED , which is short for a Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics. The agent-based modeling system uses population data to represent each person in a geographic region. The FRED team is currently researching scenarios for easing social-distancing measures and reopening. The goal is to identify strategies that could be most effective.  

Gellad comments on the therapies being developed to combat the new coronavirus

THE OREGONIAN - Hundreds of COVID-19 treatment drugs are being studied and some experts say scientists should cast a wide net. “I don’t think we want to rule anything out because it sounds out of the ordinary,” said HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of Pitt’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing.  

Gellad on how the info war over chloroquine has slowed Covid-19 science

WIRED – No one really knows if the malarial drug helps fight Covid-19, and an information war is hindering the struggle to find out. Unorthodox research methods and a seeming rush to publication, or even prepublication, is muddiing the situation. Walid Gellad, HPM faculty and head of Pitt's Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, says a French study was low quality in terms of trial design and evidence of whether it works or not.  

Gellad concerned that government researchers changed metric to measure coronavirus drug remdesivir during clinical trial

WASHINGTON POST – “It raises a lot of flags, and it requires a lot of answers,” said HPM’s Walid F. Gellad who also serves as head of Pitt's Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, “especially when people start saying it’s become the standard of care, and all we saw was a news release in a trial with an outcome that was changed two weeks ago. It really is striking.”  

‘Will my county reopen soon?’ Roberts describes factors going into ‘red’ to ‘yellow’ decision

WTAE - HPM’s Mark Roberts said, “We don’t really know how many people have been sick, or have gotten infected and not gotten sick. Since there can be asymptomatic carriers, we need to ramp up testing to determine which counties can reopen. He’ll be looking closely at states that have eased stay-at-home restrictions to see what impact, if any, a limited reopening has.  

Angus says disorganized research slows discovery of COVID-19 treatments

NPR - Pitt Med's Derek Angus (BCHS '92) says the problem is that our system rewards tribalism, with insufficient motivation for effective collaboration. He's leading a fast-track remap trial for COVID-19, part of an international effort involving hundreds of investigators. He has lots of opinions about which drugs might work best, but he'd rather focus on a trial design that can be as modular as possible and let as many people in as possible.  

Gellad agrees that we’re repeating one of the worst mistakes of the Ebola outbreak in the hunt for a coronavirus cure

BUSINESS INSIDER - By the time global health groups agreed on a testing strategy for Ebola, the epidemic had waned and there weren’t enough people to test. HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of Pitt’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, said it’s a legitimate worry that the torrent of studies will compete for the same pool of patients, making it harder to find enough people to test all the drugs.  

Roberts on a decision for re-opening economy

WTAE - HPM’s Mark Roberts said a drop in coronavirus cases means that people are following social distancing guidelines. He thinks President Trump's plan is “reasonable,” but he added, “What we need to do is understand the impact of the decisions we’re making on the disease and on the economy.”  

Angus says the search for coronavirus treatments is jumbled

CNN – The scramble for successful treatments is disjointed and chaotic, according to Pitt Med's Derek Angus (BCHS '92). There are two million people who already have this disease. If even one in 10 has been able to participate in a trial, we could have gone through 100 different drugs by now and known definitively which ones worked or not. The disorder is global, and there aren’t enough tests right now to practice effective public health.  

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