HPM Faculty News

Chaotic search for coronavirus treatments undermines efforts, says Angus

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WASHINGTON POST - “It’s a cacophony—it’s not an orchestra. There’s no conductor,” said Pitt Med and HPM faculty's Derek Angus (BCHS '92), who is leading a covid-19 trial to test multiple therapies. “My heart aches over the complete chaos in the response.” The lack of coordination puts the world at risk of ending up with a raft of inconclusive and conflicting studies and little idea of what interventions work for the next wave of illness.  

Angus comments on first results from Gilead coronavirus drug

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ASSOCIATED PRESS - A dozen patients had serious problems but it’s not clear whether they were from the drug or their disease. UPMC critical care chief and HPM faculty member Derek Angus (BCHS '92) said the recovery rate is good but “there is no way of knowing from this series if the antiviral drug was helpful.”  

Angus on launch of ‘learning while doing’ clinical trial to fast-track testing of coronavirus therapies

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WTAE – “The solution is to find an optimal tradeoff between doing something now, such as prescribing a drug off-label, or waiting until traditional clinical trials are complete,” said Derek Angus (BCHS '92), chair of Pitt Med's Department of Critical Care Medicine. “By building this one-stop solution at the point-of-care, we are rolling out an approach that can assure that every patient admitted with COVID-19 can be enrolled in the program.”  

Roberts says publicly released data doesn't tell full story of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania (video)

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WTAE – “We don’t really know what’s the proportion of people who get the disease that don’t have any symptoms at all, what’s the proportion of people who have mild symptoms, and what’s the proportion of people who have severe symptoms requiring hospitalization,” said Mark Roberts, chair of health policy and management at Pitt Public Health.  

Roberts says projections seem accurate that Pennsylvania is nearing peak of pandemic

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WHYY PHILADELPHIA – Referencing the model used in recent White House briefings, Mark Roberts, HPM chair and director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, said, “It’s a surprisingly accurate model. Their predictions of what today would look like three weeks ago are very good.” The model puts the U.S. about nine days away from the peak of COVID spread.  

Roberts, Pennsylvania’s leading COVID-19 modeler, explains how life might start returning back to normal

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PUBLIC SOURCE - How might we come out of extreme social distancing? Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab, thinks the most interesting option might be relaxing social distancing behaviors based on the ability to know whether the person is immune to the disease or not. We could test and say you are immune and can go back to work. That would be the most accurate way of doing it.  

Roberts says social distancing is our best tool in fighting COVID-19

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90.5 WESA - “If nobody ever went out and nobody ever touched anybody else, this disease could not pass at all,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. He thinks the current restrictions on daily life need to continue for the time being. “If people went about their lives as normal, there would be tens of thousands of cases requiring hospitalization in western Pennsylvania alone.”  

Angus comments on top 10 ICU must-dos for COVID-19

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MEDSCAPE - In an editorial issued just days after these new guidelines, Pitt Med's Derek C. Angus (BCHS '92), who is also an HPM distinguished professor and associate editor with JAMA, and Lamontagne of Canada say these "represent an excellent first step toward optimal, evidence-informed care for patients with COVID-19.”  

Could Pennsylvania’s vacant hotels be turned into coronavirus field hospitals?

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PENN LIVE - “There’s a substantial likelihood we are going to see a surge that might reflect the worst-case scenario,” said HPM's Jeremy Kahn, also professor of critical care medicine. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as too extreme.... I'm a little skeptical this is the most efficient solution." It would be best to move less severe cases before putting critically ill patients “in an ad-hoc ICU at a dorm or hotel.”  

FRED modeling platform predicts high COVID-19 hospitalizations

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - FRED offers frightening predictions about what Pennsylvania residents could face with COVID-19. “These are very scary numbers, and one thing I hope to impress upon people is that this is serious,” said Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab and chair of health policy and management. “Social distancing is seriously important…. There’s hope that further action can drive that prediction downward.”  

Burke on what we can learn about coronavirus from National Geographic author David Quammen’s brilliant book ‘Spillover’

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THE HILL - Epidemiologist Donald Burke emphasized the need to improve the scientific basis to improve readiness: the understanding of which virus groups to watch, the field capabilities to detect spillovers in remote places before they become regional outbreaks, the organizational capacities to control outbreaks before they become pandemics, plus the laboratory tools and skills to recognize known viruses speedily, to characterize new viruses alm... 

Burke responds: Can you get coronavirus twice?

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NEWSWEEK - Experts said that they can’t be certain, based on the limited data there is on SARS-CoV-2 (the germ which causes COVID-19 and shouldn’t be confused with the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus). Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he wasn’t sure, but as SARS-CoV-2 has the same kind of error correction molecular machinery as the virus that causes SARS, “its mutation rate will be slower.”  

Big pharma shied away from gene therapy for years. Gellad talks about how academia picked up the slack.

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BIOPHARMA DIVE - HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at Pitt, said, "The paper, I think, informs discussions about how high prices really need to be in order to encourage private risk taking for gene therapies—it may be a different number than for other drugs that have less late stage involvement by academia and NIH.”  

Hershey explains what ‘social distancing’ actually means

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TRIB LIVE - “The goal (of social distancing) is to stop or slow the spread of infectious disease,” said HPM’s Tina Hershey. Doing so, she said, slows the spread while other public health measures have time to work. “In restricting your own movements, you are going to reduce your individual risk, but you’re also reducing the risk of others who are more vulnerable,” she said.  

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