HPM Department News

Hernandez says experimental medicines for COVID-19 could help someday, but home runs not guaranteed

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WBHM - This proof-of concept study suggests that the strategy of blocking virus with antibodies holds promise. Inmaculada “Inma” Hernandez (HPM ’16), Pitt School of Pharmacy, is hopeful, but she doubts that these drugs will be a game-changer. “These drugs are so complex to produce, probably we will not have antibodies available for treating everybody who gets coronavirus. They’re probably going to be considerably expensive.”  

Jalal research shows fatal overdoses in U.S. rebounded in 2019

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TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT – “We are concerned that policymakers may have interpreted the one-year downturn in 2018 as evidence for an especially effective national response or the start of a long-term trend,” said lead author Hawre Jalal, HPM. “Unfortunately, that isn’t supported by the data.” The data suggests there has been a 5.6 percent increase in fatal overdoses nationwide since 2018.  

Roberts on COVID-19 in Pittsburgh: A timeline of the first six months

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - "We had a pretty good early run," said HPM Chair Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab. "If you look at the graph of cases over time, back in April, we were doing pretty well with surprisingly few cases." The peak day of the early months of COVID-19 came with 73 new cases on April 3 - a number that would be considered an average day today.   

Hershey on how courts may reconsider temporary coronavirus restrictions as pandemic drags on

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WASHINGTON POST – HPM's Tina Batra Hershey agrees that there's a need for executive administrations to “provide clear and transparent communications about what they’re doing, to ensure that there is a tailored response.” That might mean articulating what steps will be taken to measure whether restrictions are working and when they can be lifted, she said. “I think the judiciary will require more from the executive.”  

Mark Roberts appointed to the rank of distinguished professor

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HPM's Mark Roberts has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Roberts is Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL). In addition to his academic appointments, Dr. Roberts has held many administrative appointments, such as Director of the Institute of Clinical Research Education (ICRE) from 2007 to 2010, Senior Medical Dir... 

Steroids can save lives among COVID-19 patients, UPMC and Pitt researchers say

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NPR – Pitt Medical Center’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92) said that while some worried that steroids could also prevent the body from fighting off the coronavirus, all the coordinated studies reached the same conclusion, which is, I guess we have to stop our trials. It is reassuring that we can get randomized trials executed successfully and rapidly in the face of a pandemic, and it definitely puts us on a sure footing.  

Angus says large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts

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LOS ANGELES TIMES – A comprehensive study from Iceland revealed that natural antibodies remained stable for four months, longer than was first thought. HPM’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92), UPMC’s critical care chief, said that “will be encouraging for people working on vaccines.” He added that the infection fatality rate of 0.3 percent is in keeping with recent estimates here in the U.S.  

Is pharma’s counteroffer enough? Gellad questions the proposal.

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POLITICO - The feedback: “Not only do voluntary discounts not last long, but discounts do nothing to address the prices of drugs that come out after any discount goes into place,” tweeted HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. “Also, what is a 10 percent discount when list prices increases by 9.9 percent a year?”  

Gellad says the FDA ‘grossly misrepresented’ plasma data

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NEW YORK TIMES – Many experts were bewildered about where a key statistic came from. HPM's Walid Gellad, who leads Pitt’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, said, “For the first time ever, I feel like official people in communications and people at the F.D.A. grossly misrepresented data about a therapy.” Millions will rely on the FDA' judgement. “That’s a problem if they’re starting to exaggerate data.”  

Angus has new questions about remdesivir COVID-19 efficacy

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REUTERS - HPM’s Derek Angus (BCHS '92) and Pitt's Erin McCreary coauthored a study editorial raising questions about whether some patients get more benefit from remdesivir than others and whether it matters if patients receive remdesivir and steroids together. It is still possible that remdesivir could improve recovery for millions of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, they added, but more research is needed before that becomes clear.  

Telemedicine is booming — but Roberts says many still face huge barriers to virtual care

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STAT - “The temporary reform due to Covid allowed telemedicine visits from a patient’s home, but it presumed that patients had access to the technology to engage in those visits,” said HPM’s Eric Roberts, paper co-author. “We’re showing that there’s a substantial number of Medicare beneficiaries who lack access to that technology… a very vulnerable population both in terms of their health profile and their economic profile.”  

How to organize science in an emergency? Gellad has slammed U.S. leadership.

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SLATE – Since January, researchers hoping to fight COVID-19 have designed a stunning 1,200 clinical trials, but the effort has been marked by disorder and disorganization, with huge financial resources wasted. Applying history lessons to today, HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, slammed U.S. leadership for failing to set a clear clinical trial agenda.  

Angus says “Covid vaccine shortages are very likely. Without a plan, it will be a feeding frenzy.”

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THE TELEGRAPH - Derek Angus (BCHS '92), chair of critical care medicine and HPM distinguished professor, says hard conversations about who should be prioritized will be needed both within and between countries. It might be decided that frontline workers should be at the head of the queue, but you could say that minorities who have a disproportionate burden of the disease should have a chance. You must be transparent about your principles of fair... 

Study Asserts School Closures in the Spring Saved Lives, but Donohue has questions

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NEW YORK TIMES - “We really can’t isolate the impact of school closures from other interventions,” said HPM’s Julie Donohue. “I do worry that these large estimates of the effect of school closures will lead people to give up because it is going to be challenging to open schools. I do worry that some districts will look at these numbers and say, well, it’s just too hard and it’s not safe to reopen.”  

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

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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.  

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