HPM Department News

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.”  

Hernandez finds price of brand-name drugs has increased 3x faster than inflation

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90.5 WESA – Inmaculada Hernandez (HPM ’16) said what’s concerning is that discounts are often paid directly to insurers. This means people who are un- or under-insured generally don’t benefit from the markdowns. “This is probably increasing disparities in health care access…. We are not doing a good job of protecting patients against increases in co-pays, out-of-pocket costs and certainly those that don’t have insurance.”  

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.”  

Jenn Andrews (MHA ’20), Vizient, Inc. Fellow

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In summer 2020, I will be entering into a fellowship position in downtown Chicago with Vizient, Inc., the nation’s leading healthcare performance improvement company. Vizient has been recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work in Healthcare” (Modern Healthcare) and among “America’s Best Management Consulting Firms” (Forbes). I'm drawn by the emphasis on healthcare informatics & analytics, career development, and the breadth of projects.  

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.  

Hernandez on barriers to biosimilars

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POLITICO - “It comes back to financial incentives,” said Inmaculada Hernandez (HPM ’16), who cited her paper published in JAMA a week ago. Once biosimilars entered the market, list prices for their biologic rivals stagnated while net prices began declining. This shows brand companies were offering bigger rebates to PBMs to try to keep market share away from biosimilars.  

Should schools close during a coronavirus outbreak? The answer isn’t obvious

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BALTIMORE SUN - Pitt researchers used data from the 2009 H1N1 outbreak to model how long schools should close in the case of a pandemic. “What we found was the optimal timing is 8 weeks from a disease transmission” standpoint, said HPM's Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH. Opening schools too soon might leave students vulnerable to infection. The same model might not follow for this outbreak, she warned, and it should be left to local school systems. ... 

Gellad finds U.S. drug prices have risen three times faster than inflation

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U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT - "Net prices are not necessarily what patients pay," said senior author Walid Gellad, HPM faculty and director of the CP3. "A lot of the discount is not going to the patient. We're seeing a lot of discussion that net prices have stabilized over the last few years, and that does appear to be the case. But the stabilization of net price comes on top of large increases over the last decade, many times faster than inflation... 

Multistate investigation of Juul could mean a settlement sooner than later, experts say

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PGH POST-GAZETTE - An investigation agreement by 39 states into Juul, the company blamed for the teenage vaping epidemic, has ramped up pressure to reach a global settlement. “I think at this point we’re at that stage in this process that there is enough feeling that this goes across party lines and is a national problem,” comments HPM's Tina Batra Hershey. Kar-Hai Chu studies social media’s role in the popularity of vaping among teenagers and... 

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