From The New York Times

Breakthrough Drug for Covid-19 May Be Risky for Mild Cases

June 24, 2020

Scientists in Britain announced a major breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus last week, reporting they had found the first drug to reduce deaths among critically ill Covid-19 patients.

The results were first made public in a sparsely detailed news release. Now the full study, neither peer reviewed nor published yet, has been posted online, and it holds a surprise.

The drug — a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone — does seem to help patients in dire straits, the data suggest. But it also may be risky for patients with milder illness, and the timing of the treatment is critical.

Scientists in Britain announced a major breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus last week, reporting they had found the first drug to reduce deaths among critically ill Covid-19 patients.

The results were first made public in a sparsely detailed news release. Now the full study, neither peer reviewed nor published yet, has been posted online, and it holds a surprise.

The drug — a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone — does seem to help patients in dire straits, the data suggest. But it also may be risky for patients with milder illness, and the timing of the treatment is critical.

The drug “may harm some patients, and we’re not entirely sure which patients those are,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, who was not involved in the research….

Read the full The New York Times article

Trump Administration Selects Five Coronavirus Vaccine Candidates as Finalists

June 3, 2020

The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, senior officials said, a critical step in the White House’s effort to deliver on its promise of being able to start widespread inoculation of Americans by the end of the year.

By winnowing the field in a matter of weeks from a pool of around a dozen companies, the federal government is betting that it can identify the most promising vaccine projects at an early stage, speed along the process of determining which will work and ensure that the winner or winners can be quickly manufactured in huge quantities and distributed across the country.

The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, senior officials said, a critical step in the White House’s effort to deliver on its promise of being able to start widespread inoculation of Americans by the end of the year.

By winnowing the field in a matter of weeks from a pool of around a dozen companies, the federal government is betting that it can identify the most promising vaccine projects at an early stage, speed along the process of determining which will work and ensure that the winner or winners can be quickly manufactured in huge quantities and distributed across the country.

The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, government officials said. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top epidemiologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hinted at the coming action on Tuesday when he told a medical seminar that “by the beginning of 2021 we hope to have a couple of hundred million doses….”

Read the full The New York Times article

Finding, and Curing, Cancers May Be Another Casualty of Coronavirus

May 26, 2020

Our leukemia team just cared for a young woman who had gone to a hospital 50 miles from ours because she wasn’t feeling well. She had delayed seeing a doctor for weeks, fearing that emergency rooms and urgent care clinics were akin to Covid hot zones. She didn’t want to catch the coronavirus if she didn’t already have it.

Some of the symptoms she had — fever, cough, fatigue — are also symptoms of having leukemia. They can also be confused with a coronavirus infection. But because of the pandemic, instead of having blood counts drawn, which are the first clue to detecting underlying leukemia, the well-intended emergency room staff tested her for Covid-19 and admitted her to a “Covid rule-out” unit within their hospital.

Our leukemia team just cared for a young woman who had gone to a hospital 50 miles from ours because she wasn’t feeling well. She had delayed seeing a doctor for weeks, fearing that emergency rooms and urgent care clinics were akin to Covid hot zones. She didn’t want to catch the coronavirus if she didn’t already have it.

Some of the symptoms she had — fever, cough, fatigue — are also symptoms of having leukemia. They can also be confused with a coronavirus infection. But because of the pandemic, instead of having blood counts drawn, which are the first clue to detecting underlying leukemia, the well-intended emergency room staff tested her for Covid-19 and admitted her to a “Covid rule-out” unit within their hospital.

Under normal circumstances, this woman would have undergone blood tests, which would have shown clear signs of a cancer in her blood. She would then have been admitted immediately to a leukemia specialty unit, where the life-threatening consequences of her cancer, which can double in number in as quickly as two to three days, could be taken care of….

Read the full The New York Times article

A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope

May 20, 2020

In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers worldwide are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus — only months after the virus was identified.

Companies like Inovio and Pfizer have begun early tests of candidates in people to determine whether their vaccines are safe. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England are testing vaccines in human subjects, too, and say they could have one ready for emergency use as soon as September.

In a medical research project nearly unrivaled in its ambition and scope, volunteers worldwide are rolling up their sleeves to receive experimental vaccines against the coronavirus — only months after the virus was identified.

Companies like Inovio and Pfizer have begun early tests of candidates in people to determine whether their vaccines are safe. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England are testing vaccines in human subjects, too, and say they could have one ready for emergency use as soon as September.

Moderna on Monday announced encouraging results of a safety trial of its vaccine in eight volunteers. There were no published data, but the news alone kindled hopes and sent the company’s stock soaring….

Read the full The New York Times article

Coronavirus Casts Unwelcome Spotlight on Trump’s Health Secretary

April 29, 2020

Two of President Trump’s top health officials were stewing last month in a drab room at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as Mr. Trump and his health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, were concluding a laboratory tour, one that they had been left off of.

One of the officials, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the surgeon general, was then invited to join the president and the secretary to shake hands. The other, Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was not. Instead, a staff member told the powerful Medicare chief to head to the receiving line with the rank and file. Furious, she left for the airport to catch a commercial flight home to Washington.

Two of President Trump’s top health officials were stewing last month in a drab room at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as Mr. Trump and his health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, were concluding a laboratory tour, one that they had been left off of.

One of the officials, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the surgeon general, was then invited to join the president and the secretary to shake hands. The other, Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was not. Instead, a staff member told the powerful Medicare chief to head to the receiving line with the rank and file. Furious, she left for the airport to catch a commercial flight home to Washington.

The episode from March 6, described by senior administration officials who believed Mr. Azar was behind the snub, illustrated to them why Mr. Azar’s future as secretary of health and human services is a constant question, even as his sprawling department battles the worst public health crisis in a century. Where Mr. Azar goes, personal conflicts seem to follow, senior administration officials say. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services disputed that notion….

Read the full The New York Times article