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US Responses to Coronavirus Outbreak Expose Many Flaws in Our Medical System

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The  coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every country in every continent however, after months of the novel advent of novel COVID-19 cases, it has become apparent that the varied clinical responses in this epidemic (and outcomes) have laid bare some of the strong and weak aspects in, both our worldwide capabilities to respond to infectious outbreaks in a global coordinated response and in individual countries’ response to their localized epidemics.

 

Some nations, like Israel, have initiated a coordinated government-private-health system wide action plan and have shown success in limiting both new cases and COVID-19 related deaths.  After the initial Wuhan China outbreak, China closed borders and the government initiated health related procedures including the building of new hospitals. As of writing today, Wuhan has experienced no new cases of COVID-19 for two straight days.

 

However, the response in the US has been perplexing and has highlighted some glaring problems that have been augmented in this crisis, in the view of this writer.    In my view, which has been formulated after social discussion with members in the field ,these issues can be centered on three major areas of deficiencies in the United States that have hindered a rapid and successful response to this current crisis and potential future crises of this nature.

 

 

  1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States
  2. Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry
  3. Socio-geographical inequalities within the US healthcare system

 

1. The mistrust or misunderstanding of science in the United States

 

For the past decade, anyone involved in science, whether directly as active bench scientists, regulatory scientists, scientists involved in science and health policy, or environmental scientists can attest to the constant pressure to not only defend their profession but also to defend the entire scientific process and community from an onslaught of misinformation, mistrust and anxiety toward the field of science.  This can be seen in many of the editorials in scientific publications including the journal Science and Scientific American (as shown below)

 

Stepping Away from Microscopes, Thousands Protest War on Science

Boston rally coincides with annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

byLauren McCauley, staff writer

Responding to the troubling suppression of science under the Trump administration, thousands of scientists, allies, and frontline communities are holding a rally in Boston’s Copley Square on Sunday.

#standupforscience Tweets

 

“Science serves the common good,” reads the call to action. “It protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations.”

It continues: 

But it’s under attack—both science itself, and the unalienable rights that scientists help uphold and protect. 

From the muzzling of scientists and government agencies, to the immigration ban, the deletion of scientific data, and the de-funding of public science, the erosion of our institutions of science is a dangerous direction for our country. Real people and communities bear the brunt of these actions.

The rally was planned to coincide with the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, which draws thousands of science professionals, and is a precursor to the March for Science in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the world on April 22.

 

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/19/stepping-away-microscopes-thousands-protest-war-science

https://images.app.goo.gl/UXizCsX4g5wZjVtz9

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/85438fbe-278d-11e7-928e-3624539060e8

 

 

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) also had marches for public awareness of science and meaningful science policy at their annual conference in Washington, D.C. in 2017 (see here for free recordings of some talks including Joe Biden’s announcement of the Cancer Moonshot program) and also sponsored events such as the Rally for Medical Research.  This patient advocacy effort is led by the cancer clinicians and scientific researchers to rally public support for cancer research for the benefit of those affected by the disease.

Source: https://leadingdiscoveries.aacr.org/cancer-patients-front-and-center/

 

 

     However, some feel that scientists are being too sensitive and that science policy and science-based decision making may not be under that much of a threat in this country. Yet even as some people think that there is no actual war on science and on scientists they realize that the public is not engaged in science and may not be sympathetic to the scientific process or trust scientists’ opinions. 

 

   

From Scientific American: Is There Really a War on Science? People who oppose vaccines, GMOs and climate change evidence may be more anxious than antagonistic

 

Certainly, opponents of genetically modified crops, vaccinations that are required for children and climate science have become louder and more organized in recent times. But opponents typically live in separate camps and protest single issues, not science as a whole, said science historian and philosopher Roberta Millstein of the University of California, Davis. She spoke at a standing-room only panel session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. All the speakers advocated for a scientifically informed citizenry and public policy, and most discouraged broadly applied battle-themed rhetoric.

 

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

 

      In general, it appears to be a major misunderstanding by the public of the scientific process, and principles of scientific discovery, which may be the fault of miscommunication by scientists or agendas which have the goals of subverting or misdirecting public policy decisions from scientific discourse and investigation.

 

This can lead to an information vacuum, which, in this age of rapid social media communication,

can quickly perpetuate misinformation.

 

This perpetuation of misinformation was very evident in a Twitter feed discussion with Dr. Eric Topol, M.D. (cardiologist and Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational  Institute) on the US President’s tweet on the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine based on President Trump referencing a single study in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.  The Twitter thread became a sort of “scientific journal club” with input from international scientists discussing and critiquing the results in the paper.  

 

Please note that when we scientists CRITIQUE a paper it does not mean CRITICIZE it.  A critique is merely an in depth analysis of the results and conclusions with an open discussion on the paper.  This is part of the normal peer review process.

 

Below is the original Tweet by Dr. Eric Topol as well as the ensuing tweet thread

 

https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1241442247133900801?s=20

 

Within the tweet thread it was discussed some of the limitations or study design flaws of the referenced paper leading the scientists in this impromptu discussion that the study could not reasonably conclude that hydroxychloroquine was not a reliable therapeutic for this coronavirus strain.

 

The lesson: The public has to realize CRITIQUE does not mean CRITICISM.

 

Scientific discourse has to occur to allow for the proper critique of results.  When this is allowed science becomes better, more robust, and we protect ourselves from maybe heading down an incorrect path, which may have major impacts on a clinical outcome, in this case.

 

 

2.  Lack of communication and connection between patients and those involved in the healthcare industry

 

In normal times, it is imperative for the patient-physician relationship to be intact in order for the physician to be able to communicate proper information to their patient during and after therapy/care.  In these critical times, this relationship and good communication skills becomes even more important.

 

Recently, I have had multiple communications, either through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets with cancer patients, cancer advocacy groups, and cancer survivorship forums concerning their risks of getting infected with the coronavirus and how they should handle various aspects of their therapy, whether they were currently undergoing therapy or just about to start chemotherapy.  This made me realize that there were a huge subset of patients who were not receiving all the information and support they needed; namely patients who are immunocompromised.

 

These are patients represent

  1. cancer patient undergoing/or about to start chemotherapy
  2. Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs: organ transplant recipients, patients with autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis patients
  3. Patients with immunodeficiency disorders

 

These concerns prompted me to write a posting curating the guidance from National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers to cancer patients concerning their risk to COVID19 (which can be found here).

 

Surprisingly, there were only 14 of the 51 US NCI Cancer Centers which had posted guidance (either there own or from organizations like NCI or the National Cancer Coalition Network (NCCN).  Most of the guidance to patients had stemmed from a paper written by Dr. Markham of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle Washington, the first major US city which was impacted by COVID19.

 

Also I was surprised at the reactions to this posting, with patients and oncologists enthusiastic to discuss concerns around the coronavirus problem.  This led to having additional contact with patients and oncologists who, as I was surprised, are not having these conversations with each other or are totally confused on courses of action during this pandemic.  There was a true need for each party, both patients/caregivers and physicians/oncologists to be able to communicate with each other and disseminate good information.

 

Last night there was a Tweet conversation on Twitter #OTChat sponsored by @OncologyTimes.  A few tweets are included below

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242611841613864960?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242616756658753538?s=20

https://twitter.com/OncologyTimes/status/1242615906846547978?s=20

 

The Lesson:  Rapid Communication of Vital Information in times of stress is crucial in maintaining a good patient/physician relationship and preventing Misinformation.

 

3.  Socio-geographical Inequalities in the US Healthcare System

It has become very clear that the US healthcare system is fractioned and multiple inequalities (based on race, sex, geography, socio-economic status, age) exist across the whole healthcare system.  These inequalities are exacerbated in times of stress, especially when access to care is limited.

 

An example:

 

On May 12, 2015, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Washington, D.C. bound for New York City derailed and wrecked on the Northeast Corridor in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of 238 passengers and 5 crew on board, 8 were killed and over 200 injured, 11 critically. The train was traveling at 102 mph (164 km/h) in a 50 mph (80 km/h) zone of curved tracks when it derailed.[3]

Some of the passengers had to be extricated from the wrecked cars. Many of the passengers and local residents helped first responders during the rescue operation. Five local hospitals treated the injured. The derailment disrupted train service for several days. 

(Source Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Philadelphia_train_derailment)

What was not reported was the difficulties that first responders, namely paramedics had in finding an emergency room capable of taking on the massive load of patients.  In the years prior to this accident, several hospitals, due to monetary reasons, had to close their emergency rooms or reduce them in size. In addition only two in Philadelphia were capable of accepting gun shot victims (Temple University Hospital was the closest to the derailment but one of the emergency rooms which would accept gun shot victims. This was important as Temple University ER, being in North Philadelphia, is usually very busy on any given night.  The stress to the local health system revealed how one disaster could easily overburden many hospitals.

 

Over the past decade many hospitals, especially rural hospitals, have been shuttered or consolidated into bigger health systems.  The graphic below shows this

From Bloomberg: US Hospital Closings Leave Patients with Nowhere to go

 

 

https://images.app.goo.gl/JdZ6UtaG3Ra3EA3J8

 

Note the huge swath of hospital closures in the midwest, especially in rural areas.  This has become an ongoing problem as the health care system deals with rising costs.

 

Lesson:  Epidemic Stresses an already stressed out US healthcare system

 

Please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

for more up-to-date scientific, clinical information as well as persona stories, videos, interviews and economic impact analyses

and @pharma_BI

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Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 3/20/2020

Among the people who are identified at risk of coronovirus 2019 infection and complications of the virus include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who in general, can be immunosuppressed, especially while patients are undergoing their treatment.  This has created anxiety among many cancer patients as well as their care givers and prompted many oncologist professional groups, cancer societies, and cancer centers to formulate some sort of guidelines for both the cancer patients and the oncology professional with respect to limiting the risk of infection to coronavirus (COVID19). 

 

This information will be periodically updated and we are working to get a Live Twitter Feed to bring oncologist and cancer patient advocacy groups together so up to date information can be communicated rapidly.  Please see this page regularly for updates as new information is curated.

IN ADDITION, I will curate a listing of drugs with adverse events of immunosuppression for people who might wonder if the medications they are taking are raising their risk of infections.

Please also see @pharma_BI for updates as well.

Please also see our Coronavirus Portal at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

For ease of reading information for patients are BOLDED and in RED

ASCO’s Response to COVID-19

From the Cancer Letter: The following is a guest editorial by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO. This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

 

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to the cancer care delivery system.

Our patients are already dealing with a life-threatening illness and are particularly vulnerable to this viral infection, which can be even more deadly for them. Further, as restrictions in daily movement and social distancing take hold, vulnerable patients may be disconnected from friends, family or other support they need as they manage their cancer.

As providers, we rely on evidence and experience when treating patients but now we face uncertainty. There are limited data to guide us in the specific management of cancer patients confronting COVID-19 and, at present, we have no population-level guidance regarding acceptable or appropriate adjustments of treatment and practice operations that both ensure the best outcome for our patients and protect the safety of our colleagues and staff.

As normal life is dramatically changed, we are all feeling anxious about the extreme economic challenges we face, but these issues are perhaps even more difficult for our patients, many of whom are now facing interruption

As we confront this extraordinary situation, the health and safety of members, staff, and individuals with cancer—in fact, the entire cancer community—is ASCO’s highest priority.

ASCO has been actively monitoring and responding to the pandemic to ensure that accurate information is readily available to clinicians and their patients. Recognizing that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that limited oncology-specific, evidence-based information is available, we are committed to sharing what is known and acknowledging what is unknown so that the most informed decisions can be made.

To help guide oncology professionals as they deal with the impact of coronavirus on both their patients and staff, ASCO has collated questions from its members, posted responses at asco.org and assembled a compendium of additional resources we hope will be helpful as the virus spreads and the disease unfolds. We continue to receive additional questions regarding clinical care and we are updating our FAQs on a regular basis.

We hope this information is helpful even when it merely confirms that there are no certain answers to many questions. Our answers are based on the best available information we identify in the literature, guidance from public health authorities, and input received from oncology and infectious disease experts.

For patients, we have posted a blog by Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee. This can be found on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, and it provides practical guidance to help patients reduce their risk of exposure, better understand COVID-19 symptoms, and locate additional information.

This blog is available both in English and Spanish. Additional blog posts addressing patient questions will be posted as new questions are received and new information becomes available.

Find below a Tweet from Dr.Markham which includes links to her article on COVID-19 for cancer patients

https://twitter.com/DrMarkham/status/1237797251038220289?s=20

NCCN’s Response to COVID-19 and COVID-19 Resources

JNCCN: How to Manage Cancer Care during COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)—a Member Institution of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)—are sharing insights and advice on how to continue providing optimal cancer care during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SCCA includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The peer-reviewed article sharing best practices is available for free online-ahead-of-print via open access at JNCCN.org.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for the Cancer Care Community

NCCN recognizes the rapidly changing medical information relating to COVID-19 in the oncology ecosystem, but understands that a forum for sharing best practices and specific institutional responses may be helpful to others.  Therefore, we are expeditiously providing documents and recommendations developed by NCCN Member Institutions or Guideline Panels as resources for oncology care providers. These resources have not been developed or reviewed by the standard NCCN processes, and are provided for information purposes only. We will post more resources as they become available so check back for additional updates.

Documents

Links

National Cancer Institute Response to COVID-19

More information at https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus

What people with cancer should know: https://www.cancer.gov/coronavirus

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov

Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus

 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

ON THIS PAGE

Both the resources at cancer.gov (NCI) as well as the resources from ASCO are updated as new information is evaluated and more guidelines are formulated by members of the oncologist and cancer care community and are excellent resources for those living with cancer, and also those who either care for cancer patients or their family and relatives.

Related Resources for Patients (please click on links)

 

 

 

Some resources and information for cancer patients from Twitter

Twitter feeds which may be useful sources of discussion and for cancer patients include:

 

@OncLive OncLive.com includes healthcare information for patients and includes videos and newsletters

 

 

@DrMarkham Dr. Markham is Chief of Heme-Onc & gyn med onc @UF | AD Med Affairs @UFHealthCancer and has collected very good information for patients concerning #Covid19 

 

 

@DrMaurieMarkman Dr. Maurie Markman is President of Medicine and Science (Cancer Centers of America, Philadelphia) @CancerCenter #TreatThePerson #Oncology #Genomics #PrecisionMedicine and hosts a great online live Tweet feed discussing current topics in cancer treatment and care for patients called #TreatThePerson Chat

UPDATED 3/20/2020 INFORMATION FROM NCI DESIGNATED CANCER CENTERS FOR PATIENTS/PROVIDERS

The following is a listing with links of NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and some select designated Cancer Centers* which have information on infectious risk guidance for cancer patients as well as their physicians and caregivers.   There are 51 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and as more cancer centers formulate guidance this list will be updated. 

 

Cancer Center State Link to COVID19 guidance
City of Hope CA Advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers
Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA CA Cancer and COVID19
UCSF Hellen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CA COVID-19 Links for Patients and Providers
Lee Moffit FL Protecting against Coronavirus 19
University of Kansas Cancer Center* KS COVID19 Info for patients
Barbara & Karmanos Cancer Institute (Wayne State) MI COVID19 Resources
Rogel Cancer Center (Univ of Michigan) MI COVID19 Patient Specific Guidelines
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center (MO) Coronavirus
Fred & Pamela Buffet CC* NE Resources for Patients and Providers
Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ NJ What patients should know about COVID19
Memorial Sloan Kettering NY What COVID19 means for cancer patients
Herbert Irving CC (Columbia University) NY Coronavirus Resource Center
MD Anderson Cancer  TX Planning for Patients, Providers
Hunstman Cancer Center UT COVID19 What you need to know
Fred Hutchinson WA COVID19 What patients need to know

 

 

Please also see related information on Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer and Immunotherapy at the following links on the Open Access Online Journal:

Volume Two: Cancer Therapies: Metabolic, Genomics, Interventional, Immunotherapy and Nanotechnology in Therapy Delivery 

at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/series-c-e-books-on-cancer-oncology/volume-two-immunotherapy-in-cancer-radiation-oncology/

AND

Coronavirus Portal

 

 

 

 

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