Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) failed to win enough votes Tuesday to be elected House speaker after more Republicans than expected joined Democrats in declining to back him, setting up lawmakers for an unpredictable second round of balloting.
    • “The favorite of the Republican base and ally of former President Donald Trump saw 20 GOP lawmakers break with him in the first round Tuesday afternoon, many more than the handful the GOP nominee could afford to lose. Democrats backed their pick, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.), while the Republican holdouts scattered their votes among other GOP figures.
    • “The result deflated hopes for a quick resolution of intraparty fighting * * *.
    • “After the failed vote, Republicans huddled in small groups to discuss their options. One approach would be to give more power to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), if enough Republicans and Democrats supported the idea.”
  • The Federal Times shares the dates and deadlines to remember for FEHB open enrollment.

From the public health and research front,

  • Beckers Hospital Review informs us,
    • New weekly COVID-19 admissions are down for the fourth week straight, according to the latest data from the CDC. Meanwhile, flu and respiratory syncytial virus are starting to rise. 
    • COVID-19: COVID-19 metrics declined in the U.S. for the week ending Oct. 7. A total of 16,766 new COVID-19 admissions were reported this week, marking an 8.2% decline from the week prior. Emergency department visits related to the disease were also down nearly 18%. The decline in activity comes after about three months of steady increases in hospitalizations. Based on past trends, however, experts predict the nation may see another winter uptick in December or January — the same time of the year flu tends to peak. 
    • RSV: Cases of RSV have been slowly rising in the U.S. Overall, the positivity rate remains much lower than this time last year, though some hospitals in the South have started to see RSV hospitalizations increase. Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami has seen a “five-fold increase for influenza and a two-fold increase for RSV,” the hospital’s chief medical officer, Barry Gelman, MD, told a local news outlet in a report earlier this month. 
    • Flu: Flu activity remains low nationally, with a positivity rate of 1.1% for the week ending Oct. 7. CDC officials told NBC News activity will likely ramp up over the next few weeks. Just over 1,100 patients with lab-confirmed flu were admitted to the hospital for the week ending Oct. 7, up slightly from the week prior. Most cases reported so far this season are influenza A.
    • Hospitalizations for flu, COVID-19 and RSV are projected to peak at the end of January. With that timeline, hospitals may see similar levels of capacity and resource strain as last respiratory virus season since peaks may overlap. Health experts have been optimistic that a collection of vaccines and a new monoclonal antibody for RSV would largely prevent severe illness and minimize capacity strain on hospitals. However, significant hurdles in accessing the shots may prevent them from reaching those most at risk of severe illness before virus season is in full swing. 
  • CIDRAP from the University of Minnesota tells us,
    • “A meta-analysis today in Antimicrobial Stewardship & Healthcare Epidemiology estimates a vaccine effectiveness (VE) of 69% for three doses of COVID-19 vaccine against long COVID, while two doses offer 37% efficacy.
    • “Led by researchers at the University of Iowa, the meta-analysis involved 24 studies on COVID-19 VE against long COVID among recipients of at least two doses of a vaccine before or after infection from December 2019 to June 2023.
    • “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a considerable proportion of individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 infection have long-term symptoms involving multiple organs and systems,” the researchers wrote.”
  • Healio points out,
    • “Adhering to a healthy lifestyle could reduce coronary health disease risk [by 25%] regardless of genetic susceptibility to abdominal obesity.
    • “The more favorable lifestyle included factors like a healthy diet and sleep habits.”
  • The NIH Directors Blog lets us know,
    • “Each year in the U.S., more than 500,000 people receive treatment for burn injuries and other serious skin wounds. To close the most severe wounds with less scarring, doctors often must surgically remove skin from one part of a person’s body and use it to patch the injured site. However, this is an intensive process, and some burn patients with extensive skin loss do not have sufficient skin available for grafting. Scientists have been exploring ways to repair these serious skin wounds without skin graft surgery.
    • “An NIH-funded team recently showed that bioprinted skin substitutes may serve as a promising alternative to traditional skin grafts in preclinical studies reported in Science Translational Medicine. The approach involves a portable skin bioprinter system that deposits multiple layers of skin directly into a wound. The recent findings add to evidence that bioprinting technology can successfully regenerate human-like skin to allow healing. While this approach has yet to be tested in people, it confirms that such technologies already can produce skin constructs with the complex structures and multiple cell types present in healthy human skin.”
  • The Washington Post discusses improving the availability of primary care in our country.
  • STAT News interviews the scientist who made Novo Nordisk an obesity drug powerhouse, Dr. Lotte Bjerre Knudsen.
    • “When the company invented a once-weekly version of the drug, called semaglutide, she spearheaded research to understand its biological impact on metabolism, cardiovascular and kidney health, and the brain. In clinical trials, semaglutide cut a person’s food intake by up to 35%, more than double the effect of liraglutide.
    • “Knudsen’s team conducted studies suggesting it achieves such dramatic results by modifying overlapping neural pathways involved in food intake, reward drives, and energy expenditure — studies that have helped prove that one molecule can, in fact, have multiple biologies. What the brain does with GLP-1 and what the gut does are two very different things. Drugs like liraglutide and semaglutide just happen to harness them both, separately, at the same time.
    • “Those lessons have led Knudsen to ask if GLP-1 might have other roles in the brain that could be exploited to therapeutic ends. One of the most promising areas she’s now focusing on is Alzheimer’s disease. Other researchers have their sights set on seeing if these drugs might help people with addiction and alcohol use disorders control their cravings.
    • “The science here is still early, Knudsen emphasized. But the fact that it exists at all owes much to her singular determination. “I’m actually quite patient,” she said. “When it comes to slowly working to progress something that could be important in the future, that needs to take its time.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • STAT News notes,
    • “Here at ObesityWeek, one of the largest conferences on obesity, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are displaying more than a dozen studies that together carry the message: Our blockbuster weight loss treatments will be worth it for society.
    • “But experts point out that much of this company-funded research does not include the cost of the drugs themselves, which sell at more than $10,000 per year in the U.S. and are meant to be taken indefinitely. * * *
    • “As more economic analyses emerge, these questions of how worth it the new obesity drugs are will continue to be top of mind for clinicians, said Jamy Ard, president-elect of The Obesity Society and co-director of the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Weight Management Center.
    • “We are stewards of the resources,” said Ard, who has consulted for Novo and Lilly. “If we are skeptical about the cost-effectiveness of the treatment, where we know that our patient populations can’t afford a certain therapy, then we’re not going to prescribe it. We’re not going to encourage health plans to approve the treatment or make treatment available to people if we think that there are better ways to spend those health care dollars.”
    • In the FEHBlog’s view, the manufacturers are not taking into account the rapidly growing number of people who may receive a prescription for these drugs.
  • Per Healthcare Dive,
    • “One Medical has quietly rebranded the senior care clinics it acquired from its 2021 buy of Iora Health to “One Medical Seniors” in an effort to better synchronize the two businesses.
    • “The rebrand, and ongoing efforts to expand the ability of One Medical clinics to treat a wider variety of patient populations, are likely to help the primary care provider nab more clients, analysts said.
    • “People need to know who they’re doing business with or receiving care from. And that’s especially true when you look at the senior population,” said Arielle Trzcinski, a principal analyst at Forrester who focuses on the digital and retail health markets. “So being able to apply the One Medical brand to Iora — it’s a trusted brand. So there’s an opportunity for net new customers.”
  • MedCity News observes,
    • “Rite Aid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday amid decreasing sales, billions of dollars in debt and more than a thousand lawsuits claiming the chain filled illegal prescriptions for opioids. In order for the company to get back on its feet, experts say it will have to start acting more like its competitors, such as Walgreens and CVS, by leaning more into care delivery, forging strong payer partnerships, and improving its digital offerings.”