Category: International

Why is Massachusetts failing at COVID-19 vaccination?

published date
December 28th, 2020 by

Israel (population 9M) has already vaccinated 200,000 people against COVID-19 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and expects to be injecting over 100,000 per day shortly.

Massachusetts (population 7M)  has injected only 35,000 so far. Here, as in many other states, half the doses are being saved as boosters and not injected out of fear that a future supply glitch could delay dosing from a supposedly magical 21 or 28 day target time.

In Israel, senior residences had multiple stations manned by the local equivalent of the Red Cross, and military personnel with medical training are being used as well. Israel is prepared to ramp up to a 24/7 vaccination schedule if needed. They are treating it as an emergency, which it clearly is.

In Israel, the teams are equipped with epinephrine to handle the occasional severe reaction, which seems to be an issue with both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Meanwhile, what is the actual logistical plan in Massachusetts? It seems pretty vague. I’ve heard from friends at Boston teaching hospitals (and read in the press) that distribution is a mess. There is general talk of drugstores like CVS and Walgreens providing shots. Are they going to be ready with epi-pens or just call 911?

And what about the idea of giving one shot instead of two if supply is tight? We might get to herd immunity faster if we applied creative approaches such as this one.

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group

ICER founder Dr. Steve Pearson explains COVID-19 remdesivir pricing model

published date
November 12th, 2020 by

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Dr. Steve Pearson

Drug pricing is the hottest topic in healthcare, and ICER founder Dr. Steve Pearson is the coolest person to discuss it with.

In this episode of the HealthBiz podcast, Steve describes how the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) compiles and analyzes clinical evidence to estimate the fair value of treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses. ICER has been especially active during the pandemic, developing a pricing model for remdesivir and other COVID-19 therapies that’s being used in the United States and by health technology assessment agencies around the world.

For fun, he has been reading Paradise Lost by John Milton.

This is the second episode I’ve recorded on COVID-19 drug pricing. Check out the first one: Remdesivir powers activate! with Dr. Surya Singh.

The HealthBiz podcast is now on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and  many more services, making it easy to subscribe.

Below is a rough (AI-generated) transcript of the episode.



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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group

 

Russia rushes its COVID-19 vaccine. Why all is not what it seems

published date
August 10th, 2020 by
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Any volunteers?

Russia –yes the Russia that exerts special influence on our president– has done a poor job of keeping the COVID-19 virus in check. But now they claim to have a safe and effective vaccine that’s ready to go.

I’m quoted in the International Business Times (Questions Surround Russia’s Ability to Deliver a Safe, Effective Coronavirus Vaccine)

Some suggest that the vaccine may not be safe – or effective.

“It’s obvious that the Russians are rushing the vaccine to market without adequate testing,” David Eugene Williams, president at Health Business Group, told International Business Times in an email. “It’s possible that the vaccine will work, but there hasn’t been enough time to verify that it’s both safe and effective. The Russians haven’t released any data that would support their claims.”

“I don’t think people will travel to Russia to receive the vaccine because, 1) they won’t trust that it will work, 2) they could get COVID-19 on their travels to Russia, and 3) the Russians may allocate it to their own citizens,” he said.

It would be great if the Russian vaccine works. But we’ll have to wait and see –which is something the developers haven’t done.


By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Can smartphones save us from coronavirus?

published date
January 29th, 2020 by
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Happy Chinese New Year!

A friend came home from a business trip to China on Friday. His kids (teens and tweens) were ready to hug and kiss him when he returned –as they usually do-, but when they heard his cough they fled to their rooms, slammed the doors and donned surgical masks.

Did dad bring the coronavirus home with him? Except for his wife, no one in his family was taking that chance.

Which got me thinking, what’s changed since the last epidemics of  Ebola, avian flu and SARS…?

For one thing, cell phones and the Internet have become ubiquitous. Bad news travels fast, and there’s no keeping the kids in the dark.

On the other hand, maybe smartphones can help keep us safe. For example, I’m impressed by ResApp, an Australian company that helps doctors diagnose respiratory illnesses by analyzing the data in coughs. Is it asthma, COPD, pneumonia, or nothing serious? ResApp uses the smartphone to figure it out. (Here’s my interview with the company from 2016.)

The tool is designed to be used by healthcare professionals (probably to keep regulators from getting nervous about self-diagnosis) but it seems to me that patients could use the app themselves and just send the data over the web for confirmation, avoiding the possibility of infecting healthcare workers and other patients.

Kids are about to go back to school in Australia after summer vacation/fire season (remember they’re on the upside down part of the world), and everyone’s nervous that coronavirus will show up in the classroom.

I asked ResApp CEO Tony Keating CEO for his opinion. He said

The identification and isolation of patients with viruses such as this novel coronavirus is a critical public health step. Like SARS and MERS, 2019-nCoV causes pneumonia – an infection of one or both lungs, causing cough, difficulty breathing and/or fever. People with these symptoms can be identified (in places like airports), isolated, and sent for further molecular testing. However this screening is difficult, as not all patients with the virus may have a fever at the time and infrared thermometers are not 100% accurate. These symptoms are also indistinguishable from the usual winter illnesses such as influenza. New screening tests which are rapid, accurate and portable could improve screening, and potentially reduce the global spread of these viruses.

Sounds promising to me. Let’s hope these new solutions can come online soon.

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By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.