This Week in Managed Care: December 11, 2020

This week, the top managed care news included an FDA panel’s endorsement of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, while distribution begins in Britain; advice for patients taking cancer drugs to get the COVID-19 vaccine; the nation’s asthma guidelines get their first update in 13 years.

The first COVID-19 vaccines are taken in Britain, Dr Fauci says patients on cancer drugs should plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and the nation’s asthma guidelines get their first update in 13 years.

Welcome to This Week in Managed Care, I’m Skylar Jeremias.

UK Launches Pfizer Vaccine as FDA Panel Recommends Use

The first British patients received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, as the United Kingdom launched its mass vaccination program against COVID-19.

Margaret Keenan, who will turn 91 next week, got the first of 800,000 doses that will be dispensed at vaccination hubs, with priority going to people over age 80 and health care workers.

Meanwhile, an FDA panel recommended emergency use authorization, paving the way for likely distribution in the United States.

For more, visit ajmc.com.

Taking Immunosuppressants? Fauci Says Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

Once a vaccine is available, people being treated for blood cancers or a recent transplant should get the vaccine despite having compromised immune systems, Dr Anthony Fauci told the American Society of Hematology.

In a talk to open the group’s 62nd meeting, he said, “It is clear that if you are on immunosuppressant agents, history tells us that you are not going to have as robust a response as if you had an intact immune system that was not being compromised….But some degree of immunity is better than no degree of immunity. So, for me, it would be recommended that these people do get vaccinated.”

Fauci, who this week was formally named the chief medical adviser for COVID-19 for the incoming Biden administration, also warned against holiday visits during the Christmas season, as cases are reaching all-time highs.

For more, visit ajmc.com.

American Society of Hematology 2020 Annual Meeting

Meanwhile, scientists at ASH presented possible treatments for the disease for those with hematological cancers, along with the following:

  1. Several studies offered advances in chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma
  2. A CRISPR-based technology may offer a “functional” cure for sickle cell anemia,
  3. And a study from the University of Cambridge found that in at least one blood cancer, mutations may be present for decades before the cancer appears.

For full coverage of ASH, visit ajmc.com.

San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

Also taking place this week is the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which, like ASH, is being held in a virtual format.

The opening session addressed the role of race, ethnicity and cancer during the current pandemic.

Dr Deborah Doroshow of Tisch Cancer Institute said well-documented disparities already seen in the COVID-19 pandemic are amplified when patients have cancer.

“Why these disparities? One can certainly point to a variety of factors. One might say that increased vulnerability to COVID could be related to the fact that minority patients are more likely to be frontline workers or perhaps to live in multigenerational homes. Could the possibility of poorer outcomes be related to poorer baseline health or disparities in health literacy or insurance, leading patients to seek care later on?”

Doroshow is an investigator with the COVID-19 and Cancer Outcomes Study, which is looking at the impact of the pandemic in cancer care delivery.

For the full story, visit ajmc.com.

For full coverage of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, visit ajmc.com.

National Asthma Guidelines Get First Update in 13 Years

For the first time in 13 years, the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has made recommendations in 6 key areas of asthma care the focus on improving diagnosis, management, and treatment.

Areas the recommendations cover include:

  • When to use inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting antimuscarinic antagonists
  • When to use allergy shots for long-term asthma
  • Methods to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers
  • How to use a fractional exhaled nitric oxide test to manage asthma or confirm a diagnosis

The guidance is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

For more, visit ajmc.com.

Paper of the Week

And now, our paper of the week, which looks back at some of the most important papers over the past 25 years of The American Journal of Managed Care® and why they matter today.

This week’s paper, led by Michael Schatz, was published in 2006 and represents an early use of data to predict which patients with asthma will need emergency hospital care, based on pharmacy records. The “medication intensity scale” developed by the authors identified one high-risk group that was 6 times more likely than a low-risk group to require emergency care, but it did not perform as well as a separate scale that also folded in prior emergency room care.

For the full paper, visit ajmc.com.

From all of us at AJMC®, I’m Skylar Jeremias. Thanks for joining us.