What We're Reading: Cash-Strapped vs Cash-Flush Hospitals; Anxiety Levels Up; Hydroxychloroquine Trials Halted

There has been an uneven distribution of bailout funds among economically disparate hospitals under the CARES Act; people are medicating as a result of increasing stress from the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic; the World Health Organization stops trials of hydroxychloroquine.

Economically Disadvantaged Hospitals Struggling to Stay Above Water

As of this morning, the top 10 parent companies for health systems and hospitals in the United States have received $6 billion-plus in federal bailout money that was distributed under the CARES Act compared with the bottom 10 that received just under $5 million, or 99.9% less, reports COVID Stimulus Watch from Good Jobs First, a research group. A total of $72 billion has been handed out since April alone, says The New York Times. The money is meant to help hospitals at a time when elective surgeries have been put on hold, leading to a steep drop in revenue during the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic. However, whereas the wealthiest hospitals typically have extensive cash reserves to fall back on already, the poorest, typical rural, hospitals often have just enough for the next 30 days. Officials, meanwhile, are complaining about the uneven allotment, per this letter 2 House committee chairmen recently sent to HHS.

Medication Use to Treat Anxiety, Insomnia Ratchets Up

People are increasingly turning to medications such as Klonopin and Ativan to treat anxiety issues that have risen as a result of such COVID-19—related stressors as unemployment, social isolation, and their own health, notes The Wall Street Journal. According to Express Scripts, prescriptions for antianxiety and sleep medications rose by 34.1% and 14.8%, respectively, while antidepressant prescriptions saw an 18.6% jump from mid-February to mid-March. Ginger, meanwhile, points to an 86% rise in psychotrophic drug prescriptions from its psychiatrists in March and April. These numbers have raised eyebrows and addiction concerns among behavioral health professionals, who note that persons taking them can “quickly develop a tolerance to their effects—sometimes in as little as 2 weeks.”

WHO Places a Temporary Hold on Trials of Hydroxychloroquine

Citing safety issues, yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to temporarily pause the hydroxychloroquine arm of its investigation into new treatments for patients with COVID-19, says the Associated Press. These alarms include an increased risk of death and heart issues, which the FDA expressed worry on back in April. The drug, however, retains its approval to treat malaria and such autoimmune diseases as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Other medications being tested in the Solidarity trial to treat COVID-19 include remdesivir, the HIV combination treatment lopinavir/ritonavir, and interferon beta-1a, which all remain under investigation.