What We're Reading: Fauci Issues Warning; Pilot Clinical Trial Program Launches; National Suicide Prevention Hotline May Change

June 24, 2020

The recent surge in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 alarms public health officials; the FDA launches a new cancer clinical trial program; the Federal Communications Commission may change its National Suicide Prevention Hotline number.

Fauci, Others Testify That the COVID-19 Pandemic Will Continue to Worsen

In an appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other public health officials warned that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will get worse as the country continues to reopen, unless new restrictions are put in place, reports The Washington Post. Their testimony follows comments from President Donald Trump that he asked for testing to slow so the number of cases would appear smaller. Along with Fauci, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD; FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD; and HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir, MD, all said they had not been asked to reduce the testing rate, with Giroir stressing the need for more funding. Just yesterday, the United States had 33,730 new COVID-19 cases, which is its highest total since April 25, and the 4 men testified that the US health care system will likely face an even greater trial in the fall and winter, when the seasonal flu returns.

New Cancer Clinical Trials Program Aims to Increase Access to Patient-Reported Data

The FDA has launched Project Patient Voice, from the Oncology Center of Excellence, which will contain patient-reported outcome (PRO) data from cancer clinical trials, according to a press release from the FDA. This information on the adverse effects of treatments received during trials is meant “to better inform treatment choices” for both patients and their health care teams, noted FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD. Eventually the new portal will contain PRO information on numerous trials, but for this pilot, there will be just 1 trial, with the FDA asking for feedback, which it will use to improve the site going forward.

FCC Proposes an Update to Its National Suicide Prevention Hotline

By July 16, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intends to vote on a proposed update to its current 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Hotline number, according to a statement from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In testimony before the National Council for Behavioral Health, Pai detailed the FCC’s plans to establish “988” as the number for individuals with mental health crises, noting several unfortunate statistics: 48,000 Americans lost to suicide in 2018; a 35% increase in suicides since 1999; and a suicide rate among veterans that is 1.5 times higher than the general population. A 2022 deadline is expected for full implementation, at which time 988 will replace the current hotline number, 1-800-273-8255.