What We're Reading: Hydroxychloroquine Linked to Increased Mortality Rates; GAO Appoints MedPAC Chair; Virus Spreads Throughout Country

A new analysis found use of hydroxychloroquine in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with increased mortality rates; the Government Accountability Office (GAO) appointed a new chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC); nearly 80% of Americans live in counties where COVID-19 is spreading widely.

Study Finds Hydroxychloroquine, Chloroquine Use Associated with Greater Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19

Use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine is linked to increased rates of mortality and heart arrhythmias among patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a multinational registry analysis published in The Lancet. The study included data from nearly 15,000 patients who took the drugs with or without antibiotics azithromycin or clarithromycin and 81,000 controls. Study authors urge the regimens should only be used by patients with COVID-19 enrolled in clinical trials. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week he was taking hydroxychloroquine regularly despite testing negative for COVID-19. Previous research found use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can lead to serious heart problems.

Michael Chernew, PhD, Appointed Chair of Medicare Payment Advisory Commission

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced Michael Chernew, PhD, as the newly appointed chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). Additional new appointees to MedPAC include Betty Rambur, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Wayne J. Riley, MD. MedPAC was founded in 1997 to analyze access to care, costs, quality of care, and other important issues affecting Medicare. It also advises Congress on payments to health plans in the Medicare Advantage program and to providers in Medicare’s fee-for-service programs. Chernew serves as the Leonard D. Schaffer Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School, is co-editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Managed Care®, and is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Report Details Virus’ Spread in Southern, Midwestern Counties

A Brookings Institution analysis found that nearly 80% of Americans now live in counties where COVID-19 is spreading widely, The Hill reports. Virus outbreaks in Southern and Midwestern states mark an epicenter shift away from New York City and other highly populated areas affected early on. The report found that 176 counties have begun to see substantial spread of the virus within the last week. The majority, 156, are smaller, rural counties. However, more populated cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, are now reporting dozens of new cases, while Collin County, Texas, and Wake County, North Carolina, exhibit signs of broader spread. The report also documents spread in exurban areas outside of major cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Columbus, Ohio.