May 26, 2020

NIH will study the effects of the new coronavirus epidemic on pregnant women, FDA flags over two dozen coronavirus antibody tests to be taken off the market, and more.

  • Abbott Laboratories on Thursday announced that an ongoing study has found its ID NOW rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, accurately provided positive results 94.7% of the time and accurately provided negative results 98.6% of the time. The preliminary study results stem from tests performed on samples from 256 patients. Researchers compared Abbott's test results against results from a Covid-19 test developed by CDC (O'Donnell, Reuters, 5/21; Armstrong/Cortez, Bloomberg, 5/21).

  • A group of tech companies—including Box, Niantic, Pinterest, Salesforce, Snap, Uber, and Zoom—have pledged to support working parents at their companies as the employees grapple with having to homeschool their children while working remotely during the new coronavirus epidemic, Axios' Ina Fried reports. Sarahjane Sacchetti—CEO of Cleo, a nonprofit coordinating the effort called "Invest in Parents" pledge—said, "Working parents aren't OK," and "[w]orking mothers are being pushed even further to the brink. We don't want to see diversity and inclusion fall apart" (Fried, Axios, 5/18).

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee recently announced it will permanently cover virtual visits with in-network providers. According to HealthLeaders Media, the change will apply to patient-provider consultations, as well as provider-provider consultations (Wilson Pecci, HealthLeaders Media, 5/21).

  • FDA on Friday released a list of 29 antibody tests for the new coronavirus that have not filed applications to stay on the U.S. market or have already been pulled from the market. The agency in a release said the tests included on the list "will not" continue to "be marketed or distributed" in the United States (Rummler, Axios, 5/23; Perrone, Associated Press, 5/21; Humer/O'Donnell, Reuters, 5/21).

  • FDA is investigating a MicroGen laboratory in Texas, after an AdventHealth hospital in Florida raised concerns about delayed and unreliable results of diagnostic tests for the new coronavirus from the lab. AdventHealth terminated its contract with the lab after questioning the validity of 60,000 coronavirus tests after learning that the lab stored specimens used for the tests at room temperature for several days. CDC recommends that specimens be refrigerated and then frozen. MicroGen CEO Rick Martin said the company has "not been contacted by the FDA about any matters related to our testing," but the lab will "cooperate with any inquiries." FDA declined to comment on the matter, USA Today reports (Gallion/O'Donnell, USA Today, 5/22).

  • Google on Thursday announced new changes to its search and map tools that will allow health care providers and essential workers to search for hotels with special offers for Covid-19 frontline workers. Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google's health division, said, "Billions of people come to us for information. As a former public health officer, having that kind of reach to give people information to help save their lives is an extraordinary opportunity" (Landi, FierceHealthcare, 5/21).

  • HHS on Friday announced it will distribute $4.9 billion from the provider relief fund to skilled nursing facilities to increase testing capacity, purchase personal protective equipment for staff, and other expenses related to the Covid-19 epidemic. HHS said nursing homes would each receive about $50,000, plus an additional $2,500 per bed. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living praised the move, but said long-term care facilities need more funds to safely care for patients (Hellman, The Hill, 5/22; Cirruzzo, Inside Health Policy, 5/22 [subscription required]).

  • HHS on Friday also announced it will distribute $500 million to the Indian Health Service (IHS) to help IHS facilities respond to the Covid-19 epidemic. HHS said the latest funding brings the total amount of IHS funding to $2.4 billion (Morese, Healthcare Finance, 5/22).

  • NIH last week announced it will study whether changes to the American health care system that were implemented in response to the country's Covid-19 epidemic have affected pregnancy-related complications in the United States. NIH also will seek to determine the risk of pregnant Covid-19 patients transmitting the disease to a fetus. NIH for the study will look at the medical records of 21,000 women and will monitor more than 1,500 pregnant women with Covid-19 for six weeks following delivery (Chandler, Reuters, 5/19).

  • UnitedHealth Group (UHG) will be launching a digital clinical trial aimed at repurposing angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat high-risk Covid-19 patients. The trial will expand on a previous study from UHG and researchers at Yale School of Medicine, which found that ACE inhibitors were associated with a 40% reduction in patients' risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19 (Daily Briefing is published by Advisory Board, a wholly own subsidiary of UHG) (Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 5/19).

  • Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, has announced it will adapt its current Project Baseline study to begin a research project examining how the immune system responds to the new coronavirus. The initial phase of the project, called Baseline Antibody Research, will specifically focus on antibody testing for the new coronavirus to help researchers determine the new coronavirus' prevalence in communities (Farr, CNBC, 5/18).

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