Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Experts urge caution in interpreting COVID-19 antibody tests

False positive results are cause for concern
From the May 26, 2020 Washing University School of Medicine in St. Louis News Release

Laboratory workers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis process blood samples. Blood tests for antibodies against the COVID-19 virus are becoming more available, but no test is perfectly reliable, so results must be carefully interpreted, experts say.

“There are two kinds of COVID-19 tests, and both are critical to controlling this pandemic. Molecular diagnostic tests, first developed in January, detect parts of the COVID-19-causing virus on swabs from people’s noses or throats. Such tests can identify people with active infections, even when they have no symptoms. With widespread and rapid diagnostic testing, people with the virus can be identified quickly and isolated, and anyone who came into contact with them quarantined and tested. Such surveillance and isolation measures can prevent a few cases from mushrooming into an outbreak.”

Why are antibody tests for COVID-19 important?

Farnsworth: Antibody testing is really helpful in monitoring how widely a virus has spread within a community. Such testing could help determine how many people have recovered from the virus, even if they never had symptoms. For many viruses, once about 70% of the population is immune – either because they have had a natural infection or, better yet, received a vaccination – infected people are less likely to encounter a susceptible person and give them the virus, so transmission goes down and the epidemic ends. That’s called herd immunity.”

If my antibody test is positive, does that mean I’ve had COVID-19 and won’t get it again?

Anderson: A positive test just means your body has produced antibodies in response to a past infection; it doesn’t tell us whether those antibodies will protect you from getting re-infected

Can antibody tests decide who can safely go back to work?

Farnsworth: Many people are anxious to get people back to work, but antibody tests may give some people a false sense of security. The problem is that even a highly accurate antibody test like the one we use in our laboratory has false positives and false negative

How should antibody tests be used?

Anderson: There have not been formal guidelines at the national or local levels regarding how exactly these tests should be used. And, in the absence of such guidelines, many people are anxious to get antibody testing. The way I look at such tests is that they’re a tool.not … the sole source of information for decision-making.

Related Resources

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Spend About $2,500 a Year in Health Care Costs

While insulin comprises a big part of diabetes expenses for children and adults, diabetes-related supplies can cost even more.

From the Jun 1, 2020 University of Michigan Health Lab News Release

diabetes monitor, syringe and bottle

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes will spend an average of $2,500a year out-of-pocket for health care – but insulin isn’t always the biggest expense – new research suggests.

While out-of-pocket costs for insulin was substantial, it accounted for just 18% of total out-of-pocket expenses for health care, according to the findings in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In fact, insulin accounted for less out-of-pocket spending than diabetes-related supplies, such as insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors.”

Removing barriers to high-value care

 “Several states and insurers imposed monthly caps on these [out-of-pocket] costs [for insulin] earlier in 2020. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just announced that many elderly Medicare beneficiaries will soon pay no more than $35 for a one-month supply of insulin. “

More at the news release

Help for paying for diabetes medicine and supplies

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

As hospitals walk the tightrope of patient data-sharing, one system offers a new balance

Sharing of one’s personal health and medical data with researchers and industry raises issues of trust and privacy.
For example one might wonder if one’s health issues will be shared with advertisers or one’s health insuance. Or one might concerned that a company would profit from one’s medical record.

As hospitals walk the tightrope of patient data-sharing, one system offers a new balance

From the May 28, 2020 University of Michigan HealthLab News Release
Industry wants access to massive data troves, but patients deserve transparency and privacy; Michigan Medicine approach offers a path forward.

Tight rope

Every major medical center in America sits on a gold mine. The data they hold about their patients and research participants could be worth millions of dollars to companies that would explore it for clues that could lead to new medicines, medical technologies, health apps and more…

The crux of the [University of Michigan] system, launched in 2018, is an easy-to-understand informed consent document that research participants can choose to sign, in addition to the forms that they sign to take part in a U-M-run research project. The additional consent focuses on sharing their information, and any samples taken from them, outside the university.

They must first discuss the special outside-sharing consent form with research staff, who assess each participant’s understanding of what giving the additional consent means.

The critical passage in the form reads: “You give permission to share your samples and information with researchers around the world including those working for companies. Researchers and their organizations may potentially benefit from the sale of the data or discoveries. You will not have rights to these discoveries or any proceeds from them.”

More than half of research volunteers asked for such consent have given it. Once they do so, it opens up the possibility (with additional legal and ethical steps) for companies, foundations, medical specialty societies and nongovernmental agencies to access their samples and data to move innovation forward.

If their samples are being sought for a project with a specific company, they will be told about the project and company, though their consent applies to all approved industry use. They’re told they can revoke their consent in the future, stopping their data from being shared further.
More at the news release

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Health News Items, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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