The best medicine for 2020: The Finger Awards by Comedy for Change

If laughter is the best medicine, the Finger Awards sponsored by the organization Comedy for Change will be particularly welcome this year.The awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony as part of the British Television conference. It will be broadcast live on December 4 on Content London at 4 p.m. GMT.“We had over 100 candidates this year and we are going to give a special award for COVID-19 projects. There are some surprisingly strong candidates from Vietnam, Bahrain, and Pakistan,” said Omri Marcus, the director of the competition and the founder of Comedy for Change, which spotlights comedy that is both funny and enlightening.British comedian and former TV executive Cally Beaton will host Friday’s online ceremony. Beaton has incredibly funny Twitter and Instagram feeds, which are worth checking out if you need something to laugh about.Ricky Gervais will receive an award for his contribution to comedy, an honor he will likely refer to as “getting the Finger.”Among this year’s finalists are “Medical Bill Art,” a clip from by MSCHF that shows medical bills made into paintings, which were sold for over $73,000 in order to pay, what else? – medical bills.“Naked Ballots” by RepresentUS in the US features naked celebrities – including Sarah Silverman, Josh Gad and Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat (who actually appears fully clothed) – urging voters to mail in their ballots right away.

Other finalists’ clips lampoon the coronavirus crisis, including a Vietnamese film that features the Corona Dance, which raises awareness of the need for hand washing, and “Stay at Home” from Bahrain, which features pajama-clad people who have won medals for performing mundane tasks at home.Marcus was a writer on the comedy series Eretz Nehederet when he was in his early 20s and has written for and created several comic and reality series. He is also the head of Screenz Originals, a global company that creates entertainment-driven, interactive customer experiences, and he volunteers as head of publicity for Eye from Zion, a humanitarian organization that performs free surgeries in Third World countries. The organization, established by his father in 2007, has saved the sight of hundreds of people (mainly children) around the world.His motto is, “Changing the world, one joke at a time.”

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RESILIENCE Launches to Change the Future of Medicine through Manufacturing Innovation

SAN DIEGO and BOSTON, Nov. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — RESILIENCE (National Resilience, Inc.), a new company building the world’s most advanced biopharmaceutical manufacturing ecosystem, announced its launch today. 

The company will actively invest in developing powerful new technologies to manufacture complex medicines that are defining the future of therapeutics, including cell and gene therapies, viral vectors, vaccines, and proteins. In doing so, it seeks to overcome one of the biggest challenges the biopharmaceutical industry is facing in pioneering novel treatment modalities – manufacturing. RESILIENCE will dramatically increase overall production capacity for these modalities, ensuring that important medicines are accessible to all patients in need and protecting against supply chain disruption.

“We created RESILIENCE to reimagine biopharmaceutical manufacturing through unprecedented investment in technology and a best-in-class team to execute our vision,” said Robert Nelsen, RESILIENCE founder, Chairman of the Board, and managing director at ARCH Venture Partners. “COVID-19 has exposed critical vulnerabilities in medical supply chains, and today’s manufacturing can’t keep up with scientific innovation, medical discovery, and the need to rapidly produce and distribute critically important drugs at scale. We are committed to tackling these huge problems with a whole new business model.”

Company Focus

RESILIENCE seeks to address today’s challenges while investing in the future of U.S.-led biopharmaceutical innovation. RESILIENCE will offer customized and scalable processes, short lead times, the highest quality and regulatory capabilities, and world-class manufacturing facilities. It will serve partners of all sizes, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, universities, independent research organizations, and government programs. By enabling complex medicine manufacturing that is faster, more flexible, and less risky, RESILIENCE empowers partners to focus on generating discoveries that improve medical outcomes and save patients’ lives.

“Our aim with RESILIENCE is to improve manufacturing of breakthrough medicines so that they are more accessible to patients and to foster scientific innovation that makes new modalities of medicine possible,” said RESILIENCE Co-Founder and CEO Rahul Singhvi, Sc.D. “By providing improved process platforms and the highest quality manufacturing network, RESILIENCE has been designed to help society meet the challenges of tomorrow, whether that’s the next pandemic or high demand for a great new medicine. I am incredibly proud to lead a team of extraordinary professionals with deep and diverse talent to build a more resilient future.”

RESILIENCE has raised over $800 million of capital following the recent Series B raise of approximately $750 million, not tied to milestones, from investors that collectively manage over $5 trillion. Led by ARCH Venture Partners and 8VC with participation by GV and NEA, investors include public mutual funds, some of the largest U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies, foundations, family offices, and pension funds, among others.

“It is critical that we adopt solutions that will protect the manufacturing supply chain, and provide more certainty around drug development and the ability to scale up the manufacturing of safe, effective but also more complex products that science is making possible,” said Scott Gottlieb, M.D., former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and member

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California Prop 14 may change lives of sick kids, keep taxpayer funding of stem cell therapy research

Three-year-old Ava was constantly sick. Her gums were inflamed, and every time she got a scraped knee, it turned into a dangerous infection.

Her parents, Alicia and Jon Langenhop, were months pregnant with their third child when they learned that Ava’s constellation of symptoms added up to an extremely rare, inherited disorder of the white blood cells, called leukocyte adhesion deficiency-1. Although antibiotics and antivirals could prolong her life, the disease was considered fatal, usually before kindergarten.

Ava’s primary hope, doctors told the Langenhops, was a bone marrow transplant from someone who was a good match, probably a brother or a sister.

Two-year-old Olivia had inherited the same disease as her big sister. She had been hospitalized with infections, too.

The baby in Alicia’s belly would be the girls’ best hope. Since both parents were carriers of the rare genetic mutation, the new baby, a boy, had a 25% chance of inheriting it, too.

Alicia was still in the hospital last October when they found out baby Landon had the mutation. Around the same time, the couple learned of a research trial in California.

Children Ava, Olivia and Landon Langenhop were diagnosed with an extremely rare, inherited disorder of the white blood cells, called leukocyte adhesion deficiency-1. California Proposition 14, a citizen-initiated ballot measure, authorizes bonds continuing stem cell research.
Children Ava, Olivia and Landon Langenhop were diagnosed with an extremely rare, inherited disorder of the white blood cells, called leukocyte adhesion deficiency-1. California Proposition 14, a citizen-initiated ballot measure, authorizes bonds continuing stem cell research.

Doctors would take each child’s blood cells, fix the mutation and return them. It should be a permanent fix, with less risk than a bone marrow transplant because the healthy cells would be their own, so their bodies wouldn’t reject them as foreign.  

The approach had been tried in only one child, though.

This is the type of research reaching patients nearly two decades after President George W. Bush banned federal funding of stem cell research and 16 years after California residents approved a tax increase on themselves to support research.

Proposition 14 on Tuesday’s ballot asks whether Californians want to continue this work, providing $5.5 billion for stem cell research over the next three decades.

In the early 2000s, stem cell research was controversial because it often required the destruction of human embryos. Though embryonic stem cells remain essential for some therapies, in cases such as the Langenhops’, treatment focuses on manipulating a person’s own cells.

Stem cell science has made tremendous progress, but as in most new fields, the pace remains painstakingly slow. Every treatment has to be the subject of years of trial-and-error research, and many scientific hurdles linger. 

Stem cells have been used to treat rare diseases, such as severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble boy disease,” and they are being tested in more common conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, Type 1 diabetes and even heart disease.

“Even if a subset of stuff in the pipeline goes all the way, it will change the world for patients who currently don’t have other good options,” said Sean Morrison, a stem cell biologist in Dallas.

“It’s a pivotal time in the field,” said

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Virus Rate Fell to 2% From 34% in One Area. But Did Anything Change?

The urgent calls from doctors to the county department of health began in mid-October, shortly after skyrocketing coronavirus cases had brought a state-imposed lockdown to the community north of New York City.

“Some patients are refusing testing because they do not want D.O.H. bothering them,” a doctor said in a message for the county health commissioner on Oct. 13.

A day later, a caller to a state complaint hotline said in a message, “I would also like to report that there is a widespread effort from the community’s leadership to discourage Covid testing.”

Two weeks after a flurry of similar messages, the positivity rate in Kiryas Joel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish village in Orange County, plummeted from 34 percent — the highest in the state — to just 2 percent. Last week, citing “dramatic progress” on the rate, the governor eased restrictions in the zone.

The course of events in Orange County has raised deep suspicions among some health experts about the reliability of the data, reflecting broader concerns about whether top officials in New York and around the country are tracking the outbreak in ways that may not accurately capture how much the virus is spreading.

Epidemiologists suggest that officials should rely on many factors when making decisions about reopening, including interviews with health care providers, hospital admission rates and contact tracing, as well as the positivity rate, which is the percent of people who have tested positive over a particular time period.

In New York, senior officials say they use all that data, and refer to the positivity rates as merely a lead measure and shorthand.

Still, the positivity rate has become the de facto gold standard of publicly highlighted measures. For example, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials in New York repeatedly refer to the rate in pronouncements and news releases to give the public a sense of how efforts to combat the virus are going.

The concern over misleading positivity rates has come to a head in regards to Kiryas Joel, also called the Town of Palm Tree, a densely populated Hasidic village of 26,000 people that is about 50 miles north of New York City, and among the poorest communities in the state.

In Orange County, the local health commissioner, Dr. Irina Gelman, said she was concerned about easing restrictions because she had serious doubts about whether the suggested decline in virus cases was real. She said that even though more people in the ultra-Orthodox community were reporting to doctors with symptoms or exposure to the virus, fewer of them were agreeing to be tested, reducing the positivity rate.

“This is an alarming trend,” Dr. Gelman said. “Refusing tests, clearly, makes it very difficult as far as gauging the infection prevalence rate within the community.”

“To go from a 34 percent positivity rate down to a 4 percent positivity rate when the “micro-cluster/ hot zone” schools did not actually shut down — and just converted to “child care”— is something many

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Mental Health Advocates Say These Things Need To Change No Matter Who Wins The Election

Looking beyond Tuesday’s elections, mental health advocates are gearing up to become a more potent political lobby, as the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a surge in people seeking services and flooded an already understaffed system. They are urging political leaders to increase funding and extend protections for mental healthcare regardless of who wins the presidency and the down-ballot races that will decide the makeup of Congress and statehouses around the country.

“We’re going to be seeing a tidal wave of people seeking out mental health support,” said Matthew Shapiro, associate director for public affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York State, at a virtual policy panel in October. Many of the callers to a state-run support line during the pandemic have been “seeking out mental health services for the first time in their lives,” he said.

“That’s a very encouraging thing to hear the people are seeking help,” Shapiro said, adding that it’s “scary and really concerning” that there might not be enough help to go around.

Shapiro and other advocates are becoming more vocal about funding for mental health and issues that affect it, reflecting a desire to follow the example of activists who fought taboos against HIV and other conditions to win support in the halls of power.

The movement has a long way to go. Mental health and substance use have been virtually absent from the presidential debates. That lack of attention reflects mental health advocates’ lack of power, said Bill Smith, who this year founded Inseparable Action, a political group advocating for greater access to mental healthcare. “There are a lot of really, really smart people who know what we need to do and understand the policy solutions. They just don’t have the power to get it done,” said Smith, the former political director for a marriage equality group.

Inseparable Action aims to help build that political power. It helped pass California’s new law making it harder for insurers to deny mental healthcare and is at work on an agenda of reforms Congress can pass and ones the president can make without its approval. Those include more strongly enforcing the equality of mental and medical benefits and rolling out the new 9-8-8 emergency number for mental health crises. While Smith personally supports Joe Biden’s campaign and has raised money for it, a second Trump administration could also act on any of those proposals. “There are things that need to happen no matter who the president is,” Smith said.

Groups that support people with mental illness are raising their voices as well. Fountain House, a community center in New York for people with serious mental illness, helps its members build social, vocational, and educational skills by teaching them to run the center itself. It can also help members advocate for their political

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Fact check: No, the media didn’t suddenly change its reporting on coronavirus immunity after Trump got infected

The story goes like this: The media had always said that people who survived a Covid-19 infection would be immune from the virus for life. But once he, Trump, got infected and survived, the media started claiming immunity only lasted for months.

“And until I came along — you know, you used to hear you have immunity for life, right? As soon as I had it and got better, they were not too happy about that…It was supposed to be for life; when it was me, they said it’s only good for four months, okay? Okay. Anybody else it’s for life, with Trump they said it’s four months. So they brought it down now, immunity, from life to four months,” Trump said at his Tuesday rally in Lansing, Michigan.
Trump told a similar story at his Tuesday rally in Omaha, Nebraska: “But because it was me, the press said, ‘No, it’s not for a lifetime. It’s only for four months. The immunity is only now for four months.’ They brought it down, right? It was always gonna be for a lifetime, now it’s four months.”

Trump said much the same thing at a Wednesday rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, this time adding that “they’ve changed the whole medical standard” because of his own infection.

Facts First: Trump’s story is false. In the months before Trump tested positive for Covid-19 in early October, numerous major media outlets had reported that scientists were not yet sure how long survivors might have immunity. While we can’t definitively say there was no media report whatsoever from before Trump’s infection that had claimed survivors would get lifetime immunity, it was certainly not widely reported that survivors were immune for life.

A CNN fact check in July concluded: “It remains unclear if those already infected with the virus are immune to any reinfection. Additionally, it’s unknown how long any sort of immunity would last.” A CNN story in mid-August was headlined, “Are you immune to Covid-19 for three months after recovering? It’s not clear.” And CNN wrote in August about a Nevada man who was infected with the virus twice — quoting Mark Pandori, the director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, as saying: “After one recovers from COVID-19, we still do not know how much immunity is built up, how long it may last, or how well antibodies play a role in protection against a reinfection.”

Even upbeat media stories about optimistic findings about immunity noted that the facts had not been conclusively settled.

For example, an August article in the New York Times said that “scientists who have been monitoring immune responses to the coronavirus for months are now starting to see encouraging signs of strong, lasting immunity, even in people who developed only mild symptoms of Covid-19, a flurry of new studies has found.” But that piece continued by saying that “researchers cannot forecast how long these immune responses will last.”
The Washington Post also made clear in August that “researchers
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Change Healthcare to Present at the Credit Suisse 29th Annual Healthcare Conference

Change Healthcare Inc. (Nasdaq: CHNG), a leading independent healthcare technology company, today announced its participation in a virtual fireside chat via webcast at the Credit Suisse 29th Annual Healthcare Conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

The live webcast and more information about this event may be accessed by visiting the Events and Presentations tab at http://ir.changehealthcare.com. The webcast replay will be available approximately 48 hours after the live webcast ends and will be accessible for 90 days following the conference.

About Change Healthcare

Change Healthcare (Nasdaq: CHNG) is a leading independent healthcare technology company, focused on insights, innovation, and accelerating the transformation of the U.S. healthcare system through the power of the Change Healthcare Platform. We provide data and analytics-driven solutions to improve clinical, financial, administrative, and patient engagement outcomes in the U.S. healthcare system.

Learn more at changehealthcare.com.

CHNG-IR

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201028005185/en/

Contacts

Evan Smith, CFA
Investor Relations
404-338-2225
[email protected]

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Accessible healthcare could help slow climate change, reverse biodiversity losses

Oct. 26 (UPI) — To protect forests and vulnerable ecosystems, erect healthcare clinics. That’s what nonprofit organizers did in Indonesia, where deforestation rates in neighboring Gunung Palung National Park declined dramatically during the first 10 years of the clinic’s operation.

The affordable healthcare clinic was set up in 2007 by a pair of nonprofits, Alam Sehat Lestari and Health In Harmony. Prior to the arrival of the clinic, the forests of Gunung Palung were shrinking annually as a result of uncontrolled illegal logging.

To curb the losses, the clinic offered discounted services to villages that enacted community-wide logging reductions and other conservation-minded reforms.

Researchers described the clinic’s environmental and public health successes in a new paper, published Monday in the journal PNAS.

“This innovative model has clear global health implications,” study co-author Michele Barry, senior associate dean of global health at Stanford University and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health, said in a news release. “Health and climate can and should be addressed in unison, and done in coordination with and respect for local communities.”

In addition to offering community-wide discounts pegged to reductions in logging, the clinic also provided healthcare services for barter, allowing villagers to pay with tree seedlings, handicrafts and labor.

Health data collected by the clinic revealed a significant drop in infectious and non-communicable diseases between 2007 and 2017. Satellite data showed that deforestation rates in the forests surrounding the clinic and villages receiving service declined 70 percent compared to control plots far from the clinic.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we started evaluating the program’s health and conservation impacts, but were continually amazed that the data suggested such a strong link between improvements in health care access and tropical forest conservation,” said lead study author Isabel Jones, recent recipient of a doctoral degree in biology from Stanford.

Researchers found that the biggest reductions in logging occurred surrounding the villages that used the healthcare clinic the most.

More than a third of protected forests around the globe are either owned, managed, used or occupied by indigenous groups and local communities, but conservation planning and regulatory decision rarely involves input from these communities.

The opposite was true in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, where nonprofit leaders met regularly with local villages to come up with a strategy for protecting the environment while also meeting the region’s public health needs.

Researchers suggest the clinic’s success can serve as a model for conservation and public health initiatives all over the world.

“The data support two important conclusions: human health is integral to the conservation of nature and vice versa, and we need to listen to the guidance of rainforest communities who know best how to live in balance with their forests,” said Monica Nirmala, the executive director of the clinic from 2014 to 2018 and current board member of Health In Harmony.

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What Trump Has Done to Change the Health Care System and How That Has Helped Battle COVID-19

Our health-care system is experiencing rapid, powerful change, far more consequential than is generally recognized. Although these changes are welcomed by many in the health-policy community (see our assessment a year ago), even those who applaud them have been surprised at their speed and impact.

What follows is a brief overview of what the Trump administration has done to reform the health-care system — in some cases, with the compliant help of Congress. The vision behind the Trump reforms can be found in Reforming America’s Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition. This 124-page Health and Human Services document from 2018 argues that the most serious problems in health care arise because of government failure, not market failure.

In pursuing its vision, the administration has aggressively pursued its options under current law. We now need Congress to make the revolution complete.

Virtual Medicine. The ability to deliver medical care remotely is growing by leaps and bounds. It promises to lower medical costs, increase quality, and reduce the time and travel cost of patient care. For example, most people in hospital emergency rooms don’t really need to be there. With a phone or a computer and an app or two, many of them could be examined and triaged in their own homes.

The benefits of telehealth have been known for a long time. Yet as we entered 2020, it was illegal (by act of Congress) for Medicare doctors to consult with their patients by phone or email, except in rare circumstances. Even non-Medicare patients were constrained. For example, it wasn’t clear if visual communication by Zoom or FaceTime satisfied the federal government’s privacy regulations. While some state governments were clearing away barriers, progress was incremental and uneven.

Two things made radical change possible: COVID-19 and the Trump administration. Sweeping away the regulatory barriers to telehealth was not a simple act. There are roughly 7,500 procedures that Medicare pays doctors to do. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had to sort through those and determine which were candidates for virtual medicine and which were not. There were also the questions of whether a virtual visit would pay doctors the same as an office visit, and whether an audio visit would pay the same as an audio/visual visit.

Fortunately, CMS had already been sorting through those problems in the first three years of the Trump administration, for example allowing Medicare patients to use telehealth to determine if an office visit was necessary and allowing patients to send medical pictures to their physicians electronically. CMS also allowed great leeway for telehealth in the Medicare Advantage program. So when COVID struck, the administration was ready. Congress was only too willing to let the administration do what it had wanted to do all along. State governments also got on board, not only loosening prior restrictions but also, in many cases, allowing doctors to practice across state lines.

The take-up by doctors and patients has been nothing short of breathtaking. According to

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As Open Enrollment Begins, Health Benefits May Not Change Much

If you take medication regularly for a chronic condition, she added, make sure the plan’s prescription benefit covers it.

If your employer offers multiple plan choices, Ms. Watts of Mercer said, you should take the time to compare the total cost of coverage for each option — don’t just look at the premiums. She advises taking the total premium and subtracting any contributions made by your employer, such as to a health savings account, to compare the cost of different plans.

“Do the math,” she said.

To see your total potential financial exposure, add the plan deductible. If you are generally healthy and don’t take regular medication, a plan with a higher deductible may save you money. If you can’t afford unexpected costs, a lower deductible — typically with a higher premium — may be the best option. The average deductible for an individual is $1,644, Kaiser found.

Theresa Adams, senior knowledge adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management, said many workers didn’t take enough time to evaluate benefits. She encouraged them to make use of online tools offered by their employers to help choose options and to reach out with questions.

How much can I contribute to a health savings account in 2021?

Contribution limits ticked up for next year, the Internal Revenue Service announced. The maximum contribution is $3,600 for an individual and $7,200 for family coverage. (People 55 and older can save an extra $1,000.) H.S.A.s, however, are available only with specific types of health plans with high deductibles — at least $1,400 for individual coverage and $2,800 for family coverage for 2021. Typically, your employer will specify if a plan is H.S.A. qualified.

Some plans have a different option, called a health care flexible spending account. You can contribute to it before taxes, via paycheck withdrawals, to pay for care and products that your health plan doesn’t cover. Contribution limits are lower than with an H.S.A., and if you change jobs, your flexible spending account doesn’t go with you, as an H.S.A. does.

When is open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act marketplace?

According to Healthcare.gov, open enrollment for coverage starting on Jan. 1 runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. Open enrollment for state-run marketplaces may vary.

The legal challenge before the Supreme Court isn’t expected to affect this year’s open enrollment, as the court’s decision would probably come before next summer.

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