06Jun

Several of the world’s healthcare, bioscience and pharmaceutical firms, including such global leaders as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Biogen have joined together to accelerate the adoption of decentralized clinical trials and research.

In the planning stage before the coronavirus pandemic, the Decentralized Trials & Research Alliance (DTRA) formally announced its founding this month. With an initial membership of some 50 organizations, the alliance declared its mission to “make clinical trial participation widely accessible by advancing policies, research practices and new technologies in decentralized clinical research.”

Explained Amir Kalali, MD, co-convenor of DTRA, “The benefits of decentralized research methodologies have been apparent for some time, but adoption has been slow due to many factors including culture and the lack of a forum for stakeholders to collaborate.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to adopt decentralized methodologies which have the potential to broadly accelerate drug development.”

Decentralized trials, also (imprecisely) referred to as virtual trials, allow patients to participate without the need to regularly or ever visit a research site. Through telemedicine visits, remote monitoring, wearables and smartphones, researchers can often collect as much or more data in many cases, and often more reliable data, than by requiring in-person visits.

Several months ago we blogged about the increasing use of decentralized trials – those that are entirely remote and those that include occasional face-to-face visits. In that June post we noted that “prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and given the blessing of the FDA, broad acceptance of decentralized trials is becoming a reality.”

Speaking at the virtual BIO 2020 conference, panelists agreed that the foothold COVID gave to decentralized trials will continue to grow, in large part because of its patient benefits. With participants freed from having to travel to research sites, it opens opportunities to recruit underrepresented populations. One example, cited by a panelist, was the potential now to include autistic patients.

DTRA, in its founding announcement, said, “Inclusion of representative patient populations in clinical trials by race, age, and geographic location has long been an operational challenge. Decentralized approaches to conducting research facilitate participation by a more diverse patient population and could ease COVID-19-imposed difficulties for both patients and clinical investigators.”

Added Craig Lipset, DTRA co-convener, “Now is the time to share ideas and insights that will chart the future course of clinical trials, accelerating drug development and saving lives.”

Image by PublicDomainPictures

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Your Mask Might Also Shield Your Seasonal Allergies

More than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. If you’re among the group that has a fully stocked medicine cabinet with eyedrops, nasal sprays, and antihistamines, a recent HealthDay article stated that wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may have another helpful impact – guarding you against severe spring allergies.

According to Dr. Do-Yeon Cho, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, many patients who suffer from seasonal allergies are having an easier time this year because they’re spending more time indoors and wearing a mask when they go outside.

“A study that came out in 2020 showed that allergic rhinitis [hay fever] symptoms among nurses had been significantly reduced with face mask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cho said in a university news release.

Along with wearing a mask, there are additional ways to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.

  1. Identifying your allergens.
  2. Monitor the pollen count in your area if you are allergic to pollens and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
  3. Take allergy medicine before pollen season begins.
  4. Bathe and shampoo daily to wash off any pollens you may have encountered during the day.

With the help of these preventative steps – plus your mask – spring 2021 may be an easier allergy season for those typically affected.

For more information about allergic rhinitis and it’s symptoms and treatment, visit familydoctor.org.

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Demand for Nurses Is Pushing Travel Pay Sky High

This fall’s surge in COVID cases is creating a nationwide “bidding war” for nurses so intense that pay is soaring as high as $8,000 and $10,000 a week.

According to a report by Kaiser Health News, “The fall surge in COVID cases has turned hospital staffing into a sort of national bidding war, with hospitals willing to pay exorbitant wages to secure the nurses they need.”

In South Dakota, hospitals are paying nurses $6,200 a week. A hospital in Fargo, North Dakota advertised more than $8,000 a week.

“Calling the labor market for registered nurses ‘cutthroat’ is an understatement,” said Adam Seth Litwin, an associate professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. “Even if the health care sector can somehow find more beds, it cannot just go out and buy more front-line caregivers.”

Nurses have long been among the hardest jobs to fill. In 2018, a Moody’s Investor Service report said the shortage of nurses had become so critical it was threatening hospital finances. A few months earlier, Reuters reported that to fill nursing shortages hospitals were spending $4.8 billion annually on travel nurses, twice what they were spending three years before.

With COVID patients flooding hospitals nationwide, demand for nurses has now become so intense that pay is skyrocketing, prompting long-time staff nurses to join the ranks of travel nurses. These contract workers fill temporary positions before traveling to another temporary nursing job.

David Deane, senior vice president of a travel nurse job board, estimates there are at least 50,000 travel nurses today, a jump from the 31,000 in 2018. One large specialty staffing firm says it added 1,000 nurses to its “reservist” roster just over the Halloween weekend.

Many of these new travel nurses are coming from rural and small hospitals that can’t afford to match the pay offered elsewhere.

“That is a huge threat,” Angelina Salazar, CEO of the Western Healthcare Alliance told Kaiser Health News. The alliance is a consortium of 29 small hospitals in rural Colorado and Utah. “There’s no way rural hospitals can afford to pay that kind of salary,” she said.

That’s hastening a “brain drain” of nurses, said Tessa Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, and not only to hospitals in metro areas, but internationally too.

“We’ve sent nurses to Aruba, the Bahamas and Curacao because they’ve needed help with COVID,” said Deane. “You’re going down there, you’re making $5,000 a week and all your expenses are paid, right? Who’s not gonna say yes?”

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

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Green Key