Photo by Maryland GovPics via Flickr
Health inequalities have long been a concern in medicine. A robust evidence base has been growing for decades regarding social determinants — such as poverty, neighborhood proximity to pollution, and education access — that contribute to higher risk of disease and poor health outcomes. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that these issues took center stage in the public eye.
A JAMA January 2021 article revealed that the hospitalization rate for Black patients with COVID-19 was more than triple that of white people, and Hispanic patients were hospitalized more than four times more often than white patients. Asian patients with COVID-19 had double the hospitalization risk of white patients. Similarly, Black and Hispanic people with COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to die from the disease than white people, and Asian patients were almost twice as likely to die than white patients.
Marilynn Marchione was the Associated Press’s chief medical writer for the last 10 years of her long career in journalism.
Deciding to retire this year was not easy because she loved her job and rarely woke up thinking, “How long till I don’t have to do this anymore?” The pandemic delayed her plans for more than a year because she didn’t want to miss the chance to report an important story and because it didn’t feel right to leave the job at a time of such enormous need.
Marchione took time out of her busy schedule recently — between relaxing on the beach and reading a good book — to share what she learned over her long career of covering medical research. From emphasizing the substantial responsibility of health journalists to get their reporting right, to discussing what she’s learned from her mistakes, to highlighting what chops are needed to report on medical research well, her wisdom is like a 10-minute master class on what it takes to be an accurate, thoughtful, responsible, and incisive medical reporter. Continue reading
Infographic from Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. Click to enlarge.
While most AHCJ members have been writing about health for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly turned nearly every other reporter in the country into a health reporter, at least for a time. Even those who don’t directly report on the pandemic likely cannot report on their regular beat without the pandemic affecting it in some way or another.
Those who have been able to stick to the beats they know best, such as business, entertainment, or sports, have not needed to worry as much about quickly boning up on science for the first time since high school or college. But many other reporters, particularly general assignment reporters, have found themselves reporting on vaccines, epidemiology, infectious disease, health disparities, health policy, vaccine hesitancy, and a host of related topics for which they lack specialized training or experience. Sometimes, that has been a big problem. At times, they’ve gotten the science wrong, inadvertently mischaracterized a concept, or unwittingly conveyed or emphasized the wrong message. Continue reading
While recent headlines have pointed out the disastrous rise in opioid use during the pandemic, less attention has focused on alcohol consumption during the pandemic and relapses among those with alcohol use disorder. Even more under-recognized is the prevalence and burden of alcohol use disorder among women, who too often aren’t included in discussions about the condition.
Yet research from the National Institutes of Health shows that the gender gap between men’s and women’s alcohol consumption is narrowing — and that’s not a good thing. Higher levels of alcohol consumption had already been on the rise in older adults and particularly in women prior to 2020, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this health issue. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a two-part package on the pipeline for Alzheimer’s disease drugs. Check out part 1.
While the controversy surrounding the FDA’s approval of Biogen’s adumanucab for Alzheimer’s disease continues, several other drug companies are developing their own therapies to prevent or slow the progression of the disease.
One of those new drugs, ALZ-801, began National Institute of Aging-funded Phase 3 trials on June 4. Unlike aducanumab or other drug candidates from Eisai, Eli Lilly and Roche, which attack amyloid plaque after it forms in the brain, biotech startup Alzheon, Inc. aims to help people with AD who have two copies of the ε4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE4/4), a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is to prevent plaque from forming in the first place or prevent additional plaque from forming in those who already show clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s. ALZ-801 is also the only drug currently under investigation administered orally and which uses precision medicine strategy (factoring in individual genetics and lifestyle), according to the company. Continue reading