Health Care — New data shows major disparities in Paxlovid use


Farewell 12-foot skeleton, this year’s must-have Halloween decoration from Home Depot is an 9.5 foot animatronic werewolf with a ripped physique. 

In health news, the CDC for the first time shared data showing the persistent racial disparities among patients getting COVID-19 treatments.  

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

CDC finds racial disparities in COVID treatments

People of color with a COVID-19 diagnosis were much less likely to receive Paxlovid and other treatments than white patients, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The findings are consistent across all age groups and underscore the persistent disparities surrounding access to COVID-19 treatments, especially the antiviral pill Paxlovid. Paxlovid is the most commonly prescribed medication and the preferred outpatient therapeutic for eligible patients, according to CDC. 

  • During a four month period from April to July 2022, Paxlovid treatment was 36 percent lower among Black patients relative to White patients and 30 percent lower among Hispanic patients relative to non-Hispanic patients.
  • The study found disparities in other treatments — including antivirals molnupiravir and remdesivir, as well as the monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab — but they were much less frequently prescribed than Paxlovid. 

Paxlovid is available primarily for people who test positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk of developing serious illness, like the immunocompromised or older patients. It’s taken at home, and has been shown to significantly reduce hospitalization and death.

The largest difference was between Black and white patients aged 65 to 79, where white patients were 44 percent more likely to receive a Paxlovid prescription. 

The study did not assess why the disparities were so striking, but researchers suggested multiple factors, including that people living in counties that are both high-poverty areas and have a majority of people of color are less likely to have access to COVID-19 treatment facilities. 

Read more here.

Most hospitalized for monkeypox HIV-positive: CDC

The vast majority of hospitalized monkeypox patients observed in a report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were found to be HIV-positive, bringing attention to the need for early treatment for those who have a high risk of developing a severe infection. 

  • Between August and October of this year, the CDC provided clinical consultations for 57 patients who had developed severe cases of monkeypox. Of the patients who received consultations, 82 percent had HIV infections.
  • At 95 percent, the majority of patients were male and 68 percent were non-Hispanic Black. The CDC noted that 30 percent received intensive care unit (ICU) level care. About a quarter of the patients were experiencing homelessness.

Monkeypox was the cause or contributing factor for five the 12 patients who died in this report.

“Health care providers and public health professionals should be aware that severe morbidity and mortality associated with monkeypox have been observed during the current outbreak in the United States, particularly among highly immunocompromised persons,” the CDC said in its report. 

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS if left untreated. The disease is currently incurable, but antiviral therapies are available which can suppress HIV activity to where it undetectable and untransmissible. 

Reported monkeypox cases in the U.S. have been falling since they peaked in early August. The current seven-day moving average is 30 cases per day. Nearly all infections have occurred among men who have sex with men. 

Read more here. 

MORTALITY RATES DIFFER IN LIBERAL, CONSERVATIVE STATES: STUDY

Americans die younger in states with more conservative policies, while states with more liberal policies are associated with lower mortality rates, according to a new study published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS One. 

  • Researchers analyzed mortality rates for all causes of death in all 50 states from 1999 to 2019 among adults aged 25 to 64.
  • They compared that to state data on policy measures such as gun safety, labor, marijuana policy, economic taxes and tobacco taxes. 

Affected states: Currently, Republicans control 46 percent of states in the U.S., while Democrats control 29 percent, with 12 states divided between legislative and executive control.

  • According to their simulation, if all states had switched to fully liberal policies, then 171,030 lives would have been saved in 2019.
  • If all states had switched to fully conservative policies, that could have cost an additional 217,635 lives, according to the study. 

Researchers wrote the data is “striking” because modern U.S. society is becoming hyperpolarized and involves “growing policy divergence across states.” 

Read more here.

BIDEN EDUCATION HEAD: ‘EMBRACE’ PANDEMIC ‘DISRUPTION’

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday the upheaval of the U.S. school system from the coronavirus pandemic should be “embraced” as an opportunity to build a better one for students.  

“We have to embrace this disruption in education and not build it back the way it was before,” Cardona said at The Atlantic’s Education Summit. 

In rebuilding that system, Cardona pointed to addressing the teacher shortage, calling it a “crisis,” as well as efforts on student debt relief.

  • The session with the secretary comes the week the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores came out, showing major drops in mathematics and reading for fourth and eighth graders during the pandemic. 
  • Cardona said he is “very confident we can reverse” the drop in scores, but that even the ones from before the pandemic in 2019 were not acceptable.  

“In 2019 … our Black and brown kids were underperforming by 10, 15 points on average, and nobody was talking about it,” he said. 

Read more here. 

Inflation threatens insurance premium spike in 2023

Annual premiums for family health coverage remained relatively flat in 2022, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), even as wages and inflation soared, though inflation threatens to spike premiums next year.

  • Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance averaged $22,463 this year, up only about 1 percent from last year, the 2022 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey found. Nearly 159 million people have insurance through their jobs. 
  • While families and individuals paid similar amounts for coverage over the past year, premiums have increased by 20 percent over the past five years. 

The findings were surprising, the survey noted, as inflation rose 8 percent and wages rose 6.7 percent.  

Short lived: Inflation this year may push prices up, leading to premium increases in the upcoming year.  

According to accompanying research published in the journal Health Affairs, premium increases may be even higher than the 3 to 4 percentage points that have been seen in recent years. 

Read more here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Pressures grow on the health care industry to reduce its climate pollution (Stat) 
  • Concussion protocols are based on research of mostly men. What about women? (NPR) 
  • Walgreens will stop judging its pharmacy staff by how fast they work (NBC) 

STATE BY STATE

  • Ambulance company to halt some rides in Southern Calif., citing low Medicaid rates (Kaiser Health News)
  • ‘No plans’ for COVID-19 vaccine school mandate in Minnesota (Star Tribune) 
  • EPA recommends Louisiana state agencies consider relocating elementary school students over toxic chemical exposure (CNN) 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and check out more newsletters here. See you tomorrow.

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