EYEWIRE.NEWS: ONGOING COVID-19 COVERAGE
As the eye care profession and industry, and the world at large, navigate these rapidly changing and challenging times and respond to the recent demand for credible educational resources, Bryn Mawr Communications is prioritizing the production and distribution of news and information dedicated to COVID-19 and its impact on eye care. To this end, Eyewire has launched a special section dedicated solely to coverage of COVID-19 that will be updated throughout the day. Sign up for email newsletters to be notified when critical updates are posted, and see updated coverage online at eyewire.news.
Retina Vendors Temporarily Extend Payment Terms
Genentech, Regeneron, Allergan, and Novartis are extending payment terms in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
George A. Williams, MD, discussed the terms of extended payment announced by Genentech and Regeneron on a recent episode of the podcast New Retina Radio, and details were confirmed in statements from the companies received by Eyewire. Regeneron has extended payment terms to 150 days (from 100 days), and Genentech has extended payment terms to 120 days (from 60 days).
A company statement from Allergan received by Eyewire indicated that the company will provide an additional 30-day grace period on top of its usual 120-day period for orders placed on or before March 23. A Novartis statement received by Eyewire said that it will extend terms but did not provide details.
LI WENLIANG, MD
Li Wenliang, MD, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China, died on February 7. Dr. Li died from COVID-19 after first raising alarm about the novel coronavirus in late December. He was 34 years old.
On December 30, 2019, Dr. Li used the Chinese social media platform Weibo to message his medical school colleagues about a cluster of illnesses resembling severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Seven patients at his place of employment, Wuhan Central Hospital, had been quarantined as a result, he said. Days after his message was posted, Chinese officials forced Dr. Li to sign a document stating that he had made false comments that had “severely disturbed the social order.”1
Following the incident, Dr. Li returned to work, where on January 10 he contracted the virus from a glaucoma patient who was asymptomatic for COVID-19. Dr. Li was hospitalized on January 12 and tested positive for COVID-19 on February 1. After numerous conflicting reports regarding his condition, the hospital confirmed Dr. Li’s death on February 7.
In an interview with The New York Times after his diagnosis, Dr. Li said, “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should have been more openness and transparency.”2
Dr. Li is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and their first child. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
1. Lewis S. Chinese doctor who sounded the alarm on coronavirus dies of the illness. CBS. February 6, 2020. https:// www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-li-wenliang-chinese-doctor-whistleblower-coronavirus-dies-of-illness-wuhan/. Accessed March 1, 2020.
2. Buckley C, Myers SL. As new coronavirus spread, China’s old habits delayed fight. The New York Times. February 7, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/world/asia/china-coronavirus.html. Accessed March 1, 2020.
FDA Authorized Emergency Use of Anti-Malaria Drugs For Coronavirus Treatment
The FDA issued an emergency use authorization at the end of March that allows hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to be distributed and used for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The drugs will be distributed from the SNS to states for doctors to prescribe to adolescent and adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available, the FDA announced. The emergency use authorization requires that known risks and drug interactions of the two treatments be made available to health care providers and patients.
Even before the FDA’s action, some doctors and hospitals were investigating the use of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine to treat patients infected with COVID-19, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. Both antimalarial drugs have shown early signs of improving the symptoms of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19, based on reports by doctors and researchers in South Korea, France, and China, the newspaper reported. The University of Minnesota recently began enrolling patients in a US clinical trial to test hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus. Investigators there are evaluating the drug in health care workers and people who live with infected patients. Meanwhile, chloroquine is among the drugs to be studied in a multinational trial announced by the World Health Organization, and it has been used as a treatment in China and South Korea.
CMS to Make Expedited Advance Payments Available toMedicare Providers
CMS is expanding its accelerated and advance payment program for Medicare participating health care providers and suppliers, to ensure that they have the resources needed to combat COVID-19.
“With our nation’s health care providers on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, dollars and cents shouldn’t be adding to their worries,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a March 28 press release. “Today’s action will ensure that they have the resources they need to maintain their all-important focus on patient care during the pandemic.”
Accelerated and advance Medicare payments provide emergency funding and allow providers to address cash flow issues; they are typically offered in the event of natural disasters. In the current situation, CMS is expanding the program for all Medicare providers throughout the country during the public health emergency related to COVID-19, according to the press release. Payments can be requested by hospitals, doctors, durable medical equipment suppliers, and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers.
Earlier in March, CMS announced that it was relaxing reporting requirements for clinicians, providers, and facilities participating in Medicare quality reporting programs. Specifically, CMS is granting exceptions from reporting requirements and extensions to clinicians and providers participating in Medicare quality reporting programs with respect to upcoming measure reporting and data submission for those programs.
Big Data Tapped to Study Virus
Adaptive Biotechnologies and Microsoft will leverage their existing partnership mapping population-wide adaptive immune responses to diseases at scale to study COVID-19, the companies jointly announced in a March press release. Finding the relevant immune response signature may advance solutions to diagnose, treat, and prevent the disease, augmenting existing research efforts that focus primarily on the biology of the virus, the companies stated. The data generated is to be made freely available to any researcher, public health official, or organization around the world via an open data access portal.
Second Sight Announces Employee Layoffs, Intent to Wind Down Operations
Second Sight Medical Products, maker of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System and other visual prosthetic systems, announced in March that, in response to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the company’s ability to secure financing, it intends to “pursue an orderly wind down” of operations. The company planned to lay off approximately 84 of its 108 employees, and additional layoffs are expected to be made at a later date based on the company’s level of operations, according to a press release.
Second Sight also announced that Matthew Pfeffer, a member of the board and chairman of the audit committee of the board, was appointed acting CEO to guide the company through the wind down period.
For up-to-date coverage of COVID-19, rely on the BMC COVID-19 Resource Center