Doc touts long “cure” from COVID; The perfect victims of COVID; Erroneous prenatal tests

Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, which features some of the best investigative reporting in healthcare every week.

Patients Spend Thousands on Long ‘Cure’ of COVID

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on many patients long after their initial symptoms have subsided, some are seeking help in expensive and experimental forms.

Mother Jones reported on the case of a healthy man in his 20s, identified only as Owen, who contracted a mild case of COVID-19 in April 2021. After just a few days of a runny nose, Owen believed he was out of the woods. But, several weeks later, Owen began to experience difficulty breathing, extreme exhaustion, brain fog, and digestive issues so severe that he lost nearly 80 pounds.

When emergency room visits and traditional tests performed by doctors didn’t help, Owen took to the internet, where he found online support groups for long-haul COVIDs on Facebook and other sites. , Mother Jones reported.

There were dozens of social media groups dedicated to an approach by former Stanford virologist Bruce Patterson, MD, Mother Jones reported. Patterson says his company IncellDX provides testing and treatment protocols that address “the underlying immunologic causes of long-term COVID.” Patterson believes that overactivation of cytokines plays an important role in activating the body’s immune system.

After a blood test, Patterson comes up with a treatment protocol he describes as “being specifically tailored to a patient’s test results – often a combination of drugs not indicated, including blood pressure medications, steroids, a drug. against HIV called maraviroc and the controversial anti-parasitic drug ivermectin “, Mother Jones reported.

For patients, tests, follow-up visits, and physician fees can cost anywhere from $ 200 to several hundred dollars. Some medications can cost up to several thousand dollars a month.

Although some patients said the approach cured them, Mother Jones reported that he “discovered unusual behavior on the part of the team, including offering medical advice and recruiting patients on YouTube and social media, failing to disclose financial conflicts of interest and reports inconsistencies in laboratory results “.

“Taken together, these practices have raised suspicions from some scientists and patient advocates who fear that IncellDX may use unproven tests and treatments to take advantage of the desperation of 14,000 long-time Covid patients,” the report says. article.

Patterson says his approach worked for 85% of patients, Mother Jones reported. He and his colleague, Ram Yogendra, MD, said Mother Jones that they are way ahead of other doctors in terms of treating patients with long COVID.

For Owen, about a month into his treatment protocol, with thousands of dollars spent and little improvement, he cut it off, Mother Jones reported. Now, 6 months after the onset of his symptoms, he is starting to feel better.

Dialysis patients were the ‘perfect victims’ of COVID-19

In the three decades leading up to the pandemic, the number of Americans with end-stage kidney disease had quadrupled to around 810,000 in 2019, ProPublica reported, with some 70% of these patients dependent on dialysis. While a “rare bright spot” among the peak in diagnoses had been a declining death rate, it was reversed when COVID-19 struck.

“Almost 18,000 more dialysis patients died in 2020 than one would have expected based on previous years,” ProPublica wrote, adding: “They were the perfect victims of COVID-19.”

“It can’t help but sound like massive failure when we have such catastrophic patient loss,” said Michael Heung, MD, clinical professor of nephrology at the University of Michigan. ProPublica. “It shows how serious this pandemic has been and how serious this disease is. “

The devastating numbers are representative of the long-standing disparities that the pandemic has continued to shed more light on.

Many dialysis patients have already been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure or other underlying conditions, ProPublica reported. Their immune systems are severely compromised, many are old and poor, and they are also disproportionately black.

Throughout the pandemic, many dialysis patients missed desperately needed appointments for fear of infection, ProPublica reported. The federal government has been slow to roll out vaccination in dialysis clinics. Some dialysis sites did not follow strict infection control measures. Home dialysis remains out of reach for many patients.

Epidemiologist Eric Weinhandl, PhD, said ProPublica that a new battle exists as cases increase due to the Omicron variant.

“Is there a plan? Because I think there should be,” he said. ProPublica. “I think it becomes pretty predictable. Every time COVID increases, you see the excess mortality of the dialysis population increasing with it.”

Prenatal tests

Yael Geller, 32, found out she was pregnant in November 2020 after a year of fertility treatments, the New York Times reported. She had a normal ultrasound and felt comfortable telling her 3 year old son that he would soon have a baby brother or sister.

But, several weeks later, Geller’s doctor’s office called to say that a prenatal blood test indicated that her fetus may be missing part of a chromosome, which could lead to serious illness and mental illness, the Time reported.

Geller told her husband that evening that they might be faced with a decision to terminate the pregnancy, the Time reported.

Then the next day brought different results.

Doctors used a long needle to retrieve part of Geller’s placenta, which was tested and showed the initial result to be incorrect, the Time reported. And Emmanuel, now six months old, has no signs of the disease he tested positive for.

“In just over a decade, testing has grown from laboratory experiments to an industry that serves more than a third of pregnant women in America, attracting large companies like Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics into the business, to alongside many start-ups, ”he added. Time wrote. “The tests first looked for Down syndrome and worked very well. But as manufacturers tried to sell more, they started to offer additional screenings for increasingly rare diseases.”

Now they are generally wrong, the Time reported, citing its own investigation. In an analysis of the five most common microdeletion tests (those that look for small missing pieces of chromosomes), for every 15 times they correctly find a problem, 85 times they mess up, the Time reported.

Last updated on January 05, 2022

  • Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as a corporate and investigative writer in January 2021. She has covered New York’s healthcare industry, life sciences, and law, among others.


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