Experts at HHS webinar cite key pandemic planning issues

first_img HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan At the beginning of the webcast, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt made some opening remarks that focused on what the agency has accomplished, especially since the release of the HHS’s Pandemic Influenza Plan in 2005. Osterholm said the private sector has so far failed in its pandemic planning efforts, because businesses haven’t taken their plans to the next level, such as establishing back-up plans in case supply chains collapse, which could have more severe effects than the pandemic virus itself. “They have to play like a chess master, and plan the next 8 to 10 moves down the board,” he said. On the vaccine-sharing issue, Leavitt said he understands the concerns that Indonesia and other countries have about access to affordable H5N1 vaccines, but he said Indonesia’s apparent demand of financial compensation for sharing virus samples is a “dangerous proposition” that could open the door to endless demands. Some of the online viewers asked the panelists how individuals and corporations can better prepare for a pandemic. Leavitt and Osterholm advised viewers to keep the issue alive by keeping dialogues on the topic going with local and state government officials. “I think we can finish our service better prepared, especially since 2005, but there is still a great deal to do,” he said. Finish work on new vaccine facilities. Remind states, businesses, and families about their responsibility to help prepare for an influenza pandemic. In terms of pandemic preparedness, Leavitt emphasized a list of the agency’s accomplishments, which include an H5N1 vaccine with aggressive efforts under way to expand vaccine production technology and capacity, an antiviral stockpile that has been amplified by a state purchase incentive plan, new diagnostic testing systems, and an array of regional pandemic planning summits and formal exercises. The compensation demand promotes a vaccine scarcity mentality, Leavitt said, “but we need to pursue an abundance mentality.” See also: Continue work on countermeasure distribution, which he said is currently the “Achilles heel” of bioterror response planning. Leavitt said he has four recommendations for the next HHS secretary, “sort of a note on the desk,” he said: Strongly defend the global influenza virus-sharing network. Leavitt also spoke to the transitions that will likely occur over the next few months as the Bush administration winds down and a new administration takes over. He said during his tenure, the HHS has planned for 15 different disaster scenarios, including pandemic influenza. After Leavitt spoke he joined the panel discussion group, which included Maggie Fox, health and science editor for Reuters news service, Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which publishes CIDRAP News, and William Raub, PhD, Leavitt’s science advisor. He said two events loom large during his years as HHS secretary: the re-emergence of H5N1 avian influenza virus and hurricane Katrina. The storm response was, “a remarkable shakedown of our national response plan,” Leavitt said. “We’re due for a pandemic, but regrettably, we’re still somewhat underprepared,” he said. Leading the nation’s pandemic preparedness efforts has required a delicate balance, Leavitt added. “You want to stimulate preparedness, but not panic.” Oct 29, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today hosted an online conversation among experts, government officials, and members of the public that touched on emerging issues in pandemic planning, such as anticipating supply chain interruptions and keeping the momentum going during tough economic times.last_img read more

Lobbyists seek new funds for chronic fatigue syndrome research

first_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Patient advocates and scientists joined forces today in a new campaign to boost research funding for the mysterious and debilitating disease chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The group aims to increase research funds available for ME/CFS from the $5.4 million annually available today. It also wants to transfer responsibility for the disease from an isolated office within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).The coalition hopes to engineer the changes by inserting language into an authorizing bill expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate; it would be a companion to the 21st Century Cures bill that has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill aims to speed the development of new medical treatments by streamlining regulations and boosting funding for NIH. 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Country  “We really need NIH to fund research in this area—there are a lot of critically ill patients,” says Ronald Davis, a biochemist and geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and one of the signatories in an open letter to U.S. senators affirming the need for more ME/CFS funding. Estimated to affect between 836,000 and 2.5 million people in the United States, ME/CFS in its severe forms can make it impossible for people leave the house or get out of bed, he says. The groups seeks funding comparable to illnesses with similar patient numbers and cost to society. As examples, they cite multiple sclerosis, which was designated $103 million in fiscal year 2015, and HIV/AIDS, which received $3 billion in fiscal year 2015 research funding.According to the lobby group, #MEAction, NIH has long justified its relatively low funding for ME/CFS research by citing a paucity of interest among scientists in the disease, and too few high-quality grant proposals. (NIH had not provided reaction as this item went to press.) Davis, however, says he’s among many scientists hampered by an inability to get funding for ME/CFS research, and has had multiple proposals rejected. (Davis has a child who suffers from ME/CFS.)Although a recent  Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of more than 9000 studies established that ME/CFS is a legitimate disease that costs the United States billions, he says, Davis suspects that lingering skepticism over whether ME/CFS is a “real” disease may play a role in NIH’s reluctance. The “real problem” is that patients don’t look sick, he says. But extensive testing of metabolites and gene expression show significant abnormalities in the ME/CFS patient population that need to be studied in greater depth, he says.  IOM also proposed a new name for ME/CFS: “systemic exertion intolerance disease,” or SEID.Given ME/CFS’s prevalence, research into treatments should be “proportional to and commensurate with other diseases with similar patient populations,” the letter states. Funding should be handled by NINDS along with other diseases, rather than by the isolated Office of Research on Women’s Health within HHS, #MEAction says. At present, the disease is “kind of homeless,” says Jennifer Brea, a patient advocate.The future of the 21st Century Cures legislation is unclear. Although the effort has drawn bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, Congress’s election year schedule is tight, and lawmakers may not be able to agree on a final version this year. The White House has expressed general support for the House bill, but also raised questions about a number of details.*Correction: 17 August, 8:51 p.m.: This item has been updated to reflect the fact that #MEAction is not asking for an increase in research funding to $250 million. Instead, it is asking for funding comparable to illnesses with similar patient numbers and cost to society. ScienceInsider regrets the error.last_img read more