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At the Core, Tuskegee Has Never Been Resolved

BY MIKE MAGEE

July 25, 1972 was fifty years ago this week and it is a day that all AP Science journalists know by heart. As Monday’s AP banner headline read: “On July 25, 1972, Jean Heller, a reporter on The Associated Press investigative team, then called the Special Assignment Team, broke news that rocked the nation. Based on documents leaked by Peter Buxtun, a whistleblower at the U.S. Public Health Service, the then 29-year-old journalist and the only woman on the team, reported that the federal government let hundreds of Black men in rural Alabama go untreated for syphilis for 40 years in order to study the impact of the disease on the human body. Most of the men were denied access to penicillin, even when it became widely available as a cure. A public outcry ensued, and nearly four months later, the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” came to an end.”

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I Was Wrong

BY KIM BELLARD

The New York Times had an interesting set of op-eds last week under the theme “I Was Wrong.”  For example, Paul Krugman says he was wrong about inflation, David Brooks laments being wrong about capitalism, and Bret Stevens now fears he was wrong about Trump voters.  Nobody fessed up about being wrong about healthcare, so I’ll volunteer.  

I’ve been writing regularly about healthcare for over a decade now, with some strong opinions and often with some pretty speculative ideas.  I’ve had a lot to be wrong about, and I hope I will be wrong about many of them (e.g., microplastics).  Some of my thoughts (such as on DNA storage or nanorobots) may just be still too soon, but there are definitely some things I’d thought, or at least hoped, would have happened by now.

I’ll highlight three:

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Quickbite Interviews: Veda

I was at the AHIP conference in Vegas late last month and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quick bite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am dribbling them out –Matthew Holt

Next up is Meghan Gaffney, CEO, Veda.

Be Careful What You Wish For

BY KIM BELLARD

I read the Stat News investigative piece “Health care’s high rollers,” by Bob Herman and colleagues, with interest but not much surprise.  I mean, is anyone surprised anymore that healthcare CEOs often make a lot of money, and didn’t let a crisis like the pandemic dampen that?  As Kaiser Family Foundation’s CEO Drew Altman told them, “Health care has become big business. We have a lot of people making a lot of money in health care, and we still have an affordability crisis in health care.”

I periodically see Twitter threads lamenting how little of that healthcare spending actually goes to physicians, yet people often still blame them for that spending.  Physicians make a pretty decent living (an average of $322,000, according to the 2022 Medscape Physician Compensation report), although that compensation depends on specialty, gender, race/ethnicity, and location.  But maybe, just maybe, the problem in healthcare is that we’re not paying physicians enough – not nearly enough.  

I think I know how to fix healthcare.

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Quickbite Interviews: Health Chain

I was at the AHIP conference in Vegas late last month and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quick bite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am dribbling them out–Matthew Holt

Next up is Sudheen Kumar, CEO, Health Chain.

Dr. Topol’s comment on LongCOVID and the heart is misleading/lacking context

By ANISH KOKA

It’s been a while but Anish Koka, a one time regular writer on THCB and occasional THCB Gang member, is back publishing up a storm on his Substack channel. You may recall that his political and clinical views don’t always mesh with some of the wooly liberals we feature on THCB (cough, cough, me), but we are delighted to be back publishing some of his pieces–starting with a look at a tweet from one of America’s most prominent cardiologists.–Matthew Holt

Given Twitter’s commitment to the truth in Medicine, I thought I would try to give them a hand by analyzing a semi-viral tweet about COVID and the heart.

Earlier this year (April 2022), the most influential cardiologist in the world tweeted about a study on the long term cardiac effects of COVID (LongCOVID).

Medical trainees who trained in the early 2000s like I did know Dr. Topol as an absolute legend in the field of Cardiology. He was responsible for seminal work in Cardiology in the 1980’s on the use of clot busting drugs for patients having heart attacks, and became head of cardiology for the famed Cleveland Clinic at the age of 36! (I vaguely recall feeling like I was starting to understand Cardiology at the age of 36.) He’s since moved on to do many other things, and is a potent voice that may have been instrumental in the FDA delaying approval of the mrna vaccines until after the 2020 election.

Nonetheless, this paper that he is giving his significant stamp of approval to has significant issues. As far as I can tell individuals with LongCOVID were recruited by advertising in LongCOVID support groups. No independent assessment carried out as far as I can tell clinically. If you say you have it—> you’re in.

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Quickbite Interviews: Accolade

I was at the AHIP conference in Vegas late last month and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quick bite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am dribbling them out–Matthew Holt

Next up is Kristin Herrera, EVP, Accolade.

How Happify Health Became Twill: Inside the New Biz Model & What’s Next

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Mental health digital therapeutics startup Happify Health has spent the past 5 years quietly ‘self-actualizing’ into a brand-new, tech platform company that just launched this week: Twill. This is a big pivot – not just a brand change – and we’ve got co-founder & President Ofer Leidner and newly-hired Chief Operating Officer Megan Callahan (who formerly ran Lyft Health) here to tell us how it all went down AND what will happen to the old Happify app.

Wellness-app-no-more, Twill has emerged as a health tech infrastructure company. Its core product (called Sequences) is the open architecture, digital back-end that ties together a health plan, employer, or pharma co’s various digital point solutions – wellness apps, digital therapeutics, virtual coaching, peer support groups, telehealth platforms, etc. etc. – to create one neat-and-tidy, hyper-personalized, automagically-navigated patient care journey based on condition or patient population.

Big brands like Elevance Health (Anthem), Biogen, and Almirall have already bought-in, with products already in market for conditions as diverse as maternal health, multiple scleroses, and psoriasis. Not forgetting its mental health roots, Twill is bringing in its own vast resources from the ole Happify days to run digital mental health support under each of these disease-specific point solutions. Ofer and Megan say that Sequences can be developed for ANY condition or to target specific populations of patients and they plan to launch 2-3 new Sequences each year.

What else is ahead for Twill now that it’s revealed from its stealthy start? Happify Health had raised $73 million in March 2021 in a big round lead by Deerfield Management Company – what should we expect next? Tune in for all the details on the transformation, the new products, and how other digital health companies can expect to work with Twill in the future.

M4A as a Swing Issue

BY MIKE MAGEE

Theres common ground there—not the warm belonging of full creedal agreement, perhaps, but a place, even a welcoming place, where we can stand together.”    Ian Marcus Corbin, Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School

Most Americans would love to believe this statement. But political reality intervenes. A March, 2022 Pew Research Center analysis found our two major parties to be “farther apart ideologically today than at any time in the past 50 years.” 

Take, for example, Presidential hopefuls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). They see political pay dirt on the jagged peaks of America’s culture wars with the governor taking on Disney for defending LGBTQ employees by introducing the his “Stop W.O.K.E. Act“, while Rubio goes one step further with his “No Tax Breaks for Radical Corporate Activism Act”.

In academic circles, you increasingly find references to “what’s the matter with…debates.” The phrase derives from a 2004 book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”  written by historian Thomas Frank, which spent 18 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. 

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