By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)
Beyond COVID is a Trifecta of Respiratory Viruses
Just when I thought that we could all let down our guard when out in public, a trifecta of respiratory viruses has descended upon us – COVID, flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Reports CNN:
“We’ve seen a real increase in cases … particularly since Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, chief medical officer at UC San Diego Health, who added that the hospital is facing a respiratory surge. “Covid is up. The flu is up and other respiratory viruses are up as well.”
The situation is so overwhelming at UC San Diego Health, the hospital had to create space to triage patients by setting up tents in parking lots and using other unconventional spaces. The hallways in the emergency department are also full of temporary beds for patients who were admitted but are awaiting hospital beds.
“We have not had to reconfigure conference room space to care for patients even during the Covid pandemic,” said Longhurst, who explained that UC San Diego Health has experienced an equal number of Covid patients as patients with other respiratory viruses. “These are really unprecedented times.”
Last week, hospitals across the nation were the fullest they have been throughout the pandemic, reaching 80% capacity, which is an 8 percentage-point jump in two weeks. That’s also the highest level since the Omicron surge in January. This week, hospital capacity has improved slightly.
Because there are vaccines for COVID and the flu, please make sure that you receive these vaccines and, in the case of the COVID vaccine, the booster.
In addition, please consider wearing masks, particularly when indoors, in crowded areas, or on public transportation. If you live in NY City and Los Angeles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people in wear masks indoors and on public transportation. Schools in Philadelphia are also requiring that masks be worn.
If you are worried about wearing a mask or have concerns about masks, please read my article, “3 Myths about Wearing Masks” or speak with your healthcare professional.
Be Wary of Health Insurance and Pharmacy Benefit Managers Trying to Limit Your Access to Care and Medications
Although we may have entered a new era – the post-COVID era – health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers are up to their old tricks (and probably some new ones).
For example, both CVS Caremark and WellCare have made exclusions from their formularies that could mean that you are paying a higher amount for your prescriptions.
In the case of CVS Caremark:
Beginning in 2022, CVS Caremark (part of CVS Health) has excluded Eliquis® (apixaban) from the CVS Caremark Preferred Drug List. Eliquis is “indicated to reduce the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with NVAF. Eliquis is indicated for the treatment of DVT [deep vein thrombosis] and PE [pulmonary embolism], and to reduce the risk of recurrent DVT and PE following initial therapy.” Eliquis is a Factor Xa inhibitor and is a Direct Oral Anticoagulant (DOAC).
CVS Caremark’s decision impacted the lives of many patients, including Beth Waldron. In a David vs. Goliath-like battle, Beth Waldron won. Moreover, it was a skirmish that saw a possible HIPAA violation.
Eventually, CVS Caremark reversed its decision saying that this came after negotiating a lower net price with the drug manufacturer.
In the case of WellCare:
recent formulary change … will drastically increase the price of apixaban for Medicare Part D WellCare participants. By placing apixaban on a higher formulary tier, medically fragile seniors will pay five times as much for their life-saving direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC).
The Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health (together with a coalition of concerned organizations, including the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) is fighting WellCare’s decision.
Top-100 Patient Safety Organization
For the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety, 2022 was a year that saw us recognized internationally as a top-100 patient safety organization (Agilience Authority Index, December 2022).
Have a Safe and Happy New Year!
2023 will no doubt bring patient safety challenges – like the trifecta of respiratory viruses – so, remember to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible.
Hope that you had a great holiday season!