Many pharmaceutical companies are testing and repurposing older medications to battle COVID-19. The lengthy list includes beta-blockers, drugs to combat autoimmune diseases, and stem cell therapy. The FDA issued emergency clearance for Gilead’s remdesivir to be used in hospital patients with COVID-19 experiencing acute respiratory distress. Hospitals and other healthcare providers struggle with the financial ramifications of the epidemic as patients delay routine cancer screenings and elective procedures in unheard-of numbers. The full report is below in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.

Innovation Partners Weekly Curated BioBlog May 10 edition

UPDATED: Which old drugs are in trials for new COVID-19 use? Here’s a rundown

Drugmakers are running through their list of products to see which can be moved into trials for COVID-19 use. Amgen plans to test Otezla, to see if it is effective in preventing respiratory distress. Novartis, meanwhile, is looking at its beta-blockers as fighters against the novel coronavirus, and looks to Ilaris to fight the cytokine storm that leads to complications in COVID-19 patients. Four other Novartis drugs are also being studied as treatments for COVID-19: Cosentyx, leukemia drug Gleevec, old heart drug Diovan (valsartan) and asthma therapy Xolair. Incyte began a study on its JAK inhibitor, Jakafi, and EIi Lily began studies on its rheumatoid arthritis drug, Olumiant. Other drugs being tested against COVID-19 include AstraZeneca’s Calquence and Farxiga. A much longer list of potential therapeutics moving into tests and trials may be found in the complete article.

Routine cancer screenings have plummeted during the pandemic, medical records data show

Americans were urged to delay routine medical care during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Now, however, reports indicate that routine cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies have plummeted to record-low rates. A report issued by medical records vendor Epic revealed that appointments for cancer screenings for cervical, colon, and breast cancer dropped between 86% and 94% in March. The company’s records cover only a portion of the total screenings but show a much broader picture emerging of very low rates of cancer screening during the initial pandemic response. Concern remains that cancer screenings may not rebound even after states implement plans to relax stay at home orders.

Gilead’s remdesivir scores emergency FDA nod in COVID-19 days after big data reveal

The FDA granted Gilead’s remdesivir emergency approval for hospital use for patients with COVID-19. The deadly nature of COVID-19 and the lack of any treatment prompted the FDA to issue the fact sheet and emergency authorization for remdesivir. The drug cut recovery time by 4 days and 31% compared with a placebo. While not a huge jump, any improvement is seen as a victory. European hospitals are also reviewing remdesivir for its potential use against COVID-19.

Clinical Trials Of Mesoblast’s Stem Cell Treatment For COVID-19 Set To Begin Soon

Patients with acute respiratory distress associated with COVID-19 may soon enroll in a clinical trial. Mesoblast, a Melbourne-based biotech company, has begun enrolling 300 patients in a randomized, controlled study of its stem cell therapy remestemcel-L in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The study is anticipated to last 3-4 months and over 20 hospitals plan to participate. The company reported that early results from Mt. Sinai hospital in New York indicated that patients receiving the treatment had a survival rate of 83%. The randomized clinical trials will help the company determine if the results are replicable.

Blue Cross MN CEO: Why COVID-19 may be making the case for value-based care

The pandemic has highlighted the inherent problems with volume-based care, making value-based care more appealing. As hospitals halted elective procedures, many faced severe financial shortfalls. Value-based care, however, would help hospitals weather such situations better, according to a new report. Experts predict that it will take hospitals longer to rebound to pre-pandemic patient levels as people may still be reluctant to complete elective procedures. Value-based care would enable hospitals to sustain their finances longer and avoid or delay staff layoffs and furloughs.

ASCO Announces Top Studies to Be Presented During Virtual Cancer Science Meeting, May 29-31

ASCO is moving its Cancer Science Meeting online. The virtual meeting will take place May 29-31 and include presentations about the advances in immunotherapies and targeted therapies for lung, colorectal, ovarian, and bladder cancers; improvements in access to cancer care, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on people with cancer. Approximately 2,215 abstracts were accepted for presentation during the ASCO20 Virtual Scientific Program, and more than 3,400 additional abstracts were accepted for online publication. The vast majority of these abstracts will be publicly posted on on Wednesday, May 13, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Late-Breaking Abstracts (LBAs), including Plenary abstracts, will be released online on Thursday, May 28, at 5:00 p.m. ET