HHS, DOJ officials highlight pandemic response needs

Two senior managers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) said the nation’s federal health care structure was never designed to provide the kind of mass surveillance and screening testing needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather is directed toward diagnostic testing. However, Christi Grimm of HHS and Michael Horowitz of DOJ said policymakers can overcome these impediments by promulgating policies to improve the federal response to pandemics in the future. Federal health program payment for tests was often made without knowledge of whether turnaround times were sufficient to make test results useful, they said, adding that the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee’s January report offered several insights that will prove useful going forward. However, the report is also said to raise questions, such as what are the appropriate payment rates for tests, and what sort of impediments to test development will have to be overcome for future pandemics.

FDA says plenty of respirators available

The FDA said in an April 9 advisory that health care facilities should begin to transition away from processing respirator masks as the supply of these items is sufficient to meet demand. The agency said facilities should limit their decontamination of disposable full-face respirators (FFRs) unless the facility experiences a spot shortage, a practice the agency endorsed even when less-than-ideal FFRs are all that is available. The agency vowed to track availability and advise stakeholders if new shortages occur.

NICE supports use of Danis for variceal hemorrhage

The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said the evidence supports adoption of the Danis stent for acute esophageal variceal hemorrhage because the device offers improved short-term control compared to balloon tamponade. The Danis, made by Ella-CS, of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, is recommended for patients aged 16 and older for acute bleeding that does not respond to endoluminal therapy and who are in consideration for definitive treatment. Other candidates are those who are likely to be offered palliative care and who are not good candidates for definitive treatment.