CEVR in the time of COVID-19

Date: April 27, 2020

By Peter Neumann, ScD, Director

Like other research groups, CEVR has been adapting to working at home – social distancing, connecting through Zoom, and finding ever more inventive ways to conduct business “virtually.”

In mid-April, we held our annual Methods, Policy, and Data Symposium via webcast with almost 400 attendees. Highlights included a keynote address from health economist Austin Frakt, an interview with Bluebird Bio chief Nick Leschly, and talks by CEVR faculty on topics ranging from biosimilar coverage and how to pay for new Alzheimer’s drugs to the cost-effectiveness of whole genome sequencing and a critique of ICER’s new value assessment framework.

And like most others, we have been obsessed with COVID-19. CEVR Deputy Director and Chief Science Officer Josh Cohen has been spending his days consuming output from epidemiologic models and public health reports, and (with Tufts Medical Center’s John Wong and David Kent and Tufts University’s Michael Hughes) building simulations to help Tufts Medical Center plan for future admissions, ICU days, and ventilator use.  Other CEVR colleagues have written blogs investigating the cost-effectiveness of pandemic preparedness efforts, and forthcoming papers on the “fearonomic” effects of SARS-COV2, the importance of considering societal costs and benefits when valuing policy options, and how to think about the value and affordability of potential COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Still, CEVR’s work in non-COVID areas continues as well. In recent weeks we have published papers on racial and ethnic disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and the cost-effectiveness of orphan drugs with many other papers forthcoming.  Our CEA (and Global Health CEA) Registry and Specialty Drug Evidence and Coverage (SPEC) databases have been updated. CEVR Assistant Professor Tara Lavelle was named to ICER’s New England CEPAC review committee. We welcomed Sean Tunis as CEVR’s first-ever Senior Fellow.

The days blend together. Can it be the beginning of May already? The thrum of usual activities somehow continues and even intensifies in our confined home offices: the daily commotion of emails, manuscript drafts, project and proposal meetings; the promised reviews of journal papers and letters of recommendation; and just one more check of the COVID-19 headlines and the Twitter feed. Looking back one day, we will marvel at this time when everything changed. The mundane activities we once did reflexively – boarding an airplane, attending a conference, going to the movies, the ballpark, or a restaurant seem unimaginably distant. When we can resume these activities, we will surely not take them for granted… until we do.

But for now, as we continue our work, it is also a time for coming together, for reflection, for perseverance, for remembering the devastating toll on the virus’s victims and their families, and for recognizing our colleagues and neighbors on the front lines in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, and police and fire departments.

Time for the next Zoom call. Stay well!

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