Horizon sued over eye disease drug • Moderna sues Pfizer over vax tech • Chicago parents' survey shows internet gap (2022)

HORIZON SUED OVER PATIENT'S HEARING LOSS: An Arizona man has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the northern district of Illinois against Horizon Therapeutics, alleging that Horizon's drug teprotumumab, marketed as Tepezza, caused him permanenthearing loss.

Daniel Weibel was diagnosed with thyroid eye disease (TED) and/or Graves’ disease and received infusions of Tepezza from during the summer of 2020, the complaint states.

The lawsuit contends that Weibel and his physician were given no warning that there was a serious risk of permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus, but that Weibel now suffers from hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Horizon said in a statement that it believes the suit is meritless.

The lawsuit seeks damages from Horizon, stating the company either knew or should have known, that the drug causes harmful hearing loss. The lawsuit states that “numerous patient reports, scientific studies, and even (Horizon's) post-marketingstudies have established that Tepezza causes hearing loss."

Horizon did not inform Tepezza users, their doctors or the U.S. government about the hearing loss risk, the lawsuit states, nor was the drug labeled that way while Weibel was treated with the drug.

Weibel is seeking compensatory damages, statutorydamages and punitive damages.

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"We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed by an individual plaintiff claiming to have been inadequately informed about the risk of hearing impairment from treatment with Tepezza," Horizon Therapeutics Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Communications OfficerGeoffrey M. Curtis said in an emailed statement. "Hearing impairment was identified as a potential adverse event in the Tepezzapivotal clinical trials, was thoroughly discussed at the FDA advisory committee meeting prior to the approval of Tepezzaand is referenced in the Tepezzaproduct label. We do not believe the lawsuit has merit and intend to vigorously defend it."

MODERNA SUES PFIZER, BioNTech OVER VAX TECHNOLOGY: A battle between the two big mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 is brewing, as Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech, claiming the technology in their COVID-19 shot infringes on its patents.

Moderna accused Pfizer and BioNTech of violating intellectual property rights on key elements of Moderna’s messenger RNA technology in developing the Comirnaty vaccine. Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna said it had patents from 2010 to 2016 on the mRNA technology that made its Spikevax shot possible, but the other two companies copied the technology without permission.

Pfizer and BioNTech “took four different candidates into clinical testing, including options that would have steered clear of Moderna’s innovative path by using unmodified mRNA,” according to a lawsuit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. “Ultimately, however, Pfizer and BioNTech discarded those alternatives and copied Moderna’s patented technology.”

Moderna said it’s also filing suit in Germany. That complaint couldn’t immediately be verified. Pfizer said it has not been served with a lawsuit and couldn’t comment. Representatives for BioNTech didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moderna said it’s not asking the courts to pull the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine from the market nor to block future sales. The company is seeking damages for the period starting March 8 of this year and says it will not seek damages for Pfizer’s sales to 92 lower- and middle-income countries. Early in the COVID crisis, Moderna promised not to enforce its intellectual property during the pandemic, but on March 7 it modified that pledge to apply only to lower-income countries, essentially making this litigation possible. READ MORE.

LURIE SURVEY SHOWS DISPARITIES IN ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED INTERNET: In a survey that has ramifications on the ability of Chicago parents to access quality telehealth services, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago demonstrates that parents who identified as Hispanic/Latino or Black were less likely to have reliable, high-speed internet than white parents.

Not only was there a disparity in race and ethnicity, but after adjusting for income, the disparity in access to high-speed internet persisted for Hispanic/Latino families but not for Black families, a statement from the hospital said.

The difference may be attributed to residential segregation in Chicago, with broadband resources potentially limited in majority-minority neighborhoods, the statement said.

“It is important to clarify which populations might have challenges accessing video-based doctor appointments and other digital health services that are becoming more widespread since the pandemic,” lead author Dr. Kristin Kan, a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “As we continue to develop these services, we need to make sure we provide equitable access to all families.”

The survey from data collected through the Lurie-sponsored Voices of Child Health in Chicago was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Kan and colleagues conducted a survey of 1,620 Chicago parents and found over 90% of parents reported having a desktop or laptop at home and 77% reported having reliable, high-speed internet.

Among Hispanic/Latino families, 65% had reliable high-speed internet, compared to 76% of Black families and 89% of white families, the statement said.

Data was collected through the Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel Survey, a triannual survey of Chicago parents about child, adolescent and family health and well-being. Parents in the panel are from all 77 neighborhoods in Chicago.

MONKEYPOX CASES IN ILLINOISTOP 1,000:Illinois Department of Public Health data posted Friday showed 1005 cases ofmonkeypox virus in the state, with the vast majority occurring in Chicago.

The city had 815 cases as of Friday and the rest of Cook County logged 96 more cases, IDPH data showed. The remaining 64 cases were split up among more than a dozen other Illinois counties.

Chicago's health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said on Tuesdaythat there were early signs that the virus may be reaching a plateau, with weekly new cases dropping since the week ending July 30.The Chicago Department of Public Health also announced last week that eligibility requirements for the monkeypox vaccine have expanded to all sexually active gay and bisexual men and transgender persons who have sex with men.

VILLAGEMD COLLABORATING WITH BCBS MASSACHUSETTS TO EXPAND PRIMARY CARE: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said in a statement last week that it is working with Chicago-based VillageMD to provide value-based primary care services through its subsidiary, Village Medical.

Under the arrangement, the Massachusetts Blues plan and VillageMD will work together to develop innovations in primary care, and VillageMD will ensure Blue Cross members have timely access to primary care appointments at its practices, the statement said.

OSF VENTURES INVESTS IN DIGITAL DIAGNOSTICS: OSF Ventures, the investment arm of Peoria-based OSF HealthCare, has joined a $75 million Series B financing round to support Iowa-based Digital Diagnostics.

The health system venture-capital arm joined a group of investorsled by global investment firm KKR and also including Cedar Pine, Kinderhook Industries, 8VC, Optum Ventures, Gundersen Health System, Edward-Elmhurst Health Venture Capital and the University of Iowa, a statement from OSF said.

Digital Diagnostics is developing technology that enables disease detection at the point of care that would typically involve specialists, with two autonomous artificial intelligence products, including an FDA De Novo-cleared AI diagnostic platform that can make a diagnosis without physician review.

ROSECRANCE OPENS RIVER NORTH CENTER: Mental health and addictiontreatment provider Rosecrance has opened a new center in Chicago’s River North neighborhood at 320 W. Ohio St., Suite 410E.

The center offers expanded mental health and substance use treatment services and support for teens, adults and their families.

The nonprofit organization provides residential and outpatient services and recovery living settings in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

HSAs MIGHT SOON PAY FOR YOUR GYM MEMBERSHIP: After all, they used to call them "health clubs."

Using funds from flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to pay for your gym membership may become a reality if Congress passes the Personal Health Investment Today, or PHIT, Act.

The PHIT Act, first introduced in 2006, is a bipartisan bill pushed by the Illinois Fitness Alliance and the National Health & Fitness Alliance to allow pretax funds from FSAs and HSAs to pay for gym memberships, youth sports, exercise equipment and other qualified physical activities.

According to Bill Sells, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the act passed the House in 2018 but didn’t make its way to the Senate. Sells said that the act was pushed away due to an estimated tax revenue loss of $3.5 billion over 10 years.

Asked what makes things different this time, Sells said the fact that utilization of these accounts aren’t as high as they should be. “These accounts are so underutilized, if we can utilize them for people to stay healthy, we need to do that.”

The Illinois Fitness Alliance, established in 2020 by Illinois fitness business owners, helped to reignite the fitness industry in the state after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.READ MORE.

ASPEN GROUP ACQUIRES VETERINARY CARE NETWORK: The Aspen Group said in a statement that is has reached an agreement to acquire AZPetVet, a Phoenix-area veterinary care network of 22 animal hospitals.

"We've proven and refined the model with Aspen Dental and built the only national dental brand. We've now applied it to three other consumer health care brands in ClearChoice, WellNow and Chapter and we couldn't be more excited to partner with AZPetVet," Aspen Group chairman and CEO Bob Fontana said in the statement.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Erie Family Health Centers has announced several new leadership appointments.

Victoria Whildin has been named chief operating officer. She was previously Erie’s senior vice president of operations. Her predecessor, Amy Valukas has been appointed to the new role of chief population health officer of Erie Family Health Centers. Valukas was formerly Erie’s chief operating officer and will now lead efforts to use data to identify patients at highest risk for poor health outcomes and understand and impact the social factors driving their health.

David Bruce has been named chief financial and administrative officer of Erie Family Health Centers. Bruce joined Erie as CFO in 2015 and will now lead Erie’s financial strategy and the implementation of strategic projects.

Kellie Medious has been named associate vice president, Patient Access Operations. Medious leads Erie’s call center and serves as Erie's diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

Robin Varnado has been named associate vice president, Operations. She leads operations at Erie’s 13 locations, including behavioral and oral health, and facilities.

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