Coronavirus: What Amyloidosis Patients Should Know
With rising concerns about COVID-19, ARC is providing the following information and resources detailing preventative measures and recommendations for the amyloidosis community.
April 3, 2020
Can I receive my treatment at home?
Policymakers and insurance companies are recognizing the need for individuals to be able to stay at home as much as possible during this global pandemic, especially those at increased risk. Most physician-administered infusion or injection drugs are considered a specialty medication, and therefore covered under an individual’s medical benefit rather than their prescription benefit. Under the medical benefit, it is common to see the patient being required to go to a hospital or physician’s office to receive the treatment, particularly with Medicare policies. Given the outbreak of COVID-19 and the potential risk of exposure to the virus in medical settings, insurance companies, including Medicare, are relaxing coverage policy guidelines and allowing for patients to receive specialty medication in the comfort of their own home, through a home infusion or home health company on a temporary basis. These policy changes should not be interpreted as a blanket statement that applies to all individuals, just merely a new option to consider that might be available to you. If you feel an infusion at home may be a better option for you than going into an office or medical center, please first consult with your doctor. If your doctor is in agreement with this decision, you should call your insurance company to see if they will allow for temporary home infusion given the current circumstances, or ask your physician’s office for assistance with initiating the process.
March 25, 2020
On Monday, in an interview with the Today Show, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, warned that “it’s going to get bad” this week in the US. Adams states that people are not adhering to the social distancing recommendations and are in denial that they could get sick from this. “Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home,” he said.
As ARC’s previous post describes, amyloidosis patients are an especially vulnerable population, given older age, heart and/or lung involvement, or being on an active treatment that may suppress the immune system. We urge you to follow the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing, being a cautious as you can be.
How long can the virus live on surfaces?
Recent studies have shown that the Coronavirus, COVID-19, can remain detectable in the air for up to three hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Given this data, it is of vital importance that individuals and families practice frequent cleaning and sanitizing techniques throughout their home. If you or a family member has gone out into public areas for groceries, gas, or other errands, keep in mind that the virus can be carried into your home. It is best to frequently wash door handles, light switches, faucet knobs, and other high-touch areas in your home, in the event the virus was unknowingly brought inside, even if no one around you has shown symptoms.
How can I grocery shop safely?
A Family and Consumer Sciences Agent out of Utah, Teresa Hunsaker, responded to some commonly asked questions in a recent interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.
It’s possible whoever stocked the store’s shelves was carrying the virus. Maybe another customer picked up your item earlier but decided not to buy it is sick and doesn’t know it yet. “From the carts, to the bags, to the produce,” she said, “everything has the potential to spread the virus.” Below are some recommendations on how to stay safe if you must go to the store:
- Clean shopping cart handles (most stores provide wipes)
- Use hand sanitizer if available
- Keep your distance from other shoppers, and even the cashier if you can
- Use credit cards, not cash
- Wash your produce. If you are at risk or have a compromised immune system, consider frozen or prepackaged produce
- Wipe containers with a soapy cloth or disinfectant wipe before you put the items away
- Sanitize surfaces – countertops, doorknobs, railings, light switches, phone, purse, etc. – anything you’ve touched since leaving the grocery store
Many stores are out of sanitizing products, but soap and water are just as effective. You could also consider adding 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water to increase your sanitation efforts. One cup of vinegar per gallon of water would also do the trick.
Is the coronavirus treatable?
An array of drugs approved for other diseases, as well as several investigational drugs, are being studied in several hundred clinical trials that are underway across the globe.
While doctors in China, the United States and other countries have used the drug chloroquine experimentally in COVID-19 patients, there is not yet enough clinical evidence that it’s effective in humans or the management of the coronavirus. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are prescription drugs that have been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions. In the limited data available, chloroquine treatment for COVID-19 patients demonstrated clinical and virologic benefit, and is now recommended for treatment in several countries, but is not approved for coronavirus treatment in the US, though still possible to receive through various channels if a doctor recommends it.
Remdesivir is an investigational drug with antiviral benefit that is also being studied for its potential therapeutic benefit against the coronavirus. Again, there is limited data regarding its success so far, but can provide peace of mind to the community that treatments may be on the horizon. The FDA released a statement late last week regarding their involvement and goals in product development for COVID-19. “The FDA wants to assure the American public that the agency continues to work with partners across the U.S. government and regulated industry to expedite the development and availability of critical medical products to prevent and treat this novel virus, including repurposing existing therapies that may help treat patients with COVID-19.” To read the full FDA statement, click here.
The FDA also announced on Tuesday that it is expediting the use of blood plasma treatment for patients with life-threatening coronavirus infections. Also known as convalescent plasma, the treatment would involve providing a critically ill patient with the blood plasma of a person who has recovered from the virus.
The Amyloidosis Research Consortium remains committed to providing quality information and resources to the amyloidosis community during this unprecedented time. Please continue to check this post for regular updates, and feel free to reach out to our team should you have any questions. Be well.
March 17, 2020
With rising concerns about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the Amyloidosis Research Consortium is providing the following information and resources detailing preventative measures and recommendations for the amyloidosis community. The coronavirus is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system with symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, shortness of breath, and fever. Coronavirus is more likely to affect older adults more seriously, as well as people who have a serious chronic medical condition, like heart disease or lung disease. Many amyloidosis patients fall within these categories, so it’s only natural for patients to be concerned about their risk in a time like this. Additionally, individuals may be at higher risk if they have recently had a stem cell transplant or are on a treatment that is affecting their immune system.
What general precautions should I take?
As you may already know, the virus has demonstrated a wide range of severity; some infected individuals may not report any symptoms at all, while others may get very sick or even succumb to the illness. Given that some individuals with the coronavirus may not experience any symptoms, it’s extremely important to practice caution when interacting with others, for at least the next several weeks.
All individuals should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations include the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects around the home with a standard household cleaner or disinfectant
- Stock up on supplies and medications – enlist the help of a low-risk caregiver or friend to make a trip for you, or consider a delivery service, so you can avoid crowds as much as possible
- If you must leave your home, avoid touching high-touch surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, etc. Use a tissue or sleeve to cover your hand if you must touch something
What should I do if someone in my family gets sick?
Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Identify a separate bathroom for the sick person to use, if possible. Plan to clean these rooms, as needed, when someone is sick.
What should I do if I have medical appointments?
Most centers are postponing non-essential visits and procedures, and these delays should be communicated to you. If you are concerned about an upcoming visit, call your doctor’s office to see if they recommend keeping your scheduled appointment, or if it’s best to hold off.
Telehealth: Many centers are starting to hold telehealth appointments, which allow you to still connect with your physician, but from the comfort and safety of your own home – through the use of video conferencing.
- If you have upcoming appointments, ask your doctor, and check with your insurance, if telehealth visits are an option for you
- Make sure you are enrolled in your providers Electronic Medical Record System, you may be required to do this to use the telehealth service
What if I am on a clinical trial?
This morning, the FDA released a number of recommendations for industry, investigators, and institutional review boards regarding COVID-19 and it’s potential impact on clinical trials, focusing on participant safety and good clinical practices:
“Sponsors, clinical investigators, and IRBs should consider establishing and implementing policy and procedures, or revise existing policy and procedures, to describe approaches to be used to protect trial participants and manage study conduct during possible disruption of the study as a result of COVID-19 control measures at study sites.”
Clinical trial coordinators are currently evaluating the best way to keep patients safe, and may not want you to keep these visits, as they may pose an increased risk of coronavirus exposure to yourself or others. We recommend that you contact your trial coordinator about any upcoming visits, as their preferences and course of action could change as the outbreak worsens.
To read the full FDA recommendations, click here.
What should I do if I am on chemotherapy or have had a stem cell transplant recently?
Dr. Raymond Comenzo, Director of the John C. David Myeloma and Amyloid Program at Tufts Medical Center, and a member of ARC’s Board of Directors, provided recommendations for those receiving chemotherapy, or within a year of SCT, or on daratumumab.
- Follow the guidelines regarding social distance
- Avoid any group events, even family gatherings
- Stay in close touch with your doctor and report any symptoms, keeping in mind that a fever may not happen so a cough, worsening fatigue, muscle aches and any breathing problems may be the first sign of the flu or of COVID-19. If you develop those symptoms, call your doctor and follow their instructions
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Keep your HCP informed of any new symptoms, even those that aren’t thought to be a classic presentation of coronavirus.
For more information on the coronavirus outbreak, please visit the CDC website here.
Well wishes from your ARC team