Signature Event Summary — Long Covid: Research, Policy and Economic Impact

Oved Amitay at Long Covid Signature Event

As part of our efforts via the Solve Long Covid Initiative, we’ve partnered with the Global Interdependence Center on a year-long webinar and conference series exploring the pandemics long-term healthcare, policy, and economic impact.

In May, we hosted our Signature Event: Long Covid: Research, Policy, and Economic Impact.  An outstanding array of thought-leaders, researchers, and practitioners explored critical insights into defining, diagnosing, and optimizing treatments and healthcare policies for Long Covid and post-infection diseases based on analyses of their impact on the U.S. and global labor markets.

Presentation sessions included scientific research, industry-specific implications, economic impact and labor market challenges, the human experience, and a standout keynote presentation from 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nominees Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, for their work to develop and distribute a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine to people of the world without patent limitation.

Welcome Remarks

Emily Taylor and Oved Amitay of Solve M.E. and Bill Kennedy of the Global Interdependence Center welcomed the audience for this special conference event, which brings together people from various disciplines to share their insights on the wide-reaching impacts of Long Covid.

Oved shared his belief that Solve M.E. could be the organization that bridges what we’ve known about post-infection diseases, such as ME/CFS with what we have yet to learn through Long Covid.

GICs mission, Bill shared, is to explore globally interdependent issues that not only impact economies, but also our quality of life — and Long Covid is central to that.  When the pandemic began, the GIC  expanded their network to include specialized scientists, biologist, and health care workers, to help understand the pandemics impact. 

Our objective today is to explore Long Covids multiple impacts, especially with the human impactaround the world,” Bill said. “Hopefully, these ideas will be taken back with the listener to their family, to their community, in order to make a difference.”

Watch the recording here.

Session One – Scientific Research

Dr. Bruce Patterson, MD and Dr. Marjan Islam, MD, are moderated during this session by Solve M.E.’s Kate Mudie.

Dr. Islam shared the clinician’s perspective on evaluating a patient’s recovery from Covid-19. While symptoms of acute Covid can last up to four weeks, post-Covid conditions can develop after approximately four weeks (though definitions vary).  This has been commonly referred to as Long Covid, Long-Haul Covid, or PASC (Post-Acute Sequelae of Covid-19).

Approximately 10-30% of patients who recover from acute Covid go on to have Long Covid — this would mean a staggering 8-20 million people in the U.S. alone are suffering from persistent symptoms (based on current estimates).

Dr. Patterson shares that these estimates represent a healthcare and economic emergency that needs to be addressed on every level.

There has never been a more complicated disease in my 25 year career,” Dr. Patterson said during Q&A.

Watch the recording here.

Session Two – Industry Specific Implications

This panel featured a range of industry professionals speaking to Long Covid’s healthcare, legal, pharmacy, and other implications.

Long Covid has been associated with a wide array of disparate symptoms, ranging from loss of taste and smell to stroke. Dr. Leora Horwitz shared that people who have experienced Covid are at a higher risk for inflammation of the heart, heart attack, diabetes, and death — sending a long-lasting and taxing ripple effect through hospitals and the health-care industry. 

The direct impact on health care is likely to be profound,” said Dr. Horwitz. Doctors also remain unsure what causes Long Covid, Dr. Horwitz added, creating uncertainty about whether standard treatments are appropriate for these cases.

Dr. Nalini Raju, M.D., Senior Medical Director of CIGNA, shared the organization’s belief in the power of data as a tool to help them and guide their decisions. Using machine-learning and AI, CIGNA is utilizing the data from millions of customers to better understand COVID and to more easily identify trends and offer customers improved resources to get better.

The stresses of the pandemic have touched everybody, regardless of whether or not you have a diagnosed mental health condition,” Dr. Raju said. “Its been a tremendous strain on society and from that standpoint, we have worked hard on expanding our behavioral health network over the past years – even predating COVID.”

Rich Moscicki, CMO, PhRMA, commended the pharmacy industry for coming together to develop a vaccine for COVID, but noted that understanding Long Covid poses different challenges — there is still uncertainty about the pathophysiological mechanism of COVID, proper diagnosis when symptoms overlap with other diseases, the need for post COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and no recognized end points.

Thomas Equels, M.S., J.D. and CEO of Aim Immunotech — the company responsible for the drug, Ampligen,” sometimes used to treat patients with ME/CFS — noted that after a SARS outbreak in 2003 in China and Indonesia, a large number of survivors experienced symptoms that matched the CDCs criteria for ME/CFS.  Using that knowledge, they were able to move quickly once COVID-19 infections broke out worldwide, as the two have many similarities.

Barbara Comerford, founder, Law Offices of Barbara Comerford, half-joked to the panel,It ONLY took a global pandemic for people to start taking post-viral illnesses seriously.”

Watch the recording here.

Solve Long Covid Initiative Publication Material Announcement and Special Report

Melissa Smallwood, Co-Author: Long Covid Impact on Adult Americans, shared findings from the report, presented by the Solve Long Covid Initiative.

Melissa is one of three authors on the whitepaper, along with Solve M.E.’s Emily Taylor. Using mathematical models, the whitepaper illuminates the prevalence and individual cost of Long Covid.

The way in which we are acting on this (Long Covid public health crisis) needs to be coming from multiple angles,” Melissa said during the presentation. “We need to view this not just as an individualized issue, but really as a more collective and community-based issue that is going to have ripple-effects beyond the individual.”

Watch the recording here.

Keynote – Vaccinating vs. Long Covid

Our keynote presentation featured Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazi, nominees for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, moderated by David Kotok, GIC Board Member and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors.

Drs. Hotez and Bottazzi are Deans of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Co-Directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Childrens Hospital.

It is a humbling experience to moderate a panel with two distinguished academics with great credentials, who have contributed greatly to society,” David said during the panel. “Your work ranks you next to Jonah Salk and Maurice Hillemans work in vaccine-development history.  Your work will essentially save many, many lives.  We wish you well on the Nobel, and if it were up to me, youd have my vote already.”

The “Dynamic Duo” of Drs. Hotez and Bottazi has been working together for 22 years in creating vaccines that mostly address diseases born out of poverty — often that don’t provide adequate financial return for pharmaceutical companies.

Data shows that getting the vaccination reduces the risk, overall, of getting Long Covid. Another study out of the UK indicated that the chances of developing Long Covid is roughly the same across different Covid-19 variants.

The duo shared that ultimately, theyre looking to create a “cocktail vaccine” to combat future variants. The next generation of vaccines will offer more protection, a broader response, and longer durability. 

Watch the recording here.

Session Three – Economic Impact and Labor Market Challenges

Holly Wade, Phillippa Dunne, and Dana Peterson speak with moderator, Kathleen Stephansen, GIC Chair Emeritus on Long Covid’s economic impact and labor market challenges.

Even though Long Covid is difficult to define, you get the sense that it is an exact science,'” Kathleen said during the panel. “Economics is not as precise, it has of a feelto it. Some people could say ‘art.'”

Dana Peterson, GIC Board Member and Chief Economist & Center Leader of Economy, Strategy & Finance at The Conference Board, shared that many small businesses are greatly concerned with inflation, as well as staffing-shortages — finding good workers that provide quality help.

Though Holly’s focus was on smaller businesses and Dana works with larger firms, they share many of the same troubles and issues as smaller businesses — just on a larger scale.

The typical challenges that come from shifting gears in an economic cycle, has been exacerbated by… the pandemic and geo-political situation with the war in Ukraine,” Dana said.  “And the supply side in China.”

Watch the recording here.

Session Four – The Human Experience

The final session, detailing the human toll of Long Covid, featured Solve M.E.’s Elle Seibert, ME/CFS expert Dr. Susan Levine, and Body Politic’s Lauren Nichols, moderated by Emily Taylor.

Lauren Nichols, who has been battling Long Covid for two years, shared her frustrations, especially early on, where she was gaslit by medical professionals or made to feel guilty for asking for a Covid test, long before they were widely used.  Shes been subjected to sexism and ageism while having to deal with a litany of long-lasting ailments.

Long Covid is not just a healthcare issue, its a womans issue, its a care issue, its a housing issue, its a labor issue, and it is – as discussed earlier – an economic issue,” Lauren said during the panel. The reality is, when one  person is affected, an entire community becomes affected. The best way to combat this, is to think of it as weissue and not a meissue.”

When an individual is unable to work, their job is affected, which in turn affects their family, and even community. Multiply this impact by millions as more people get sick, and that ripple effect can be felt on a global scale.  

Thats what I like about science,” Elle shared with the panel. “It helps us understand the patterns from the past so we can predict the future and prepare ourselves for whats coming. Because we cannot afford to ignore Long Covid.”

Watch the recording here.

Concluding Remarks

Its been a fascinating day,” said Bill Kennedy, GIC Chair and Co-Founder, CEO and CIO of RiskBridge Advisors. “Sharing opportunities and to learn something new about Long Covid… I think, one of my takeaways is that Long Covid is not going away – well, we arent either.”

Watch the recording here.

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