Friday, December 21, 2007

GiveWell’s Not Getting It Well — Medical Research Is Not Charity

FasterCures President Greg Simon responds to The New York Times piece by Stephanie Strom “2 Young Hedge-Fund Veterans Stir Up the World of Philanthropy,”

The article states, “Mr. Karnofsky and Mr. Hassenfeld, both 26, founders and sole employees of GiveWell, which studies charities in particular fields and ranks them on their effectiveness. GiveWell is supported by a charity they created, the Clear Fund, which makes grants to charities they recommend in their research.”

After reading this, the third article I’ve seen about these refugees from Wall Street, I feel moved to point out a few things. First, it’s unfortunate that what has drawn attention to their work is using blogs to flame the admittedly flawed ratings groups like Charity Navigator. Second is this obsession of equating philanthropy with “charity.” I do not know any medical research group that considers itself a charity. They are nonprofit disease research organizations developing cures for deadly and debilitating diseases. Charity has nothing to do with it – these organizations represent investments – and yes I feel silly pointing that out to people who used to do research for hedge funds.

Once you realize organizations that are trying to save lives through research are an investment, you evaluate these organizations differently. You look at their strategies, their resources, their connections, board members, partners, and risk taking, and then you can create a diversified portfolio of disease cure investments going forward. That is what FasterCures is doing with our Philanthropy Advisory Service with grants from Gates and Robert Wood Johnson – and it takes time and more than asking a hundred questions and seeing who sends you their annual report faster than others – that really only measures receptionists.

Unfortunately, GiveWell’s approach of “cost per life saved” is the equivalent of what investors call “chasing performance.” Some groups may be efficient in handing out condoms but to discuss “charities” saving lives and not mention groups like IAVI that are developing vaccines for AIDS is like focusing on iron lung distributors instead of a polio vaccine.

We are all trying to get more out of our philanthropy, but saving lives requires strategies that try to create the future – and measuring that is harder than counting dollars and cents – or condoms.

Read the "Philanthropy 2173" blog for more information at:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saving Lives through Technology

On behalf of FasterCures, I attended a Capitol Hill news briefing in support of the bipartisan legislation Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection (E-MEDS) Act of 2007 introduced by Senate Finance Committee Members John Kerry (D-Mass.), John Ensing (R-Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), and endorsed by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The E-MEDS Act of 2007 would require physicians to use electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) in Medicare. The news briefing “Saving Lives, Saving Money: Modernizing Healthcare through Electronic Prescribing,” discussed the steps the Federal government can take to stimulate physician adopting of e-prescribing, and the potential it has to improving patient care while generating significant savings for the Federal government.

The E-MEDS Act of 2007, simply put, would save lives. Something we at FasterCures know a lot about. At FasterCures our mission is to save lives by saving time. Last year the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that all physicians begin using e-prescribing by 2010 to help reduce the estimated 1.5 million preventable medication errors that occur in the United States annually. Of the 1.5 million errors, IOM studies show that over a half million of those errors occur among the Medicare population. And each year, roughly 7,000 people die from medications errors. However, less than one in ten physicians have adopted e-prescribing not because of clinical concerns, but because they do not view it as a priority. The E-MEDS Act of 2007 estimates that requiring e-prescribing in Medicare could prevent medication errors and save the Federal government billions over the next decade, even after providing physicians funds for equipment, training, and technical support.

Patient safety is an important issue and a priority among patients, providers, insurers, business, and government. E-prescribing is a system that enables prescribing clinicians to deliver prescriptions computer immediately from the point of care directly to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. It’s an efficient and accurate prescription delivery system that improves patient safety through warnings to the prescribing clinician about adverse drug interactions, allergies, and previous medication history. The technology already exist for launching a e-prescribing that will help modernize the nations healthcare system, while eliminating medical errors, injuries, hospitalizations, and even death. The E-MEDS Act of 2007 runs parallel to the work we are doing at FasterCures…saving lives…by saving time.

Angelo Bouselli, Communications Manager, FasterCures

Angelo Bouselli joined FasterCures as the Communications Manager in April 2007. Angelo has almost ten years of marketing and communications experience in the non-profit arena. Prior to joining FasterCures, he was the Manager of Marketing and Communications at the American Society for Microbiology for the American Academy of Microbiology. He also worked in marketing and business development at The Brookings Institution for the Center for Public Policy Education. Upon moving to Washington, DC in 1998, Angelo began his career in nonprofits working for the National Hydropower Association and Steven Winter Associates. Angelo is a graduate of the University of Maryland.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

“Diagnose Twice, Treat Once – Saving Lives by not Wasting Time”

FasterCures recently attended a briefing on Advanced Market Commitments designed to educate Capitol Hill staff on innovative financial mechanisms for tackling global disease issues. One of the issues touched upon during the discussion focused on the need for robust diagnostic tools to deliver care and treatment, not just development of the care and treatment pharmaceuticals.

FasterCures saves lives by saving time. Part of saving time is not wasting time in mis-diagnosis and therefore mis-treatment.

Addressing and finding solutions to healthcare problems in less-developed countries is often slowed by policy issues, regulations, infrastructure, access and delivery of services, and a lack of sensitive and specific diagnostic tools. And, unfortunately, in less developed countries, children, women and men really pay the price of mis-diagnosis (and with little chance of recourse). In regions with high malaria prevalence, for example, 50-80% of cases diagnosed using a syndrome approach are not validated or confirmed with laboratory-based tests, leading to significant levels of mis-diagnosis and in worst case scenarios (which happens too often) death – this is unacceptable.

These kinds of failures breed even more frustration among care-givers already working in challenging environments; further reduce a patient’s confidence in the health system; wastes human and financial resources; and, worst of all leads to unnecessary deaths. Through the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service, we will examine how disease research and delivery organizations create paths from bench science to patient level solutions that include both medical treatments and the robust infrastructure necessary to deliver the medical solutions to the patient. It is clear, then, part of the infrastructure must include precise diagnosis with sensitive and specific diagnostic tools to avoid unnecessary suffering and death. With correct and contextual design, the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service can serve this need by saving our most precious resource – time.

Priya Patil, Global Health Program Manager, FasterCures

Priya Patil joined FasterCures in 2007 as the Global Health Program Manager for the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service. Upon joining FasterCures, Priya was a Senior Research Scientist for Futures Group, a Constella Company. As Primary Investigator of studies in sub-Saharan Africa on adherence to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) and co-Investigator for an evaluation of Palliative Care programs, Priya led technical teams in design, development and data use activities. As Team Leader and Program Manager for Futures Group’s GHAIN project, Priya led the development and implementation of a patient management and monitoring system for Nigerian government facilities providing ART. She also served as Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Lead a nine (9) country project, developing a health management information system that was used to capture data for clinical, programmatic and evaluation purposes under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Prior to her work at Futures Group, Priya was Co-Primary Investigator and Field Coordinator for the World Bank and Johns Hopkins University Private Willingness to Pay for AIDS Vaccine Project in Uganda.

Priya has over ten years of experience implementing programs and conducting research in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. Priya has published in several peer-reviewed journals and presented her work at both international and domestic conferences. In addition, Priya was the recipient of NIH’s National Research Service Award and a Fogarty New Investigator Award. Priya received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.