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ACP Supports the Use of Science to Stop the Spread of COVID-19, Warns Against Interference

Statement attributable to:
Heather E. Gantzer, MD, FACP
Chair, Board of Regents, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (August 27, 2020) — The American College of Physicians (ACP), representing 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students, strongly supports the use of science, based on the best available evidence, in the fight against COVID-19. Public health agencies should not be subjected to pressure or be influenced to issue policies that are not based on evidence and expert recommendations of their own scientists. This can have a detrimental effect on the public’s trust and adherence to evidence-based guidelines. As the ongoing pandemic is still a widespread public health emergency, clinical and public health guidance must be developed through a highly transparent process without any such interference. Several recent examples are alarming.

The recent revision of the CDC’s COVID-19 testing guidelines of asymptomatic individuals lacks transparency and clarity, sending a confusing message to both physicians and the public on appropriate and necessary testing that will ultimately help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Asymptomatic patients contribute to the spread of COVID-19. The ability to conduct widespread testing using a rapid and accurate test is critical to appropriately manage the spread of SARS-CoV2. ACP recommends that in the absence of currently effective vaccine or treatment options available for COVID-19, state and local authorities should prioritize a strategy of case finding, screening, and surveillance to track and reduce further spread. ACP believes that the United States should urgently expand health system capacity to diagnose, test, and conduct contact tracing (with privacy protections).

We urge CDC, FDA, NIH, and other health agencies to transparently convey scientific rationale for their guidance or any changes to their recommendations.

Additionally, the recent announcement of the Food and Drug Administration’s decision on the benefits of convalescent plasma has resulted in confusion and reputational damage to the FDA’s authority and decision-making process.

While ACP is encouraged by the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine, the development process must be fully transparent, and not circumvent regulatory standards for safety and effectiveness.  Physicians, in particular, must be informed about the safety and standards for approvals of any vaccines. Hesitance to receive the vaccine remains a concern amongst patients, and rushing vaccines to approval that have not been shown through clinical trials to be safe and effective would be dangerous to health, and potentially undermine confidence in all vaccines, not just ones for COVID-19 vaccines.

As an organization representing physicians on the front lines of this public health emergency, we urge national, state and local officials to heed the advice and information from leading health agencies and must be assured that recommendations are based purely on science without undue influence.  Only then can we chart a path forward toward controlling COVID-19. 

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Laura Baldwin, (215-351-2668), lbaldwin@acponline.org