Medical and Scientific Literature is Crucial in COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 issues dominate the world.  This post is being prepared remotely, and read by you remotely, because science dictated that to stop the spread of this terrible disease we needed to become isolated from each other.

The tools to fight the virus, prevent its spread and treat the disease it causes for the most part will come from the life science sector.  The tools have and will come from intuition, innovation and inspiration, and are based on quality science and medicine.  We write from the perspective of counsellors to the industry.  Companies and individuals in the life science industry likely will be sued.  They will be forced to defend their practices and products against claims that they were inadequate and, in the case of COVID-19, did not properly protect millions of people from this disease, and forced the shutdown of much of the US economy and of economies around the world.

Second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking of human beings acting in emergency situations with less than perfect knowledge, imprecise data but with the greatest of good faith are unfortunately a part of life in this century and the last.

How will the life science industry defend itself from the inevitable onslaught of lawsuits arising out of this crisis?  There are many answers.  One of the primary and key answers is the use of the medical and scientific literature. Such literature is crucial to two aspects of a suit and may focus on two different timeframes.  First,   does the literature at the time of the conduct complained of (sale of product or treatment rendered, for example) support the decisions made? Second, does the literature prove that the conduct complained of caused harm?  That analysis will require a scouring of the literature to date.

The volume of information on COVID-19 is massive.  Some is good, some is bad.  Not all of it is peer reviewed. Decisions are made every day on less than perfect information.  At the end of the day, whether we are talking about defending a person or product two years from now in court, or of offering a service or product today to help fight this crisis, safety and efficacy is the standard by which the conduct will be judged.  The answer to those questions is to be found in the literature.

How then can one fight through the volume of information available?  Computer power and artificial intelligence is being harnessed around the globe for this purpose.  A webpage published on April 10, 2020 catalogues some of the search tools available to sort through the literature:

http://www.bio-itworld.com/2020/04/10/covid-19-datasets-bring-ai-experts-life-sciences-researchers-together-for-a-cure.aspx.

Some of these are nothing less than amazing.  One collects 36,000 full text articles from PubMed using COVID-19 related search terms that assist the user in further searches: (https://cord-19.apps.allenai.org/).  WHO, NIH, Microsoft and others have sites as well (links are in the bio-itworld.com site above.)

Of course, this discussion highlights that life science companies would do well to continue to pay attention to the medical literature, both now with respect to their responses to the COVID-19 crisis and for protection in the future if faced with claims or suits growing out of the COVID-19 crisis.

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