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“Game-Changer” Paxlovid Turns Into Pandemic Enigma

September 2, 2022

(Axios) – Paxlovid, once hailed as a “game-changer” for its ability to treat COVID-19 infections at home, is becoming one of the pandemic’s biggest enigmas. The intrigue: There’s growing concern about the link between Pfizer’s antiviral pill and COVID rebound, in which patients test positive or have symptoms days after a course of the drug is completed. President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci have each relapsed. (Read More)

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FDA Authorizes Omicron-Targeted Booster Shots

September 2, 2022

(Medpage) – The FDA on Wednesday authorized bivalent COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that target the original strain along with the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants. In an amendment to the emergency use authorizations (EUAs), both shots can be administered starting 2 months following a primary vaccination series or prior booster — in people 12 and up for Pfizer’s shot and in people 18 and up for Moderna’s vaccine. (Read More)

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Canada: Why ERs Are Struggling to Stay Open Nationwide

September 2, 2022

(BBC) – It was the ninth time since April that the Huron Public Healthcare Alliance – a network of four hospitals serving around 150,000 people in western Ontario – had to temporarily close or cut back hours at one of its emergency departments. And it won’t be the last, said the organisation’s CEO Andrew Williams. The reason? There aren’t enough nurses to staff the ER. (Read More)

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How the Pandemic Shortened Life Expectancy in Indigenous Communities

September 1, 2022

(New York Times) – Now federal health researchers have put a number to the misery that Ms. Schumacher and so many other families in Native communities experienced in the first two years of the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, as the coronavirus swept across the United States, life expectancy for Native Americans and Alaska Natives fell by six and a half years — a decline that left the researchers aghast. The comparable figure for all Americans was about three years, itself a terrible milestone not seen in nearly a century. What could have left Native Americans and Alaska Natives so vulnerable to the pandemic? There is no simple diagnosis, nor is there an easy fix, experts say. (Read More)

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Cannabis Industry Cribs Big Tobacco’s Social Responsibility Initiatives

September 1, 2022

(Medscape) – Cannabis companies in the United States and Canada have developed corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices that mirror those of the tobacco industry, according to recent data. A qualitative study of cannabis companies’ CSR practices over 10 years found, for example, that dispensary Trulieve provided $15,000 for internships and $20,000 for scholarships to prepare Black students for careers in the cannabis industry. The tobacco industry has used similar initiatives to foster good will and market its products to minority populations. (Read More)

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China Locks Down 21 Million in Chengdu in COVID-19 Outbreak

September 1, 2022

(Associated Press) – Chinese authorities have locked down Chengdu, a southwestern city of 21 million people, following a spike in COVID-19 cases. Residents have been ordered to stay home, and about 70% of the flights have been suspended to and from the city, which is a major transit hub in Sichuan province and a governmental and economic center. (Read More)

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CDC Advisers Weigh Who Needs Updated COVID Booster and When

September 1, 2022

(Associated Press) – COVID-19 boosters updated to match the newest omicron strains are about to roll out, and government advisers met Thursday to decide who should roll up their sleeves — and when. The tweaked shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna promise Americans a chance at their most up-to-date protection at yet another critical period in the pandemic. The U.S. still is experiencing tens of thousands of coronavirus cases and about 500 deaths every day, and those numbers are expected to surge again in the fall. (Read More)

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Tech Tool Offers Police ‘Mass Surveillance on a Budget’

September 1, 2022

(Associated Press) – Local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina have been using an obscure cellphone tracking tool, at times without search warrants, that gives them the power to follow people’s movements months back in time, according to public records and internal emails obtained by The Associated Press. Police have used “Fog Reveal” to search hundred of billions of records from 250 million mobile devices, and harnessed the data to create location analyses known among law enforcement as “patterns of life,” according to thousands of pages of records about the company. (Read More)

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Pandemic Telehealth Reforms Increased Access to Opioid-Use Disorder Meds

September 1, 2022

(Axios) – Pandemic-era reforms allowed more Medicare beneficiaries to use telehealth to obtain opioid-use disorder drugs, stay in treatment and avoid overdoses, a new JAMA Psychiatry study found. Why it matters: The vast majority of people who need treatment for a substance-use disorder don’t get it, and the researchers fear the addiction crisis could worsen if COVID-19 allowances on telehealth and prescribing aren’t made permanent. (Read More)

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Scoop: COVID Vaccine Pill Maker Posts Positive Phase 2 Results

September 1, 2022

(Axios) – San Francisco-based biotech Vaxart, an underdog in the COVID response that’s developing a vaccine that would be delivered in a pill, is reporting promising Phase 2 clinical trial data today, the company told Axios exclusively. Why it matters: The two-dose vaccine candidate was “safe and well-tolerated” and produced immune responses against the wild strain of the virus, as well as subsequent strains including Omicron, officials said. (Read More)

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U.N. Report Says China May Have Committed Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang

September 1, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – The United Nations human-rights agency said China’s government may have committed crimes against humanity in its treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, in a report that broadly supports critical findings by Western governments, human-rights groups and media detailing mass abuses in the region. In a long-awaited report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency assessed that serious human rights violations have been committed in the course of Chinese government’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. (Read More)

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Experimental Brain Surgery Quelled Cravings in 2 People with Binge Eating Disorder

September 1, 2022

(NBC News) – Baldwin, along with Lena Tolly, 48, of Elk Grove, California, underwent the surgery after failing to respond to other treatments for binge eating disorder. Preliminary findings on the effects of the surgery — part of a pilot study that will include a total of six people — were reported Monday in the journal Nature Medicine. It’s the first time deep brain stimulation has been used to treat binge eating disorder. In the study, surgeons implanted a device that learned to detect when the patients had a craving to binge eat, and then deliver a small zap to the brain to lessen the craving.  (Read More)

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Paxlovid Cuts Covid Deaths Among Older People, Israeli Study Finds

September 1, 2022

(New York Times) – Paxlovid, the Covid-19 treatment made by Pfizer, reduced hospitalizations and deaths in older patients during the Omicron surge in Israel earlier this year, but made no difference for patients under 65 at high risk for severe disease, new research has found. The study is one of the first published examinations of the real-life effectiveness of Paxlovid against the Omicron variant, now the dominant version of the coronavirus. Pfizer’s trials of Paxlovid were conducted during a surge of the Delta variant last year, and included only unvaccinated individuals. (Read More)

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Whatever Happened to the New No-Patent COVID Vaccine Touted as a Global Game Changer?

August 31, 2022

(NPR) – Back in January, we told you about a different kind of COVID vaccine that had just been approved for use in India. The vaccine, called Corbevax, had some very attractive properties: It’s low-cost, easy to make using well-established biotech processes — and patent-free. The vaccine’s inventors were hoping it would help address questions of vaccine equity for countries that can’t afford to make or buy expensive vaccines like the ones sold by Pfizer and Moderna. It appears their strategy is working. Since Corbevax was authorized for use last December, Indian health authorities have administered quite a few doses. Here’s where things stood on August 10 when I spoke with the two scientists who invented it: Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Botazzi, co-directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital. (Read More)

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For Some Patients, Long Covid Symptoms Mask Something Else

August 31, 2022

(Wired) – Most people with Petermann’s symptoms won’t end up in her position. Long Covid is common—estimates of its prevalence vary widely, but even the most conservative studies imply that millions of people are dealing with long-lasting symptoms of their infections. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, on the other hand, is rare. But with dozens of possible symptoms, long Covid can be easily confused with countless other conditions, including cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Add the fact that Covid can make preexisting conditions worse, and determining whether or not someone has long Covid becomes a daunting task. (Read More)

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How Two Mexican Drug Cartels Came to Dominate America’s Fentanyl Supply

August 31, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – With business savvy and growing power in Mexico, the Sinaloa and rival Jalisco cartels dominate the market for supplying fentanyl to the U.S. They cornered the market after China cracked down on fentanyl production several years ago and are now churning out bootleg versions of the highly potent synthetic opioid that, in its legal form, is used under prescription to treat severe pain. Fentanyl’s inexpensive, easy-to-replicate formula has boosted its appeal to criminal networks. It is also fueling an overdose crisis that claimed more than 108,000 lives in the U.S. last year, a record. (Read More)

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WHO: New COVID Cases, Deaths Keep Falling Nearly Everywhere

August 31, 2022

(Associated Press) – The U.N. health agency said there were 4.5 million new COVID-19 cases reported last week, a 16% drop from the previous week. Deaths were also down by 13%, with about 13,500 fatalities. WHO said COVID-19 infections dropped everywhere in the world while deaths decreased everywhere except for Southeast Asia, where they climbed by 15% and in the Western Pacific, where they rose by 3%. (Read More)

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US Clears Updated COVID Boosters Targeting Newest Variants

August 31, 2022

(Associated Press) – The U.S. on Wednesday authorized its first update to COVID-19 vaccines, booster doses that target today’s most common omicron strain. Shots could begin within days. The move by the Food and Drug Administration tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that already have saved millions of lives. The hope is that the modified boosters will blunt yet another winter surge — and help tamp down the BA.5 omicron relative that continues to spread widely. (Read More)

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Half of Health Care Facilities Around the World Lack Basic Hygiene, WHO Finds

August 30, 2022

(Axios) – Half of the health care facilities around the world lack basic hygiene services like water and soap, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said in a new report out Tuesday. Why it matters: Poor hygiene conditions put the approximately 3.85 billion people who depend on the facilities at greater risk of disease and infection, WHO and UNICEF said. (Read More)

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UN Warns 6 Million Afghans at Risk of Famine as Crisis Grows

August 30, 2022

(Associated Press) – Warning that Afghanistan faces deepening poverty with 6 million people at risk of famine, the U.N. humanitarian chief on Monday urged donors to restore funding for economic development and immediately provide $770 million to help Afghans get through the winter as the United States argued with Russia and China over who should pay. (Read More)

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