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COVID Pill Rollout Hurt by Shortages As Omicron Rages

Yesenia Harris

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Two brand-new COVID-19 pills that were supposed to be an important weapon against the pandemic in the U.S. are in short supply and have played little role in the fight against the omicron wave of infections.

The problem is that production is not yet at full strength and that the pill considered to be far superior, Pfizer’s, takes six to eight months to manufacture.

While the supply is expected to improve dramatically in the coming months, doctors are clamoring for the pills now, not just because omicron is causing an explosion of cases but because two antibody drugs that were once the go-to treatments don’t work as well against the variant.

“This should be a really joyous time because we now have highly effective antiviral pills,” said Erin McCreary, a pharmacist and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Instead, this feels like the hardest and most chaotic stretch of the pandemic.”


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The pills — and other COVID-19 drugs, for that matter — are being carefully rationed, reserved for the highest-risk patients.

“January is going to be a terrible month with a million cases a day,” said University of North Carolina virologist Dr. Myron Cohen. “Most people will do perfectly well, but we have to select out the people who won’t and give them the drugs we have available.”

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the two pills from Pfizer and Merck late last month based on studies showing they cut the risk of severe disease and death when given shortly after symptoms appear. They are the first COVID-19 treatments patients can take at home, and thus could reduce the burden on hospitals.

The U.S. didn’t make the kind of mass purchases in advance that it did with vaccines.


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Because of the time it takes to manufacture Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, the company says it can supply only about 250,000 courses of the treatment by the end of this month.

The U.S. has ordered enough Paxlovid to treat 20 million people, but the first 10 million orders won’t be delivered until June.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said this week that the government collaborated with Pfizer to help speed up development of the pill by several months, and that officials continue to work with the company to look for ways to boost production.

Pfizer said it is adding capacity: “We expect to use our strong manufacturing capabilities and our extensive supplier network to continue to improve output rapidly.”

Merck’s pill, molnupiravir, is easier to manufacture and available in greater quantities.

But final testing showed it was far less effective than Pfizer’s pill and carried significant risks, including the potential for birth defects when taken by pregnant women. As a result, it is considered the last-choice option under federal guidelines.


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Merck said it has delivered 900,000 courses of the drug and is on track to ship all 3 million ordered by the U.S. by the end of the month.

Since last month, the government has sent states enough Pfizer pills to treat 164,000 people, allocating them by population. That approach is coming under fire from some states with heavier caseloads.

The amount allocated to New York — enough to treat about 20,000 people — is just not enough, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.

“We need more of these drugs in order to make them alter the course of the pandemic and reduce hospitalization,” she said.

State guidelines generally recommend doctors give priority for the drugs to those at the highest risk, including cancer patients, transplant recipients and people who have lung disease or are pregnant. New York’s guidelines also recommend prioritizing certain racial and ethnic minorities, given their higher rates of severe illness and death.

States are distributing the pills differently.

In Michigan, all initial shipments went to 10 pharmacies in the hardest-hit areas. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas and many other states have distributed the pills more widely, so that at least one pharmacy in each county carries the drug.

Despite the strict prescribing guidelines, some patients have been able to get the pills through luck and persistence.

Craige Campbell, a website manager from Desert Hot Springs, California, began leaving messages with his doctor immediately after testing positive for COVID-19 and developing a 101-degree fever. Despite having no underlying health conditions, he was soon able to get a prescription.

The only pharmacy dispensing the drug was more than an hour’s drive away, so Campbell had a friend pick it up for him.

“I felt a bit privileged in a way,” he said. “The odds that it would land in my plate in the right amount of time were pretty extraordinary.”

At the same time, there is a shortage of antibody medications, the infused or injected drugs that can head off death and hospitalization. Only one of them, from GlaxoSmithKline, appears effective against omicron, and it, too, is being rationed.

Federal officials are limiting shipments of it to about 50,000 doses per week. This week, the government announced it is buying 600,000 more doses, on top of 400,000 purchased in November.

At the UPMC hospital system in Pennsylvania, the staff can treat fewer than 1,000 patients per week with antibodies, down from as many as 4,000 earlier in the pandemic.

Doctors and nurses around the U.S. have developed complex means of deciding who should get the scarce medications, based on patients’ symptoms, their underlying medical risks, where they live and whether they are healthy enough to travel for an infusion.

“What do we have on hand?” is the first question, said University of Maryland Medical Center’s Dr. Greg Schrank. “Among those therapies, what’s the most effective and how can we direct it to the people that we know are of greatest risk?”

The increasingly complicated treatment picture comes as exhausted, frustrated hospital workers try to manage rising admissions.

As of Sunday, nearly 128,000 Americans were in the hospital with COVID-19, surpassing the all-time high of around 125,000 last January. While fewer COVID-19 patients now require intensive care, the surge is pushing hospitals to the breaking point.

Considering that threat, Pfizer’s pill arrived just in time, Schrank said.

“It’s not going to turn the tide on the total number of cases, but it could really help dampen the impact on hospitals,” he said.

Source Here: fox16.com

Healthcare

Five ‘key Causes’ of Male Hair Loss During Summer – How to Avoid Damage

Yesenia Harris

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FROM a refreshing dip into a pool to sitting in the sunshine, everyone loves making the most out of summer. Whether you hit your local lido or drive up to the nearest beach during a scorching heatwave, an expert warns that certain factors linked to the hot season could be leaving you with hair loss.

Original Source: express.co.uk

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Arkansas Voter Lists Added to Searchable Website Database

Yesenia Harris

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Voter Reference Foundation (VRF) recently posted Arkansas’ voter list to its online, searchable platform with the aim to increase election transparency.

According to a press release, some states have fought back in the Courts, and the group recently won a legal battle on this matter in New Mexico. VRF calls that recent federal court ruling “a strong victory for election transparency,” as it allowed for the voter rolls in New Mexico to be published after Federal Judge James O. Browning stopped state officials from blocking the publication.


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VRF first posted the voter data for New Mexico online in December 2021 and then removed it in March 2022 after threats from the New Mexico Secretary of State that publication was illegal.

“In conclusion, New Mexico’s Election Code does not prohibit Voter Reference’s publication of voter data online,” Judge Browning wrote in his opinion.

Since its establishment in 2021, the VRF has published voter roll data from 29 states and the District of Columbia. The site represents more than half the nation’s population and is the first of its kind to grant citizens “the ability to view who is eligible to vote, when they voted, and other basic election data.”

The website in question is available here and allows users to browse voters and elections by state.

Original Source: fox16.com

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Middle School Student Drops Spent Shell Casing at Ledyard School, Police Called

Yesenia Harris

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Ledyard police on Tuesday were called to Ledyard Middle School following the discovery of spent shell casings that had fallen from a student’s backpack.

Original Post: theday.com

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