Health News Roundup: Merck could keep its patent edge by shifting Keytruda cancer drug to a simple shot; Pfizer to invest more than $2.5 billion to expand European manufacturing and more
The drugmaker said on Friday it plans to spend more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.26 billion) to expand its Puurs, Belgium, manufacturing site, matching the investment at its Dublin, Ireland, plant announced on Thursday. Drop in COVID alertness could create deadly new variant - WHO Lapses in strategies to tackle COVID-19 this year continue to create the perfect conditions for a deadly new variant to emerge, as parts of China witness a rise in infections, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Merck could keep its patent edge by shifting Keytruda cancer drug to a simple shot
U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co hopes to patent a new formulation of its $20 billion cancer immunotherapy Keytruda that can be injected under the skin, allowing it to protect its best-selling drug from competition expected as soon as 2028. For years Merck has relied on Keytruda to fuel its growth. The treatment, approved in 2014, harnesses the body's own immune system to fight cancers with dramatic results. Against advanced lung cancer, it has led to a five-year survival rate in about one-quarter of people compared to 5% of people historically.
Pfizer to invest more than $2.5 billion to expand European manufacturing
Pfizer Inc is investing more than $2.5 billion at its drug making plants in Belgium and Ireland, gearing up to launch new products it hopes can replace lost revenue as patents expire and COVID-19 vaccine sales decline. The drugmaker said on Friday it plans to spend more than 1.2 billion euros ($1.26 billion) to expand its Puurs, Belgium, manufacturing site, matching the investment at its Dublin, Ireland, plant announced on Thursday.
Drop in COVID alertness could create deadly new variant - WHO
Lapses in strategies to tackle COVID-19 this year continue to create the perfect conditions for a deadly new variant to emerge, as parts of China witness a rise in infections, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday. The comments by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mark a change in tone just months after he said that the world has never been in a better position to end the pandemic.
Inside China's fight over the future of zero-COVID
Samuel Ren is sick of zero COVID. "Omicron is not a threat, it is just like a normal cold," said the IT worker in his mid-20s in Shanghai, describing China's ongoing lockdown measures as "ridiculous".
Beijing, Shenzhen loosen more COVID curbs as China fine-tunes policy
Beijing residents on Saturday cheered the removal of COVID-19 testing booths while Shenzhen said it would no longer require commuters to present test results to travel, as an easing of China's virus curbs gathered pace. Although daily cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen COVID testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-COVID policy more targeted amid a sharp economic slowdown and public frustration that has boiled over into unrest.
China's Xi told EU less lethal Omicron opens way for fewer COVID restrictions
Chinese President Xi Jinping blamed mass protests in Chinese cities on youth frustrated by years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said the now dominant Omicron variant of the virus paved the way for fewer restrictions, European Union officials said. The senior EU officials, who asked not to be named, recounted the main points of a visit to Beijing by European Council President Charles Michel, who met Xi along with other senior EU officials on Thursday.
United States to end mpox emergency declaration
Mpox is expected to no longer be considered a public health emergency in the United States from Feb. 1, 2023, the U.S. health department said on Friday. The months-long declaration was meant to tackle the largest-ever outbreak of cases in the country. The move signals that the crisis, which led to a spate of cases mostly among men who have sex with men, has come under control and would no longer require an emergency status meant to shore up funding and tools to fight the disease.
Factbox-How many people might die, and why, if China loosens COVID restrictions
China has started taking steps to ease its zero-COVID policy, fuelling a mix of relief and worry as the public waits to see the health consequences and impact on the medical system, of a full-blown exit. Researchers have analyzed how many deaths the country could see if it pivots to a full reopening, with most pointing to the country's relatively low vaccination rates and lack of herd immunity as some of its most vulnerable spots.
Reckitt expects U.S. infant formula shortage until spring
The near year-long infant formula shortage in the United States that prompted the intervention of the White House is likely to "persist" until spring, according to Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of what is now the biggest brand in the market, Enfamil. Panicked parents had earlier this year emptied the baby formula aisles at supermarkets after former top U.S. manufacturer Abbott Laboratories in February recalled dozens of types of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas. The products, made at a plant in Michigan, were pulled after complaints of bacterial infections. Supermarkets like Target and Walgreens Boots Alliance were forced to limit sales, putting pressure on the Biden administration to address the crisis.
Uganda discharges last known Ebola patient, raising hopes - ministry
Uganda has discharged its last known Ebola patient from hospital, a senior health official said on Friday, raising hopes that an outbreak which has killed at least 56 people could be coming to an end. Officials first confirmed the outbreak in September and said it was the Sudan strain of the disease, which kills 40%-60% of those it infects, and for which there is no proven vaccine.
(With inputs from agencies.)