Health News Roundup: U.S. FDA to review fewer emergency use requests for COVID tests; Europe's generic drugmakers may cut output due to surging energy bills and more
The drug, a protease inhibitor known as ensitrelvir, met its primary endpoint in a trial conducted among predominantly vaccinated patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, the company said in a statement. Factbox-Eisai-Biogen Alzheimer's drug success follows many failures Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc reported late-stage data from their Alzheimer's disease drug lecanemab that showed it significantly slowed cognitive decline, a big win for patients after a long string of failures to find an effective treatment for the memory-robbing disease.
Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
U.S. FDA to review fewer emergency use requests for COVID tests
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday it will now review only a small number of emergency use authorization requests for COVID tests that are likely to have a significant benefit to public health, including fulfilling an unmet need. The agency is revising its COVID-19 test policy in light of the current manufacturing status and number of cases, it said, adding companies seeking EUA for their COVID tests will have to now apply for the agency's traditional premarket review process.
Europe's generic drugmakers may cut output due to surging energy bills
Europe's drug makers have warned they may stop making some cheap generic medicines because of surging electricity costs and are calling for an overhaul of the way they are priced, the latest industry to seek help as the energy crisis deepens. The generic drug industry lobby group Medicines for Europe, which represents companies including Teva, Novartis's Sandoz unit and Fresenius SE's Kabi business, on Tuesday sent an open letter to European Union member states' energy and health ministers ahead of their extraordinary EU Council meeting on Friday, calling for measures to ease the cost burden.
Biden Medicare costs victory due mostly to Alzheimer's drug change
U.S. President Joe Biden claimed victory on Tuesday for a drop in costs for tens of millions of Americans covered by the Medicare health program, though it is primarily due to a decision to severely limit coverage of an expensive, new Alzheimer's drug. Biden highlighted a drop in premiums next year for the first time in over a decade for Medicare Part B, which among other things covers doctor and hospital visits as well as drugs they administer. He said the result will be a saving of more than $60 a year per beneficiary.
British health officials warn of difficult winter with flu and COVID
British health officials on Wednesday warned that increased circulation of flu and a resurgence in COVID-19 could lead to a difficult winter that increases pressure on the already stretched National Health Service (NHS). Warnings over a possible "twindemic" of COVID-19 and flu have been issued each winter since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, but COVID restrictions that limited social contact have meant flu levels stayed low.
Eisai, Biogen say Alzheimer's drug succeeds in slowing cognitive decline
Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc on Tuesday said their experimental Alzheimer's drug significantly slowed the cognitive and functional decline in a large trial of patients in the early stages of the disease, marking a rare win in a field littered with failed drugs. The drug, lecanemab, slowed the progress of the brain-wasting disease by 27% compared with a placebo, meeting the study's main goal, and potentially offering hope for patients and their families desperate for an effective treatment.
In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
A cholera outbreak that has claimed 29 lives in Syria is posing a danger across the frontlines of the country's 11-year-long war, stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running water or sewage systems. First linked to contaminated water near the Euphrates river, the outbreak has now spread across the fractured nation, with cases reported in government- and rebel-controlled regions. In all, at least 2,000 cases have been reported so far.
Japan's Shionogi says COVID pill reaches Phase III milestone
Japan's Shionogi & Co Ltd said on Wednesday its oral treatment for COVID-19 demonstrated a significant reduction in symptoms compared with a placebo in a Phase III trial in Asia. The drug, a protease inhibitor known as ensitrelvir, met its primary endpoint in a trial conducted among predominantly vaccinated patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, the company said in a statement.
Factbox-Eisai-Biogen Alzheimer's drug success follows many failures
Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc reported late-stage data from their Alzheimer's disease drug lecanemab that showed it significantly slowed cognitive decline, a big win for patients after a long string of failures to find an effective treatment for the memory-robbing disease. Options are limited as Biogen's Aduhelm, the first new Alzheimer's treatment in 20 years, has not been widely used due to severe limits on its coverage by Medicare and insurers. The following is a list of high-profile Alzheimer's disease trial failures:
Nigeria's northwest faces worsening malnutrition - MSF
Nigeria faces worsening malnutrition in the northwest due to insecurity, high food prices and the impact of climate change, Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) said on Tuesday, calling for the region to be included in United Nations funding plans next year. Gunmen have terrorized the northwest, killing and kidnapping people for ransom this year. Africa's most populous nation is already grappling with an Islamist insurgency that has displaced at least two million people in more than a decade.
Japan's COVID-19 herd immunity near 90% after Omicron wave -study
Japan's population level immunity to COVID-19 has reached about 90% in major population areas after a recent Omicron wave, though that level of protection is likely to diminish in a matter of months, according to a study published on Tuesday. That level of so-called "herd immunity" reflects partial protection imparted from both natural infection and vaccination, according to the Tokyo Foundation of Policy Research, which estimated the levels for 12 of Japan's most-populated prefectures.
(With inputs from agencies.)