Press review

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First UK patients receive Covid-19 vaccine in trial

Country : China, Germany, Italy, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 24 Apr (APM) - The first UK human trial of a coronavirus vaccine has begun, report The Times and the Telegraph on Friday.
The papers said two volunteers were injected in Oxford with a Covid-19 vaccine that is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus from chimpanzees that has been modified so it cannot grow in humans. 
The research team is led by Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, who said that she was "very optimistic it's going to work".
Up to 1,102 participants aged 18 to 55 will be recruited across sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol.
There is a separate trial of another vaccine at Imperial College London, said the Telegraph.

UK should have first refusal on any Covid-19 vaccine developed in country

The Telegraph on Thursday said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted UK citizens must be first in the queue for any UK-developed coronavirus vaccine.
The paper quoted a Department of Health and Social Care source: "Matt is the UK Health Secretary, and his job is to protect the UK health service and the UK population. If Britain is the first country to develop a vaccine, he wants to make sure British people, who paid for it, have first refusal."
The UK government is helping fund two UK vaccine programmes at a cost of £42 million.
The paper said a number of ministers are concerned that a "Britain first"attitude could go down badly with other countries and put the UK at the back of the queue for vaccines developed abroad.

Vaccines are 'long-shots', says senior UK government adviser

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government's' chief scientific adviser, wrote an editorial for the Observer on Sunday in which he cautioned against banking on a Covid-19 vaccine, warning that new vaccines are "long shots".
He said: "All new vaccines that come into development are long shots. Only some end up being successful. Coronavirus will be no different and presents new challenges for vaccine development. This will take time."
Vallance's remarks were picked up by the Times on Monday, saying his comments come after Oxford University researchers said they were planning to begin human trials of a vaccine this week.

Germany approves trial of BioNTech/Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine

Germany has approved a trial of BioNTech and Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, the FT said on Wednesday (APMHE 67044).
The paper said BioNTech has been working on a vaccine since January and has tested an early version on mice.

Former GSK CEO to lead taskforce on Covid-19 vaccine development

The Telegraph on Wednesday covered the news that former GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty has been appointed to lead a global task force which is hoped will speed the equitable distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine around the world.
The task force is being set up under the auspices of the WHO and the UN but may be co-chaired and operate independently if geo-political tensions demand it, said the paper.
The WHO has estimated that 70 vaccine candidates are already in development globally and at least five already entered clinical trials. 
The new task force is expected to be charged with helping to plan the logistics of vaccine manufacture and distribution around the world in advance of its creation.

Former BARDA head says he was ousted for resisting Trump on hydroxychloroquine

The former head of U.S. biomedical research agency BARDA has accused the Trump administration of demoting him after he resisted efforts to fund potential Covid-10 treatments touted by the U.S. president, the FT and the Guardian said on Thursday.
The paper said Rick Bright intends to file a whistle-blower complaint after leaving his role this week to another position at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
According to the FT, Bright said he clashed with political leadership at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees BARDA, and resited efforts to fund "potentially dangerous" drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which have been suggested by Trump as treatments for Covid-19.
"While I am prepared to look at all options and to think 'outside the box' for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public," he said, as reported in the Guardian.

U.S. guidelines warn against treatment combo backed by Trump

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has published guidelines on Covid-19 treatment, both the FT and the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.
The FT led with the angle the the guidelines warn against the use of the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which had previously been recommended by President Donald Trump.
The paper said experts have warned on possible toxicities of the combination, remarking that side effects include poisoning.
Both paper also covered a study that showed nearly a third of U.S. veterans died when treated with the combination.
The Daily Mail said Trump was asked about the study at a press conference, commeting: "Obviously there have been some very good reports. Perhaps this one’s not a good report but we’ll be looking at it."

WHO mistakenly posts data from trial showing remdesivir is not effective in Covid-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) mistakenly posted data from the first full trial of Gilead's remdesivir in Covid-19, showing the drug failed to have a clinical benefit.
The story is reported on Friday in both the Guardian and the Financial Times, which said news of the failure was posted on a WHO clinical trials database but later removed.
The trial involved 237 patients, with 158 patients receiving the drug. Results showed the drug did not improve patients' condition or reduce the pathogen's presence in the bloodstream. The trial was also stopped early because of side effects, with 18 patients removed from treatment.
The Guardian quoted Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesperson: "A draft document was provided by the authors to WHO and inadvertently posted on the website and taken down as soon as the mistake was noticed. The manuscript is undergoing peer review and we are waiting for a final version before WHO comments." 
The FT quoted Gilead, which said the post included "inappropriate characterisations of the study".

Experts concerned with Trump's suggestion disinfectants could be injected to treat Covid-19

U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestions that disinfectants and sunlight might be able to used as treatments and diminish the threat of the new coronavirus are widely reported on Friday.
Papers say the comments have triggered a backlash from medical experts.
There is particular concern around trump's remarks that disinfectants could be injected into the bloodstream. The Telegraph says doctors warned against injecting or consuming any type of disinfectant.

Investment firms urge pharma collaboration on Covid-19

The FT on Friday said several investment firms are urging pharma companies to collaborate on a coronavirus vaccine to end the crisis as early as possible and help markets return to normal.
The paper said that companies such as BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Aviva Investors, Janus Henderson and Amundi told the paper they want companies to put aside qualms about collaborating, noting the economic damage of the criss has upended markets.

Use of mental health drugs increases in U.S. under Covid 19

Prescriptions of mental health drugs are on the rise in the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Daily Mail said on Monday, referencing to a report by Express Scripts.
The paper said the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs increased by 34% from the middle of February to the middle of March.
Prescriptions for antidepressants increased by almost 19%, and those for sleeping medications increased by 15%. 

Study investigating tocilizumab in Covid-19

The Times on Tuesday said that Covid-19 patients in the UK will be given arthritis drug tocilizumab as part of a global clinical trial.
The Recovery trial has already recruited about 6,000 NHS patients in five weeks, making it the biggest high-quality study to look at whether existing medicines can be repurposed, said the paper.
The trial is already looking at malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, HIV drug lopinavir-ritonavir, steroid dexamethasone and azithromycin. It will add tocilizumab this week.
The article quoted Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford.
He said: "The drug has been used on quite large numbers of people in places like Italy, but it was done willy-nilly — so at the end of the day you have no idea whether it did any good, or indeed whether it did any harm."
Tocilizumab is marketed by Roche for arthritis under the brand name RoActemra.

Researchers investigating engineering cells to target coronavirus

The Daily Mail on Wednesday reported that researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School are exploring how to engineer virus-targeting receptors on the body's own immune cells to target the novel coronavirus.
The paper said these receptors are often used in cancer immunotherapy, during which they are modified to recognise cancer cells in order to destroy them. 
In this case, the cells would be trained to recognise the virus to effectively kill off the virus-infected tissues.

Drug development for Covid-19

The BBC on Wednesday carried a feature on potential drugs for Covid-19.
It said more than 150 different drugs are being researched around the world and that most are existing drugs developed for other conditions.
It highlighted the WHO's Solidarity trial aimed at assessing the most promising treatments and that the UK's Recovery trial is the the world's biggest, with more than 5,000 patients already taking part.
Researchers are investigating antiviral drugs that directly affect the coronavirus' ability to thrive inside the body; drugs that can calm an overreacting immune system; and antibodies, either from survivors' blood or made in a lab, that can attack the virus.
The article referenced Dr Bruce Aylward, from the WHO, who said Gilead's remdesivir was the only drug that showed any signs of effectiveness, after he visited China.
The article concluded it is too soon to know when we might have a drug that can treat the coronavirus. However, results of trials should begin to be published in the next few months. This is much earlier than it will be known if a vaccine is effective.

IP rights an issue for pharma tackling Covid-19

The Financial Times on Tuesday had a special report on industry attempts to tackle coronavirus.
It included an article focused on intellectual property concerns for pharma companies, leading with AbbVie's announcement last month it has dropped patent rights for Kaletra, an antiviral drug that has been identified as a potential treatment for Covid-19.
"It was clear that the pandemic had upended the normal rules of the pharmaceuticals sector," said the FT.
However, since then a number of countries have said they are prepared to issue compulsory licences to secure drug supplies of any treatment that is shown to be effective, overriding normal patent protection and allowing generic copies to be made.
The FT said industry is alarmed by this move, quoting Severin Schwan, chief executive of Roche, as saying that waiving IP "would be a disaster".
"If we don't have IP, no one will take care of developing anything... Who would invest if there was no incentive?" he said, according to the FT.
However, the paper noted that companies have learned they would face a "furious public backlash" if they are seen to be aggressively asserting patent rights during the crisis.
The FT report also had an article saying that big pharma is calling for billions in upfront funding for coronavirus.
It quoted David Loew, executive vice president of Sanofi's vaccines division Sanofi Pasteur, as saying a large funding commitment was needed from governments to underwrite purchases of promising experimental vaccines even before final proof that they are effective.
"If industry does not know if there will be a market in 18 months, it cannot carry all [the costs]. Industry alone can't provide all the investment needed now for billions of doses," he said in an interview with the paper.
The FT also spoke to Seth Berkley, head of non-profit vaccine fund Gavi, who said there is a need for an agreement on global access and manufacturing to purchase large quantities of vaccines at low rices for distribution in low-income countries.

Hydroxychloroquine maker accuses Chines firms of price gouging

Zydus Cadila, one of the largest manufacturers of touted Covid-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine, has accused Chinese firms of price gouging on important ingredients.
The FT on Friday quotes managing director Sharvil Patel: "Everything has [had] a multi-fold increase, most of the raw material has gone up 10 fold to 20 fold."
He added that some existing contracts with Chinese suppliers have not been honoured on the terms they were signed.

Sanofi working on smartphone-based coronavirus test

Sanofi is working with California start-up Luminostics on a coronavirus test that could be conducted using a smartphone, said The Telegraph at the weekend.
The test, which could provide results in 30 minutes, would use a glow-in-the-dark nanoparticle that can be picked by a smartphone's camera. 
Development of the test will start in the "coming weeks" with the aim to have an over the counter solution ready before the end of this year, said the paper.

Pressure on to relax rules on controlled drugs for seriously ill Covid-19 patients

The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing calls to relax rules on the use on controlled drugs to treat seriously ill patients with Covid-19, the FT says on Friday.
The paper reports the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) sent a letter to Patel saying regulations should be changed for the duration of the pandemic to facilitate the "more efficient and ethical supply" of drugs such as morphine so that patients can avoid "unnecessary distress and pain".

Prostate cancer deaths predicted to fall

Prostate cancer death rates are expected to fall in the UK and across nearly all EU countries this year due to better diagnosis and treatment, it was reported on Monday in both the Telegraph and The Times.
The papers reported on research by the University of Milan that showed the mortality rate is predicted to decline this year by 7.1% in the EU since 2015, with 78,800 men expected to die from the disease in 2020.
In the UK, the researchers forecast there will be 11.99 prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 men in 2020, compared to 13.25 per 100,000 in 2015, a drop of 9.5% when adjusted for age. 
The calculations are based on figures from the WHO and databases taken from 1970 to 2015 from Eurostat, the EU's data agency.

Japanese biotech aims to build 'poo bank'

The FT on Tuesday carried a feature on a Japanese biotech that is focused on the role of gut microbiota in maintaining health and wellbeing.
Metabologenomics is working with more than 35 Japanese companies to carry out research on intestinal environments by analysing human faeces, said the paper.
It quoted its chief executive Shinki Fukuda, who said he wants to build a collection of gut microbiota data that can be used for treatment.
"Our idea is a poo bank. By preserving the gut microbiota of a healthy person, it could be used to help with a treatment when that person becomes sick."
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