Press review

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UK turns down EU Covid-19 vaccine scheme

Country : Australia, China, Iran, Spain, U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 10 July (APM) - The government has turned down the opportunity to join a European Union Covid-19 vaccine scheme after ministers expressed concern over "costly delays", The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Sources told The Telegraph the scheme would not have allowed the UK to "do anything more than it currently is".
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, is believed to have walked away from the plan after failing to secure "sufficient assurance" that the UK would receive the number of vaccines it needs on time.
The European Commission is expected to be notified on Friday.
The UK has been for weeks holding talks with Brussels over the EU scheme, which involves using the bloc's collective bargaining power to strike deals with international drugs companies.
With trials underway across the world, there is expected to be fierce global competition to secure supplies when a successful vaccine is found.
The decision not to participate in the scheme is likely to provoke a backlash among opposition MPs, who believe that the government is reluctant to take part in EU projects after Brexit, the Telegraph added.

Antibiotics use for Covid-19 could fuel 'superbugs timebomb'

England's former chief medical officer is urging hospitals to avoid over-using antibiotic drugs while attempting to prevent Covid-19 patients catching secondary infections to avoid a more "catastrophic" outcome than the pandemic itself.
Antimicrobial resistance, where antibiotics no longer work for some serious infections, already poses a greater threat to humanity than coronavirus, Davies has warned.
In an article for the Telegraph on Thursday, co-written with Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, she said: "Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, already has the potential to be as catastrophic, if not more, than coronavirus if insufficient action is taken in time."
"We are starting to see evidence of an excessive use of antibiotics for prevention or treatment of coronavirus infections, as well as secondary infections that affect coronavirus patients.
"While coronavirus is a new virus, AMR is a threat we have known for years. It is a predictable and preventable crisis, and we should be clear on the extent of the risk that humanity is facing if we don’t act in time."
According to recent research published in the Lancet, around half of people who die from coronavirus suffer a secondary infection, usually in the later stages of the disease, the Telegraph reported.
Around 95% of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital are given antibiotics, either to treat an existing infection or to prevent one occurring.

U.S. to leave WHO next summer

The Telegraph on Wednesday reported on President Donald Trump's decision to leave the World Health Organization (WHO).
It reported the United Nations as saying the U.S. will leave the WHO on 6 July 2021. The U.S. President has accused WHO of becoming a puppet for China during the pandemic, the paper added.
It said the decision has been criticised, with authorities reporting an alarming rise in infections in the country worst affected by the pandemic.
The Telegraph said the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has crossed a grim new milestone of more than three million confirmed cases. The death toll in the U.S. has reached more than 131,000.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the withdrawal as "an act of true senselessness as WHO coordinates the global fight against Covid-19".
"With millions of lives at risk, the President is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus," it quoted her as saying.
Health officials are bracing for a wave of further hospitalisations that could strain healthcare systems.

UK close to vaccine supply deal with GSK/Sanofi

The UK is close to a £500 million supply deal with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline for 60 million doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine, The Sunday Times reported. (APMHE 68032)
The paper said the GSK deal, which is expected to be announced in the coming days, will see the UK receive supplies of a vaccine using technology from both companies.
GSK will supply an adjuvant, which is added to a vaccine to boost the body's immune response to produce more antibodies, while Sanofi will provide the antigen.
The £500 million from the UK government will be paid in stages as the vaccine progresses through clinical trials, meaning the amount will contribute towards development. The final payment will be made on delivery, it added.

WHO ends hydroxychloroquine and HIV combinations for Covid-19

The Guardian reported on Saturday that the World Health Organization (WHO) is discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir for patients in hospital with Covid-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.
The setback came as WHO also reported more than 200,000 new cases globally of the disease for the first time in a single day. The U.S. accounted for 53,213 of the total 212,326 new cases recorded on Friday, the WHO said. (APMHE 68033)

'Don't rush vaccine'

The Financial Times on Sunday carried an interview with Paul Perreault, chief executive of Australia's CSL, who is urging the pharma industry not to rush out a vaccine. He said more collaboration is needed to lay the ground for manufacturing and distributing a final product.
He also said that safe distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine to billions of people could pose a significant challenge, although he expects that at least one such product should be ready within a year.
Melbourne-based CSL is behind one of the more than 100 Covid-19 vaccines currently in development and is also working on treatments using blood plasma, a specialism for the company. A rally in its shares meant it briefly overtook BHP as Australia's most valuable listed company earlier in the year.
"Everybody wants to get everybody to speed up and try to get rid of red tape," Perreault told the FT. "But a reason that some of that tape is there is for safety purposes, when you know you're going to have to be giving billions of doses of this vaccine, you want to make sure you're doing the right thing."

Swedish start-up gives shares to donors

The FT reported on Monday that a Swedish biotech has given a share of its equity to the charity that funded early tests of an experimental cancer treatment it now owns, in an innovative approach to financing potential medicines.
Elicera Therapeutics, a privately-owned start-up that is gearing up to raise $1 million from external investors, has granted 5% of its shares to the VictoryNET Foundation, which was at the centre of a crowdfunding campaign to develop a potential medicine for neuroendocrine cancer.
This offers the foundation the prospect of revenues from dividends or the sale of the shares, which would be used to fund other potential cancer drugs that struggle to find commercial backers, the FT added.

Covid-19 provides pharma with 'shot at redemption'

Pharma has seized on the Covid-19 pandemic as a rare opportunity to recast the industry's reputation, the FT reported on Monday.
"We went from having been a political piñata in January to a recognition, at least in the minds of many policymakers, that this is an industry that we must support," it quoted Jeremy Levin, chairman of the industry association BIO and chief executive of Ovid Therapeutics, as saying
Levin pointed to the hundreds of companies that have started work on Covid-19 vaccines and antivirals, proving the industry was committed to action while the U.S. government has been slow.
"Wall Street's verdict is clear: the industry is a winner from the crisis," the FT said.

Epilepsy medicine risk

One in 10 women taking the epilepsy medicine, sodium valproate, are unaware of the risks if taken in pregnancy, The Times on Monday quotes a poll as saying.
The paper said it is estimated that one in 10 babies born to mothers who have taken sodium valproate could have birth defects.
The charity Epilepsy Action said: "It's simply unacceptable that some women with epilepsy are still in the dark about the dangers."

Covid-19 antibody protection may only last weeks

The Times reported on Tuesday that people who suffer mild Covid-19 symptoms may carry protective antibodies for only a matter of weeks, potentially complicating the search for a vaccine, according to a study.
Researchers in Spain who screened nearly 70,000 people found that 14% who were positive for antibodies in a first round of testing gave a negative result two months later. The apparent disappearance of antibodies was mostly seen in those who had very mild symptoms or who had been asymptomatic.
"Immunity can be incomplete, it can be transitory, it can last for just a short time and then disappear," Raquel Yotti, director of Spain's Carlos III Health Institute, which co-led the study, said. "We must keep protecting ourselves and protecting others."

GSK HIV drug better at preventing infection

The FT on Tuesday reported on an international trial which found that a GlaxoSmithKline anti-HIV drug given every two months is significantly better at preventing infection than the current standard of care.
Cabotegravir is given by injection as "pre-exposure prophylaxis" or PrEP, a regimen that aims to prevent infection in people who are exposed to HIV.
It is made by ViiV Healthcare, majority-owned by GSK and also backed by Pfizer and Shionogi.
Public health experts hope that large-scale use of PrEP, along with early and widespread treatment of those infected with HIV, would do more to prevent the virus from being passed on and eventually wipe out a disease that has been around for nearly four decades, the FT added.

Novovax signs $1.6 billion U.S. Covid-19 vaccine deal

Novavax has signed a deal worth up to $1.6 billion with the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine programme, the FT reported on Tuesday. (APMHE 68060)
It means Novavax has secured more federal funds than any other company behind a potential Covid-19 inoculation, the paper added.  
The New York-listed company, which has yet to have any vaccines approved, plans to use the money to embark on a late-stage clinical trial and produce 100 million doses of its vaccine candidate by January, it said. 

Purdue bankruptcy case last chance to hold Sacklers to account - activists

The Guardian on Wednesday reported on the lengthening case of the $10 billion case in a New York bankruptcy court of Purdue Pharma, the U.S. manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, which is accused of fuelling the opioids crisis.
While the company is seeking a modest settlement, paying out to states, cities and individuals harmed by opioids, in return for an end to coast-to-coast legal action, it wants to shield Purdue's executives and multi-billionaire owners within the Sackler family, from future government litigation - while also resolving a Department of Justice criminal investigation, the paper said.
But it added that activists who lost loved ones, battled addiction or almost died of opioid overdoses themselves, are focused on what could be a final opportunity to hold a key pharmaceutical company and its billionaire owners to account.
Opponents of Purdue's bankruptcy settlement argue that the public deserves to know exactly what role the Sacklers played in the opioids public health crisis and how much profit insiders stripped from Purdue before cloaking it in bankruptcy protection last autumn, the Guardian said. If they never stand trial there are efforts at least to force a broader airing of allegations.

Regeneron's $460 million Covid deal

The Mail online covered on Tuesday Regeneron announcing it has signed a $450 million contract with the U.S. government for its potential Covid-19 drug. (APMHE 68059)
The cocktail, REGN-COV2, contains an antibody made by the company from mice and another isolated from a recovered Covid-19 patient.
It is being tested separately for both preventing and treating the virus, with a late-stage prevention trial being run jointly with the National Institutes of Health, the Mail added.

Boots jobs go

News of more than 4,000 job cuts at UK high street healthcare chain Boots was widely covered in the press on Friday. (APMHE 68099)
The Times noted that Boots' U.S. parent company wrote down the value of the UK health and beauty chain by $2 billion.

Hepatitis C drugs help combat Covid-19 in trials

The FT on Thursday said a combination of antiviral drugs used to cure millions of hepatitis C patients has shown promising results as a Covid-19 treatment in hospital trials in Iran.
In results from three trials, 94% of hospitalised patients taking a combination of Gilead's Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and AbbVie's Exvier (adaclatasvir), showed reduced fevers and improved breathing versus 70% in the control arm.
The death rate for those given the drugs was just 5% compared with 20%for those who were not, there paper said.
Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the coronavirus task force, said the results were "really quite interesting and provocative and encouraging".

$1 billion AMR fund

The FT also reported on Thursday that 23 drug companies have joined forces to invest $1 billion in a fund to develop new antibiotics, which are needed urgently to fight the worldwide rise in antimicrobial-resistant superbugs. (APMHE 68110)
The AMR Action Fund, launched on Thursday, aims to support clinical research that will bring two to four new antibiotics to market by 2030. They will target bacteria that cause the most life-threatening diseases and have the greatest resistance to existing drugs, the paper said.
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