Health News Roundup: UK pharma body urges govt to scrap hike in repayment rate for drugmakers; Analysis-GSK gives few clues on plans to replenish medicine cabinet and more

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The following is a summary of current health news briefs.

UK pharma body urges govt to scrap hike in repayment rate for drugmakers

UK’s pharmaceutical trade body on Thursday called for the government to scrap its plans to raise the repayment rates for drugmakers, to avoid possible setbacks in the sector. Drugmakers that are part of UK’s voluntary scheme agreement, which makes branded medicines affordable for people, are required to pay a part of their drug revenue to the government. The Department of Health and Social Care plans to raise the revenue clawback rate to 27.5% from 24.5%.

Analysis-GSK gives few clues on plans to replenish medicine cabinet

GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley on Wednesday made replenishing the drugmaker’s pipeline of vaccines and therapies her number-one priority. But analysts were disappointed she did not give more details on how she and her management team plan to find the company’s next set of blockbuster drugs.

Draft WHO pandemic deal pushes for equity to avoid COVID ‘failure’ repeat

Governments may have to reserve drugs and vaccines for the World Health Organization to distribute in poorer countries to avoid a repeat of the “catastrophic failure” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an early draft of a global pandemic agreement. One of the most concrete proposals in the draft accord reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday includes a measure to reserve 20% of any tests, vaccines or treatments developed for use in poorer countries.

Canadian province tries decriminalizing drugs to fight overdose crisis

The western Canadian province of British Columbia on Tuesday began a three-year pilot program to stop prosecuting people for carrying small amounts of heroin, meth, ecstasy, or crack cocaine, as part of an effort to fight a drug overdose crisis. BC accounts for about a third of the 32,000 deaths due to overdose and trafficking nationally since 2016, according to official data. The province declared drug overdose a public health emergency that year.

Case of mad cow disease in Netherlands is old age variant

A case of mad cow disease discovered on a farm in the Netherlands is the old age variant that is not dangerous to public health, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday. The infection was found in a dead cow on Jan. 30 in the South Holland province of the Netherlands.

West Virginia clinic, doctor sue over state’s new abortion ban

West Virginia’s only abortion clinic and the clinic’s primary doctor on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the near-total abortion ban passed by the state last year, saying it violates patients’ constitutional rights. In their complaint in the Charleston, West Virginia federal court, Women’s Health Center of West Virginia and the doctor, identified as John Doe, are asking the court for an immediate order blocking enforcement of the law while the case goes forward.

Ecuador to vaccinate more than two million birds against bird flu

Ecuador plans to vaccinate more than two million birds against bird flu to control an outbreak in the Andean nation, the Minister of Agriculture said on Wednesday. The South American nation declared an animal health emergency at the end of November due to the first infections on a farm in the central province of Cotopaxi, and there are currently outbreaks in three other provinces.

Mailing abortion pills could break law, Republican AGs tell pharmacies

A group of 20 Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday told Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and CVS Health Corp that they risk running afoul of federal and state law if they dispense the abortion drug mifepristone by mail. The move, announced by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, comes weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration for the first time allowed retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone, including by mail, provided they are certified under special safety rules for the drug.

US FDA removes COVID test requirements for Pfizer, Merck pills

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday removed the need for a positive test for COVID-19 treatments from Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co Inc. Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Lagevrio pills were given emergency use authorizations in Dec. 2021 for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID who tested positive for the virus, and who were at risk of progressing to severe COVID.

US FDA approves GSK’s anemia drug for patients on dialysis

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved GSK Plc’s drug as the first oral treatment for anemia caused by chronic kidney disease in adults who have been on dialysis for at least four months. The drug Jesduvroq comes with the boxed warning for increased thrombotic vascular events, including death, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots in the lungs, legs, or dialysis access site. The warnings and precautions also include a risk of hospitalization for heart failure, worsening increase in blood pressure, stomach erosions, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

(With inputs from agencies.)