Health News Roundup: Opioid crisis cost US nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020 -congressional report; Analysis-Alzheimer’s drug trial breakthrough boost for Roche, Eli Lilly and more

The following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Opioid crisis cost US nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020 -congressional report

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic toll of the opioid addiction and overdose crisis on the United States reached nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020 alone and is likely to grow, a congressional report seen by Reuters shows. Opioid-related deaths soared during the pandemic, including from the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl, exacerbating an already tragic and costly nationwide crisis that accounted for 75% of the 107,000 drug overdose fatalities in 2021, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) data.

Analysis-Alzheimer’s drug trial breakthrough boost for Roche, Eli Lilly

The results of a key Alzheimer’s drug trial on Wednesday have reignited decades-old hopes that targeting a particular protein helps arrest the progression of the fatal brain disease, giving a big boost to similar studies being run by Roche and Eli Lilly. Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc said their experimental drug significantly slowed the cognitive and functional decline in a large trial of patients in the early stages of the disease, a rare positive outcome in a field littered with failure.

Merck agrees to allow Sinopharm to sell molnupiravir COVID drug in China

Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Wednesday that it agreed to allow China’s Sinopharm to distribute and import its COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir in China if the drug is approved for use there. The drugmaker said in a statement that it reached a cooperation framework agreement with Sinopharm that grants the Chinese company distribution and exclusive import rights of the medicine in the China mainland market.

Hungarians protest change in abortion rules

More than 1,000 Hungarians protested on Wednesday against a change in abortion rules that took effect on Sept. 15, which women’s rights groups say would “humiliate” and torment women while having no effect on the number of abortions. Under the rules amended by Conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, pregnant women must submit evidence from their healthcare provider of a definitive sign of life, widely interpreted as the heartbeat of a fetus, before requesting the procedure.

Gilead widens battle against alleged counterfeit HIV drug ring

A federal judge in New York has frozen the assets of dozens of entities and accused of operating a massive nationwide scheme to distribute counterfeit bottles of Gilead Sciences Inc HIV drugs, including two alleged “kingpins.” Gilead, which has been pursuing alleged counterfeiters in a civil lawsuit since last year, said in a court filing unsealed on Wednesday it had uncovered an operation that was “staggering in scope,” responsible for sales of hundreds of millions of dollars of counterfeit bottles its top sellers Descovy, Genvoya and Biktarvy and other medicines.

US FDA proposes new rules for packaged foods to qualify as ‘healthy’

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday proposed new rules for labeling packaged foods as “healthy”, as it seeks to help people make informed nutritional choices that can help lower the risk of chronic diseases. The proposed changes to food labeling come on the day of the first White House summit on hunger, nutrition, and health in more than 50 years.

Taiwan to end COVID quarantine for arrivals welcome back tourists

Taiwan will end its mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for arrivals from Oct. 13 and welcome tourists back, the government said on Thursday, completing a major step on its plan to re-open to the outside world. Taiwan had kept some of its entry and quarantine rules in place as large parts of the rest of Asia relaxed or lifted them completely, although in June it cut the number of days required in isolation for arrivals to three from seven previously.

Ebola kills five in Uganda, 19 other deaths likely connected, president says

Five people have died from Ebola in Uganda and another 19 deaths were likely caused by the disease, the president said on Wednesday, but he said he would not order a lockdown because Ebola is easier to manage than COVID-19. The outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever was announced last week, triggering fears of a major health crisis in the country of 45 million people. There is no vaccine for the Sudan strain of the disease behind the latest Uganda infections.

Alzheimer’s drug study yields positive results, say makers Eisai and Biogen

An experimental Alzheimer’s drug made by Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen slowed the cognitive and functional decline in a large trial of patients in the early stages of the disease, they said on Tuesday, potentially a rare win in a field littered with failed drugs. Multiple drugmakers have tried so far and failed to find an effective treatment for the brain-wasting disease that affects about 55 million people globally. A breakthrough would be a major boost to similar studies being run by Roche and Eli Lilly.

US CDC expands pre-exposure eligibility for monkeypox vaccine

At-risk people nationwide will now be able to get Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos monkeypox vaccine before being exposed to the disease, US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday. The CDC had previously recommended vaccination after known or presumed exposure to the virus for most groups deemed to be at high risk of contracting it, as well as for those who had visited a geographic area where known monkeypox transmission is occurring.

(With inputs from agencies.)


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