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HHS purchases Nplate, an acute radiation syndrome drug
The Friday Pulse Check
Good morning and happy Friday. Welcome to FLATLINING.net’s Friday Pulse Check; a look at some of the most interesting and pressing healthcare headlines. Read on to the Ukraine section to read about HHS’ $290 million drug purchase.
In the news:
“Biden picked the worst possible moment to declare the pandemic ‘over’”
The New Republic, a progressive news magazine, published a commentary this week from Melody Schreiber who expressed frustration at President Joe Biden’s 60 Minutes interview last month. We discussed that interview on the FLATLINING Podcast in which President Biden said “the [COVID-19] pandemic is over.” As Schreiber discusses, however, it comes at a time when we finally have COVID-19 vaccines that are designed to match the dominant variant of the virus. She also decried the Biden administration’s reported discussions about how many COVID-19 deaths are “acceptable.” As we have discussed on the podcast, we’ve stopped looking at case and death counts and focused more on hospitalizations because that shows us how severe the virus is in the country. Read more from the New Republic.
States don’t want to use Medicaid to pay for abortion
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Center which overturned Roe v Wade, President Biden signed an executive order that encouraged states to use their Medicaid programs to expand abortion access. Since that executive order, no states have applied to do so. POLITICO talked to thirteen state Medicaid agencies in states where abortion is legal. Ten said they were reviewing the guidance, Massachusetts and Minnesota said they were waiting on more federal guidance, and North Carolina said they won’t be pursuing the policy. It comes as Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new Justice Department task force that will be providing pro-bono legal support for providers who are in many cases “vulnerable to and explicitly potentially liable for criminalization [sic] in some” states where legislatures are restricting abortion access. Read more from POLITICO.
Adderall generic shortage worsens
Becker’s Hospital Review is reporting that the supply of the generic version of Adderall is growing short. A month ago, four drug manufacturers reported shortages of their Adderall generics but since the list has grown from twenty to twenty-eight out-of-stock drugs. Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA 0.00%↑) manufactures the largest amount of the generic in the United States accounting for most of the shortage. Novartis’ Sandoz (NVS 0.00%↑), Purdue Pharma’s Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, Sun Pharma, and Camber are all reporting shortages. Teva and Amneal Pharmaceuticals reporting the drug is on backorder through at least October. Adderall and its generics are used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
No shortage of Aduhelm and Relyvrio
While there is a shortage of Adderall generics there isn’t a shortage of the relatively new Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, and the newly approved ALS drug, Relyvrio. Why? They’re expensive and physicians aren’t interested in prescribing them because they aren’t very effective.
This was the topic we discussed this week on the FLATLINING Podcast. When the FDA approved Relyvrio, despite concerns about its ineffectiveness, they said they needed “regulatory flexibility” because of the seriousness of the disease it was designed to treat. What an utterly stupid thing to say in the political environment we are in right now.
Had that happened in 2019, I don’t think anyone would have taken notice of the FDA saying the needed “regulatory flexibility,” in fact some conservatives might have cheered for that. The FDA, however, is saying at a time when some on the right have attacked the FDA for its approval of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some (both in public and on weird corners of the internet) have questioned whether the FDA followed all of their own guidelines and regulations when studying and approving the coronavirus vaccines and those have claimed they cut corners which in turn compromises safety. To be clear, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and there are no long-term side effects.
Now, I am also not saying that Relyvrio is not safe; I’m not sure if anyone, even the internet’s weird corners, is arguing that right now. But just the fact that the FDA said they needed “regulatory flexibility” to approve the drug plays right into the hands of those who are trying to score political points against the scientific establishment in the US.
So why would the FDA approve drugs that aren’t very effective? You’ll want to take a listen to the podcast to find out.
Also on the podcast: Ron and I discussed the new numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 vaccine monitor. You can listen to that in this video:
The Washington Times is reporting that Russia is taking Ukrainian orphans to Russia to attend “social rehabilitation centers.” That description comes from Serhi Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, one of the territories that Russia annexed last week.
It comes at a particularly volatile point for the war in eastern Europe as President Biden warns of nuclear armageddon; I don’t need to tell you Friday Pulse Check readers what a public health crisis that would create. The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced in a press release, they had bought $290 million of the drug Nplate from Amgen USA (AMGN 0.00%↑) . Nplate is a drug used to treat acute radiation syndrome.
HHS says the purchase is “part of long-standing, ongoing efforts to be better prepared to save lives following radiological and nuclear emergencies.” To reduce radiation-induced bleeding, Nplate stimulates the body’s production of platelets and is safe for adults and children.
Now, Glenn Beck warned of imminent nuclear warfare on his program this morning (or, at the very least, hinted that the government knows more than they are letting on). I wouldn’t go that far. HHS says the purchase is part of its strategic response plans to potential disasters. It is interesting that Beck, and I’m sure others on the right as well, is complaining about a preventative purchase. I recall that in the early days of the pandemic, conservatives were furiously complaining about the Obama administration's failure to maintain the stockpile of different supplies that ended up being needed to fight COVID-19. Isn’t it better to have a stockpile of something ready rather than be unprepared?
There is another possibility about the purchase. It could be intended as aid for Ukraine in the event Vladimir Putin decides to nuke eastern Europe. Because it is already purchased and owned by the federal government, they can quickly export it to the region to try and save lives.
Without a doubt, it is an interesting blip on the radar for those of us who follow HHS.
Additionally, Russia is urging the United Nations General Assembly to take a secret ballot in their upcoming vote to condemn the Russian annexation of eastern Ukraine. Secret ballots are uncommon in the General Assembly. I believe Russia is concerned its allies are going to vote against them and doesn’t want that public humiliation.
Without a doubt, political tensions are high in our country. We can thank the 2016 election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 election for that. A new study by the Society of Human Resource Management gives us a little insight into how that is affecting the workplace.
According to the study, twenty-four percent of workers experienced either preferential or negative treatment based on their political affiliation. That number was only twelve percent in 2019. Ten percent say their promotion opportunities have been limited because of their political views. Additionally, forty-five percent of workers say they have had political disagreements at work.
Perhaps most interestingly, seventy percent of self-identified liberals and seventy-three percent of self-identified moderates say their coworkers are inclusive and tolerant of their and others’ political views. Sixty percent of self-identified conservatives said their coworkers were inclusive.
Where do we go from here? I’m not sure but starting with conversation and listening may not be a bad place to start.
Have a good weekend,