Child’s autopsy from 2008 becomes a clue to mystifying polio-like illness

Within days, the boy went from having cold symptoms to being unable to walk. To Peter Wright, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, it looked similar to polio — a condition not seen in the United States anymore. It had to be something else.

The case occurred back in 2008, and tragically, the 5-year-old New Hampshire boy died. But his family permitted the scientific team to conduct an autopsy, to help solve “the mystery around the child’s death and illness,” Wright recalled. The researchers found something unusual: evidence of a common pathogen called an enterovirus, but in the fluid that bathes the spinal cord.

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‘Information is a determinant of health’: Google executive on monkeypox and other challenges

SAN FRANCISCO — Karen DeSalvo’s latest challenge came in the nanometer-sized envelope of a virus: monkeypox.

Since becoming Google’s first chief health officer in 2019, DeSalvo has overseen many disparate programs, ranging from AI-enabled diagnostics to patient records. But increasingly, as the tech giant has rethought some of its biggest aims in health, losing a longtime executive and dissolving its dedicated health-focused division, her focus has shifted to consumers.

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Watch: As an outbreak grows, what is monkeypox and how does it spread?

The world is experiencing a monkeypox outbreak, with cases seen in a number of countries and across several continents. The viral infection rarely shows up outside of Central and West Africa.

Like other pox diseases, the telltale signs of monkeypox are painful lesions that can develop throughout the body. Although monkeypox can be fatal, the family of viruses responsible for the current outbreak causes a milder form of the disease. Watch the explainer above to learn more about monkeypox’s symptoms and how the disease spreads.

Opinion: Immersion in innovation should be part of every health care professionals’ training

When it comes to fostering innovation, most academic medical centers, medical schools, and health systems use the “pull” approach: they open technology transfer offices, hire staff, create industry relationships, and then wait for physicians, investigators, trainees (students, residents, and fellows), and other health care providers to initiate contact, submit new inventions, or navigate the typically opaque path of medical innovation and discovery.

That approach works for only the most self-directed, enterprising innovators, largely ignoring the majority of an institution’s health care professionals.

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STAT+: European regulator suspends generic drugs after finding flawed studies

In the latest dust-up over the safety of medicines, the European Medicines Agency recommended suspending marketing authorization for dozens of generic drugs after finding problems with tests conducted by a contract research organization.

Specifically, the regulator pointed to “serious concerns” about the quality and reliability of data in bioequivalence studies run by Synchron Research Services, which is based in Ahmedabad, India. Bioequivalence studies are conducted to show that a generic medicine releases the same amount of an active ingredient in the body as a brand-name medicine.

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STAT+: Pharmalittle: Cancer coalition aims to boost access to meds in poor countries; Moderna’s vaccine patent defense poses shield for others

And so, another working week will soon draw to a close. This is, as you know, our treasured signal to daydream about weekend plans. Our agenda is exceedingly modest. We are being left to our own devices for a few days so we expect to devote ourselves to the official mascot, take a few naps, and manicure the Pharmalot grounds. And what about you? This remains a fine time to enjoy the great outdoors — there are hills to hike, parks to stroll, and drives to be taken. You could look ahead to a summer getaway. Or simply plan the rest of your life. Well, whatever you do, have a grand time. But be safe. Enjoy, and see you soon …

Pharmaceutical companies have teamed up with global cancer organizations in an alliance aimed at getting more oncology medications to lower-income countries, Reuters writes. Currently, fewer than 50% of the cancer drugs on the World Health Organization essential medicines list are available in low- and middle-income countries. In the first concrete step for the Access to Oncology Medicines Coalition, Novartis has licensed its blood cancer drug nilotinib to the Medicines Patent Pool, allowing generic manufacturers to access the know-how to produce the drug at scale and at a lower cost. Nilotinib is the first drug for a noncommunicable disease in the pool.

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Opinion: To improve safety, hospitals should make ‘radical transparency’ real — and accessible

Covid-19 may be receding, but it’s leaving a quiet menace lurking in hospitals in its wake.

In a Perspective essay in The New England Journal of Medicine, four senior physicians with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of a “severe” post-Covid decline in patient safety. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology reached a similar conclusion, warning of a rise in “common, often-deadly” infections.

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STAT+: AbbVie dramatically boosts its spending on lobbying

WASHINGTON — The pharma giant AbbVie spent nearly $4 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2022 alone — more than any other drugmaker spent in the same period, and nearly a million dollars more than the company spent in the same period last year.

AbbVie was the seventh-highest corporate lobbying spender last quarter, ahead of giants like Lockheed Martin, CVS Health, and, AT&T, federal records show.

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Opinion: Does Paxlovid help people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19? Show us the data!

As a primary care doctor in New York City, I am grateful to drug companies for providing effective Covid-19 therapies for my patients. But I am also frustrated that these companies appear to be completely running the show, and believe that Americans could get more from Big Pharma if only our regulators dared to ask for it. This dynamic is on display with Paxlovid, which was approved based on a study that seems designed to exaggerate the benefit most Americans can expect from this drug rather than provide us with relevant information about it.

Among antiviral agents for Covid-19, Pfizer’s Paxlovid has emerged as the clear winner for two reasons: First, as a pill, Paxlovid is easy to administer, compared to the infusions required for monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir. Second, Paxlovid appears to be highly effective, with a clinical trial showing an 89% relative reduction in hospitalizations or death among high-risk patients who receive it.

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What happens when the government stops buying Covid-19 vaccines?

WASHINGTON — The federal government has distributed Covid-19 vaccines and treatments for free so far, but most likely, the handouts won’t last forever.

At some point, Covid-19 vaccines and treatments will be bought and sold just like other drugs and medical products. But big questions loom about how and when the transition will happen, about how bumpy it will be.

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