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Today in healthcare, the White House is pushing to make Pfizer’s highly effective treatment Paxlovid more available, but obstacles remain.
Welcome to night health care, where we follow the latest developments in policies and news concerning your health. For The Hill, we are Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.
White House Paxlovid push hits hurdles
The Biden administration has gone all out on the COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid, announcing new steps to make the oral treatment more widely available and making it clear that Vice President Harris used it while recovering from the coronavirus.
The White House has said it will nearly double the amount of Paxlovid available nationwide and is working to set up more Test-to-Treat locations at pharmacies and other locations.
But the administration faces a number of hurdles to truly make Paxlovid, and a similar treatment from Merck and Ridgeback known as molnupiravir, readily available to Americans.
Health care experts who spoke to The Hill said the expansion plan did not take into account the difficulty many patients face in obtaining a prescription for oral medications.
Health care providers authorized to prescribe Paxlovid (doctors and advanced practice nurses) are not always present in pharmacies.
Tom Kraus, vice president of government relations at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), said this situation will be “operationally quite challenging” for the administration’s goal of expanding sites. Test-to-Treat.
NYC raises COVID-19 alert level to ‘medium’
New York City raised its COVID-19 alert level from “low” to “medium” on Monday, amid an increase in cases in the city.
The move did not trigger any major new restrictions, but it is a sign of the continued risk of the virus and an increase in cases that has also been seen nationally.
If the alert level rises again to “high,” the city will consider bringing back its mask mandate for indoor environments, according to New York’s color-coding system.
“If you are at higher risk for serious illness due to your age, underlying medical conditions, or because you are unvaccinated, consider additional precautions such as avoiding crowded indoor gatherings,” he tweeted. New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan on Monday in announcing the move.
“We continue to strongly recommend that all New Yorkers wear a mask in indoor public places,” he added.
Cases have been rising in New York at around 2,300 a day, according to a New York Times tracker, although there are no signs of a steep spike like there has been over the winter.
Hospitalizations in the city have also increased but remain at relatively low levels.
MODERNA EXPECTS OMICRON BOOSTER AVAILABLE BY FALL
Moderna’s chief medical officer Paul Burton said Sunday that his company is preparing to supply large quantities of its booster vaccine against omicron and other COVID-19 variants this fall.
“We are confident that by the fall of this year we should have large quantities of this new booster vaccine that will protect against Omicron and other variants,” Burton said in
an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Last month, Moderna announced that its new COVID-19 bivalent booster was more efficient against all variants than the company’s currently available coronavirus vaccine.
The company said it expects initial data on its specific omicron vaccine to be available in the second quarter of this year.
Burton also made a general effort on Sunday to get people who haven’t already done so to receive their COVID-19 reminder.
“People are now eligible to be boosted. I would absolutely recommend it,” he said on Sunday.
AMAZON WORKERS LOSE PAID COVID LEAVE
Amazon will no longer offer paid time off to employees with COVID-19.
The online retail giant announced the change, which took effect Monday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance regarding the virus and the widespread availability of vaccines in the United States.
Under the new policy, employees who contract COVID-19 will be granted five days of excused and unpaid leave, according to a Saturday memo to employees.
Workers are also still allowed to use their sick leave if necessary. The memo also notes that Amazon will no longer send site-wide alerts about positive COVID-19 cases and that face coverings are no longer required, although they are still strongly recommended for unvaccinated employees.
Amazon has been slowly recalling its COVID-19 furlough policies since the start of the year.
In January, it shortened its paid vacation policy for employees from 10 days to seven days. This shift was fueled largely by labor shortages caused by the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
FDA extends approval of non-stimulant drug for ADHD
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded its approval of a nonstimulant drug for ADHD, the first in about 20 years, to include adults and children.
Viloxazine, sold commercially as Qelbree in extended-release capsules, has been approved to help treat ADHD in adults 18 and older, its manufacturer, Supernus Pharmaceuticals, has announced.
Qelbree was the first approved for the treatment of children 6 to 17 years old with ADHD last April. At the time, it was the first such drug approved for children in over 10 years.
Viloxazine was once prescribed as an antidepressant in Europe before being discontinued in favor of newer drugs. Before last year, it had never been approved for use in the United States
The most common side effects are milder and include decreased appetite, drowsiness and vomiting.
As a non-stimulant drug, Qelbree is less addictive and less likely to be abused. According to Supernus, no evidence of abuse potential was found during clinical trials.
WHAT WE READ
- A group of American pediatricians decides to abandon advice based on race (PA
- Mental health shouldn’t be ‘treated like a son-in-law’ to physical health, HHS chief says (CBS News)
- Three children died of acute hepatitis in Indonesia last month (Bloomberg)
STATE BY STATE
- California opens Medicaid to unauthorized senior immigrants (Kaiser Health News)
- Beto O’Rourke says Texas can learn from Oklahoma by expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana (Dallas Morning News)
- Minnesota frontline workers could see $750 hero checks within 12 weeks (Duluth Newsstand)
That’s all for today, thanks for reading. Discover The Hill’s Healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. Until tomorrow.