Bill and Melinda Gates Will Repay Nigeria's $76 Million Polio-Fighting Loan

Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images
Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images

Not long after announcing a $100 million donation to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, Bill and Melinda Gates have agreed to pay off Japan's $76 million loan to Nigeria to stamp out polio, Quartz reports.

Polio has been eradicated in most countries around the world, but it's still present in Nigeria, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2008, according to The Conversation, Nigeria accounted for 86 percent of all polio cases in Africa. This high number was thanks in part to low immunization rates and calls from extremists to boycott polio vaccinations out of fear that they were tainted with anti-fertility steroids.

National and international campaigns were launched to lower polio rates in Nigeria, and in 2014 the nation received the loan from Japan to boost disease-fighting efforts. Progress has been made since then, with no new cases of polio reported in Nigeria in 2017. Two children had contracted polio in 2016, two years after Nigeria's last known case.

Nigeria's loan repayments to Japan were slated to begin in 2018. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to cover the costs after Nigeria met its goal of "achieving more than 80 percent vaccination coverage in at least one round each year in very high risk areas across 80 percent of the country's local government areas," Quartz reports. The loan will be repaid over the next 20 years.

While the Gates Foundation is lending a hand to Nigeria, the Associated Press reports that health officials in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province recently launched a new chapter in the nation's ongoing struggle against the disease. Health workers will engage in a week-long, door-to-door vaccination campaign, though efforts like this are risky due to threats from the Taliban and other militant groups, who view vaccinations as a Western conspiracy and believe they sterilize children. Anti-polio efforts in Pakistan also suffered after the CIA used vaccinations as a cover to get DNA samples from the Bin Laden compound.

[h/t Quartz]

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

iStock
iStock

Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

The First Generic EpiPen Just Received FDA Approval

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iStock

For people with severe allergies, having an EpiPen on hand could mean the difference between life and death. But that safety net comes at a high price: In the past decade, the cost of the brand-name drug has risen by more than 400 percent, with a set of two pens selling for $600. Now, CNBC reports that patients can finally get the treatment they need for a more reasonable amount of cash: The FDA has approved a generic version of Mylan's EpiPen, making it the first direct generic competitor to the brand-name medication.

Teva Pharmaceutical's versions of both the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. will work like the originals, with an injector delivering epinephrine, a chemical that opens the airways, into the bloodstream of someone suffering an allergic reaction. Similar generics have been made commercially available in the past: In 2016, Mylan introduced a cheaper version of its own product at $300 for a two-pack, and in 2017 CVS started selling an EpiPen alternative for $110. Teva's drug is different, though. It's a direct generic copy of the EpiPen, which means pharmacists will be free to offer it to patients who have been prescribed Mylan's product. A price hasn't been announced, but Teva's EpiPen could end up being significantly cheaper than Mylan's generic EpiPen, which could in turn bring down prices of the injector drug across the board.

The exorbitant price of the EpiPen has hit patients hard in recent years. Some EMTs have even started loading epinephrine into syringes manually rather than paying for the drug-injector combo. Though the drug itself isn't protected by a patent, the design of the EpiPen device is difficult for competing pharmaceutical companies to replicate, which has allowed Mylan to charge whatever it can for the product.

In 2017, the FDA tweaked its guidelines to make it easier for generic EpiPen competitors to receive market approval, even if the design of the new injector differed slightly from the original. With the approval of Teva's auto-injector made official, more EpiPen generics could soon start appearing behind pharmacy counters.

[h/t CNBC]

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