White Pill

Experts Are Hopeful Over Covid-19 Antiviral Pill, But Emphasize Vaccines Are Still Our Way Out Of The Pandemic 

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced this past week that they created an antiviral pill that can reduce Covid-19 hospitalization and death by 50%. Experts believe this pill could be a “game-changer” in the way we treat Covid, however, they’re also emphasizing that this pill is not an alternative to getting vaccinated, and vaccinations against the coronavirus arte the most effective way Americans can bring this pandemic to an end. 

Over 255,000 Americans are becoming fully vaccinated every day, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 65% of Americans are now fully vaccinated. On the opposite end, the US surpassed 700,000 Covid-related deaths this week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US is currently the world’s leader in Covid deaths. 

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“This new antiviral pill can be used in conjunction with the vaccine. And it’s not an alternative to vaccination. We still have to try to get more people vaccinated. The antiviral medicine could be effective for those who choose not to get vaccinated, as well as those who catch the virus while fully vaccinated,” explained Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration. 

“This is the most impactful result that I remember seeing of an orally available drug in the treatment of a respiratory pathogen, perhaps ever. I think getting an oral pill that can inhibit viral replication — that can inhibit this virus — is going to be a real game-changer.”

Merck is now seeking FDA emergency use authorization for its medication, and if it’s permitted, it will become the first oral medicine that fights viral infection for Covid-19. 

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“If approved, I think the right way to think about this is; this is a potential additional tool in our toolbox to protect people from the worst outcomes of Covid. Inoculation remains our best tool against Covid-19 because the shots can prevent people from getting infected in the first place, and we want to prevent infections, not just wait to treat them once they happen,” White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said.

The FDA is also meeting with its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on October 14th and 15th to discuss booster shots for Americans who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The FDA’s vaccine committee is also set to discuss approving Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The company has already begun submitting data about that specific age group. 

Vaccine mandates are beginning to appear all throughout the country as well as a means of getting more Americans to receive their inoculations so the nation has an actual fighting chance at bringing this pandemic to an end.

Study Says Merck COVID-19 Pill Cuts Risks Of Hospitalization, Death In Half

According to results of a clinical trial released, an experimental COVID-19 pill known as molnupiravir could assist in cutting the chances of hospitalization or death for at-risk patients by up to 50%.

Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical company that developed the pill in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, announced in a press release that it is planning to submit an application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Merck stated that it expects to produce 10 million courses of molnupiravir by the end of 2021, with more courses on the way in 2022.

Back in June, Merck announced a procurement agreement with the U.S. Government, where the company would supply 1.7 million molnupiravir courses at the cost of $1.2 billion. Merck is also discussing supply and purchase agreements with other governments worldwide.

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If the EUA is approved by the FDA, molnupiravir will be the first oral medicine made available to combat the risks of COVID-19. The pill will require a prescription, and is intended for those with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

ScienceDaily detailed how molnupiravir works, with the agent targeting the RNA genomes of the COVID-19 virus:

“When it [Molnupiravir] enters the cell, it is converted into RNA-like building blocks. In the first phase, the viral copying machine, called RNA polymerase, incorporates these building blocks into the RNA genome of the virus. However, unlike Remdesivir, which slows down the viral RNA polymerase, Molnupiravir does not directly interfere with the function of the copying machine. Instead, in the second phase, the RNA-like building blocks connect with the building blocks of the viral genetic material.”

Thanks to multiple mutations in the replications of viral RNA, pathogens are thus rendered unreproducible.

Merck noted that in their “MOVe-OUT” study, which consisted of 1,550 patients with varying COVID-19 symptoms and underlying conditions, only 7.3% of participants (28 out of 385) who received molnupiravir were hospitalized or died.

That number was significantly lower than the 14.1% of participants (53 out of 377) who were hospitalized or died while being treated with placebo. Additionally, no molnupiravir patients died through the 29th day, as opposed to eight placebo deaths.

Wendy Holman, the chief executive officer of Ridgeback, stressed how important it is to have a form of antiviral medicine that isn’t intertwined with healthcare facilities, which are currently swamped with COVID-19 related cases.

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According to Our World In Data, there are over 71,000 COVID-19 patients that are currently hospitalized in the United States. Despite hitting just around the 12,000s in July, the lowest hospitalization total in over a year, the U.S. saw that number skyrocket to nearly 99,000 in early September.

For a country that has dealt with wave after wave of the virus for months on end, it is hard not to be excited by the game-changing developments that molnupiravir could bring. It’s easy-to-obtain, practical nature could be attractive to those who have been hesitant of vaccination, or cannot take the vaccine for medical or personal reasons.

While vaccines remain the best method of protection against COVID-19, alternatives in any form are sorely needed in order to help speed up recovery processes and assist in preventing deadlier cases.

Merck and Ridgeback are not the only pharmaceuticals that have been developing COVID-19 oral drugs. Pfizer Inc., which started the first phase of their oral agent in March, is close to reporting clinical trial results, as is Swiss Roche Pharmaceuticals.

According to Retuers, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Pardes Biosciences, and Japan-based Shionogi & Co. are all in the processes of producing oral treatments as well. Rest assured, there should be no shortage of medicine such as molnupiravir.

HIV Drug Medicine

Over 70 Countries Experiencing Shortage In HIV Medication Due To Pandemic

More than 70 countries in the world are currently at risk of running out of essential HIV medication due to the coronavirus pandemic and the multitude of vaccine trials using drug cocktails that involve said medication. 

According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), twenty-four countries currently claim to have a “critically low” stock of antiretroviral medicine, more commonly known as ARVs. ARVs are largely used around the world as a therapy to treat HIV, and now a majority of these countries are seeing disruptions in their supply chains as a direct result of the pandemic. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated recently that the organization thinks “the findings of this survey are deeply concerning.”

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SUDAN – JUNE 18: Sudanese pharmacists, holding banners protesting against medicine shortage

“Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it. We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.”

In May of this year the WHO and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS estimated that AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa specifically could double due to a six-month disruption of access to ARV medication.  

The estimation itself applies only to 2020, however, that doesn’t make it any less staggering. While there may not be a direct cure for HIV/AIDS, ARVs and drug treatments like it have made it so individuals can get to a place where they’re completely undetectable, and therefore, untransmittable, which is remarkable when you think about what the AIDS epidemic looked like in the 1980’s and how bleak the future looked in terms of the virus. 

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Pharmacy owner Abdulaziz Othman speaks about the acute shortage of medicine at his drugstore in the Sudanese capital Khartoum

The fact that we’ve gotten to a place where HIV and AIDS can practically disappear from an individual’s body goes to show that we should all remain hopeful for a Covid-19 treatment/vaccine, however, it’s important that we continue to provide resources to parts of the world that need HIV/AIDS relief the most. 

According to the WHO survey some of these main “disruptions” that are causing so many countries to struggle with their ARV supply includes the closure of air and land transportation, failure for suppliers to deliver the medication as a result of that, and a limit on access to health services due to Covid concerns. 

In 2019 alone more than 25 million people received ARV treatment; which is around the average every year for HIV treatment using antiretroviral medication. Now, the WHO is predicting that number will be much smaller because of the pandemic. 

This past weekend the WHO also announced that they would be discontinuing a Covid-19 vaccine trial that involved a drug cocktail using lopinavir and ritonavir; two HIV medications. While both drugs are regularly used in ARVs and successfully help treat individuals with HIV, the medications produced “little or no reduction in the morality of Covid-19 patients.” 

Drug and vaccine trials are continuing to develop throughout the world, but in the meantime it is imperative that we continue to listen to our healthcare providers and remain indoors as often as possible. If we want to get to a place where Covid-19 becomes completely undetectable and untransmittable, we have to take every necessary precaution.

Climate Change

Studies Detail Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

One of the concerns associated with climate change is the effects of rising global temperatures, pollution, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events on human health. Typically, this concern is related to people’s physical health; heavily polluted air can lead to respiratory illnesses, contaminated drinking water can contribute to all manner of illnesses, and extreme weather events can cause traumatic injury as well as dehydration and starvation resulting from damage to infrastructure. But another aspect of the health impacts of climate change is often overlooked, which is the psychological impact of understanding the global threat imposed by the phenomenon.

Climate change has been in the news with increasing frequency lately for a number of reasons. One reason is the increasing number of extreme weather events, some of which have been shown scientifically to have been worse as a result of climate change. Another reason is the work of activists, particularly young people such as Greta Thunberg, to raise awareness about the scope of the impacts of climate change, including the historic global protests on Friday. As I write this article, the U.N. is holding a climate summit to discuss the problem and potential solutions, where Thunberg is speaking. And in the United States, democratic presidential candidates are discussing the policies they’d implement to fight climate change, many of which call for unprecedented political change.

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A meta-analysis, which will be published in the April 2020 edition of Current Opinion in Psychology, takes a holistic approach of understanding the health impacts of climate change by reviewing research that has been conducted on the subject over the past several years. This study identifies three different forms of climate-related events and how they relate to mental health. These events are “acute events” such as hurricanes and wildfires; “subacute or long-term changes,” like droughts and heat stress; and “the existential threat of long-lasting changes, including higher temperatures, rising sea levels and a permanently altered and potentially uninhabitable physical environment.” The various ways in which these factors impact mental health is broad, and the authors specifically point to the development of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children and poor people are particularly vulnerable, as these are populations most directly threatened by the effects of climate change.

For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.

The term “eco-anxiety” has been introduced to describe the sense of being overwhelmed by the nature of climate change as an existential threat, and has been identified as an area of concern among psychologists. The phenomenon impacts even people who do not have a history of mental illness, and is characterized by “a chronic fear of environmental doom,” according to a 2017 report produced by the American Psychological Association. Sufferers of eco-anxiety, a condition which is thought to be rapidly growing among the global population, worry about the future of themselves and their children, and experience feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration owing in part to their conceptualization of themselves in relation to the global environment. According to psychologist Molly S. Castello, sufferers of eco-anxiety use denial to distance themselves from their existential concerns, but that denial only serves as a distraction from their anxiety, worsening the condition in the long term.

Several therapies have been proposed to treat eco-anxiety. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication have been shown to be useful treatments for the depression and anxiety that can result from environmental concerns, but psychologists who specialize in environmental concern recommend additional steps. These steps involve changing your lifestyle to reassert control over your feelings and instilling yourself with the knowledge that you are not remaining complacent in the fact of climate change. Duncan Greere, who edited a report detailing solutions to the climate crisis, recommends that individuals “make climate change a factor in the decisions you make around what you eat, how you travel, and what you buy,” “talk about climate change with your friends, family and colleagues, and “demand that politicians and companies make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing for the climate.” For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.