The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Will the FDA bend to Trump?

How can hospitals protect workers from Covid-19? And what ever happened with Biogen? We discuss all that and more this week on “The Readout LOUD,” STAT’s biotech podcast. First, STAT Washington correspondent Nicholas Florko joins us to explain how mounting pressure from President Trump is affecting the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Then, our colleague Eric Boodman calls in to talk about his latest story: a moving piece about a Boston hospital kitchen worker who died from Covid-19. Finally, we embark on a lightning round, featuring Biogen’s long-delayed treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and the internecine drama behind a leading coronavirus vaccine candidate.

Listen here.

Despite Covid-19, drug prices are still on the rise

Drug prices continue to rise in spite of Covid-19’s economic toll. Drug makers increased the list prices of 42 brand-name medications by an average of 3.5% this month, STAT’s Ed Silverman writes — a greater number of drug price hikes taken this time a year ago. Drug makers generally increase prices twice a year — in January and in July. This is the first increase after the start of the pandemic.

Although there has been a public outcry for years over pricing, there hasn’t been much progress on the issue in Washington. Earlier this week, however, there have been rumors that President Trump may sign an executive order on drug pricing in the near future. 

Read more.

Guidelines for studying pregnancy and HIV

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection — yet there hasn’t been much study of how  medication could help prevent them from getting the disease. They’ve been blocked from pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trials, studies on new antiretroviral therapies, and for drugs that treat tuberculosis and malaria — two of the deadliest co-infections with HIV. 

An NIH-funded study on pregnant women and HIV just released ethics guidance on how best to treat this patient population. It urges the importance of why these women should not be excluded from clinical study, and why they should get equal access to life-saving experimental drugs. 

“As the global HIV research community continues to work together to end HIV and address its deadly co-infections, it is imperative to ensure equitable attention to a population so centrally affected by these diseases,” the paper says. “Pregnant women and the children they bear deserve nothing less.” 

How exercise helps an aging (mouse) brain

Exercise has long been associated with longevity and health, but scientists have only recently begun to understand why. After transfusing blood from exercising mice into sedentary ones, researchers have isolated a single protein that shows restorative effects in the brain. It suggests that it may not simply be youth that confers benefit, but activity level, STAT’s Teresa Gaffney writes.

The protein, called GPLD1, is secreted by the liver after exercise. Higher levels of the protein were correlated with higher cognition levels in mice.

“We’re really thinking about making the benefits into a therapeutic, but not replacing the benefit of exercise for those who can do it,” a UCSF researcher who led the study told STAT. “Those who can do it, should do it.”

Read more.

More reads

  • Two dozen big drug makers launch a $1 billion fund to develop new antibiotics. (STAT)
  • The first round of Covid-19 vaccines is ‘highly unlikely to be a magic bullet’ (STAT)
  • These scientists raced to find a Covid-19 drug. Then the virus found them. (New York Times)

Thanks for reading! More next week,


Friday, July 10, 2020


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