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Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Virus Outbreak WHO The WHO says countries are free to take precautionary measures to protect their populations.
February 24, 2023
24 February 2023

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

South Africa reports first death due to cholera as cases rise to five

One person with no travel history has died due to cholera in South Africa, the health department said on Thursday, as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to five. The development comes on the heels of rising cases of cholera in Southern Africa, with Malawi battling its deadliest outbreak yet, with more than 1,300 deaths.

Moderna’s combination skin cancer therapy receives FDA’s breakthrough tag

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday its experimental personalised mRNA skin cancer vaccine in combination with Merck & Co Inc’s drug Keytruda has received breakthrough therapy designation from U.S. regulators as an additional treatment for high risk patients. Shares of Moderna rise 2.5% to $164 after the market.

Analysis-Why public health officials are not panicked about bird flu

A new strain of bird flu that transmits easily among wild birds has triggered an explosive spread into new corners of the globe, infecting and killing a variety of mammals species and raising fears of a pandemic more lethal than COVID-19. But the very changes that have allowed the virus to infect wild birds so efficiently likely made it harder to infect human cells, leading disease experts told Reuters. Their views underpin global health officials’ assessments that the current outbreak of H5N1 poses low risk to people.

Senator Warren urges U.S. patent office to scrutinize Merck’s Keytruda

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren sent the nation’s top patent regulator a letter urging close scrutiny of Merck & Co’s requests for new patents on its blockbuster cancer treatment Keytruda, saying further efforts to protect the drug could be an abuse of the system. “It is not at all clear that Merck is doing anything other than extending its monopoly power over the drug,” Warren wrote to Kathi Vidal, director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in the letter sent on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.

Novartis to pay $30 million to health plans, consumers over Exforge antitrust claims

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG has agreed to pay $30 million to settle claims by health plans and consumers that it schemed to delay the U.S. launch of generic competition for its Exforge hypertension drug. In a motion filed in Manhattan federal court Wednesday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the proposed deal was fair and “provides immediate, certain, and meaningful relief” while avoiding “enormously expensive” litigation.

U.S. FDA approves Sanofi’s bleeding disorder therapy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved French drugmaker Sanofi SA’s therapy to treat a type of inherited bleeding disorder known as hemophilia A, according to the regulator’s letter dated Wednesday. With the approval, Sanofi’s replacement therapy enters a market dominated by rivals like Shire, Bayer AG and Novo Nordisk which sell factor replacement therapies that have been the standard treatment for decades.

French people’s healthy lifespan up by more than 2 years since 2008 – stats agency

The amount of time that 65-year-olds in France can hope to live without health issues has increased by more than two years since 2008, French statistics agency DREES said on Thursday. As opposition parties contest a government plan to increase the retirement age by two years to 64 in order to prevent pension system deficits, DREES said that, in 2021, men aged 65 could hope to live another 11.3 years without health issues and women another 12.6 years.

Moderna forecasts COVID sales decline as costs rise, shares fall

Moderna Inc on Thursday forecast declining COVID-19 vaccine sales and rising costs for 2023, raising concerns the U.S. biotech company could post a loss this year, and its shares fell 7%. Moderna forecast $6 billion in costs for the year, $1 billion more than the revenue it expects to take in from sales of the COVID shot.

Canada, Ontario agree to healthcare deal with over C$8 billion in new funding

Canada’s federal government said Thursday it has agreed in principal to a healthcare funding deal with Ontario that includes a new 10-year C$8.4 billion ($6.2 billion) investment plan and a one-time C$776 million payment for the province’s urgent needs. Canada’s public healthcare systems have been strained by the pandemic and staffing shortages, with hospitals stretched to the breaking point.

China’s COVID-19 epidemic has ‘basically’ ended, but not completely over

Health authorities in China said on Thursday the country’s COVID-19 epidemic has “basically” ended, but it is not completely over as it found seven imported cases of the highly-transmissible XBB.1.5 variant since Jan. 8. Officials, speaking at a news event with several departments attending, said China’s “major decisive victory” over COVID has set an example for populous nations in prevention and control.

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