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They Took Blockbuster Drugs for Weight Loss and Diabetes. Now Their Stomachs Are Paralyzed
“I wish I never touched it. I wish I’d never heard of it in my life,” said Knight, 37, of Angie, Louisiana. “This medicine made my life hell. So much hell. It has cost me money. It cost me a lot of stress; it cost me days and nights and trips with my family. It’s cost me a lot, and it’s not worth it. The price is too high.”
Brenda Allen, 42, of Dallas feels the same way. Her doctor prescribed Wegovy for weight loss.
“And even now, being off the medication for almost a year, I’m still having a lot of problems,” Allen said. She said she was at urgent care recently after vomiting so much that she became dehydrated.
Emily Wright, 38, a teacher in Toronto, started taking Ozempic in 2018. Over a year, she said, she lost 80 pounds, which she’s been able to keep off. But Wright said she now vomits so frequently that she had to take a leave of absence from her job.
“I’ve almost been off Ozempic for a year, but I’m still not back to my normal,” Wright said.
The diabetes drug Ozempic, and its sister drug for weight loss, Wegovy, utilize the same medication, semaglutide. These and other drugs in this family, which includes medications like tirzepatide and liraglutide, work by mimicking a hormone that’s naturally made by the body, GLP-1. One of the roles of GLP-1 is to slow the passage of food through the stomach, which helps people feel fuller longer.
If the stomach slows down too much, however, that can cause problems.
Knight and Wright have been diagnosed with severe gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, which their doctors think may have resulted from or been exacerbated by the medication they were taking, Ozempic.
CDC Likely to Recommend Annual COVID Booster Shot, Director Says
The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that her agency would likely come out with guidance in the fall that Americans should get an annual COVID-19 booster shot.
“We’re just on the precipice of that, so I don’t want to get ahead of where our scientists are here and doing that evaluation work, but yes we anticipate that COVID-19 will become similar to flu shots, where it is going to be you get your annual flu shot, and you get your annual COVID shot,” Dr. Mandy Cohen told Spectrum News.
“We’re not quite there yet, but stay tuned,” she added. “I think within the next couple of weeks, month we’re going to hear more from our experts on COVID shots.”
Spectrum News said that the agency is finalizing the recommendation and is expected to announce it in early September.
Commonly Used Gout Drug Found Effective Against COVID-19
An anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat gout could significantly improve outcomes in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infections, according to research by a team led by University of Georgia professor Ralph Tripp.
In a dose-range study of probenecid, a drug originally approved in 1951 to prevent the production of gout-causing uric acid, researchers showed significant improvements both in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 and the speed at which symptoms cleared in patients.
In comparison to other FDA-approved drugs used to treat the virus, probenecid helped clear symptoms several days faster, Tripp said.
“This is a significant development,” said Tripp, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. “It shows improvement in both virus clearance and symptom reduction.”
Merck, Chasing Pfizer, Claims Study Success for New Pneumonia Vaccine
Merck plans to use the results to seek global regulatory clearance of V116 and attempt to position the vaccine as a more attractive option than Pfizer’s Prevnar 20, which has been available since 2021 and won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for use in children and infants in April.
The two companies have long battled in the pneumococcal market, with Pfizer having the edge. Sales of Pfizer’s Prevnar franchise reached $1.6 billion in the first quarter. Merck chalked up combined sales of $202 million for its older Pneumovax 23 and newer Vaxneuvance products during the same period.
New Research Shows Private Equity Profiting off Autism Services
Before 2001, neither commercial health insurance companies nor Medicaid covered services for people with autism. By 2015, thanks in large part to the advocacy of thousands of parents, all but seven states had mandates requiring commercial health plans to provide coverage for autism, with the remainder covered by 2019.
According to research by Professor Rosemary Batt at Cornell University, the flood of insurance and taxpayer money that followed quickly flowed into the pockets of private equity firms. Between 2017 and 2022, private equity firms completed 85% of all mergers and acquisitions in autism services. It is the highest rate among health care segments.
“Parents who fought for health insurance coverage for their autistic kids expected the funds to be used to expand access to high-quality treatment. They didn’t expect firms to move in, skim reimbursements to pay high salaries to executives, and deliver millions to private equity partners,” said Batt, the Alice Hanson Cook Professor of Women and Work.
Batt’s policy paper, “Pocketing Money Meant for Special Needs Kids: Private Equity in Autism Services,” is co-authored by her longtime collaborator, Eileen Appelbaum of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, while Quynh Trang Nguyen, MILR ’23 contributed substantial research assistance. It was published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
CDC Warns of ‘Emerging’ Illness Caused by Tick Bite That Causes ‘Potentially Life-Threatening’ Allergy to Red Meat
A little-known illness caused by a tick bite gives victims a serious allergy to red meat and affected an estimated 110,000 people between 2010 and 2022, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thursday.
The illness, called alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), comes from the bite of a Lone Star tick, which can be found mostly in the South as well as many Eastern and Midwest states. AGS causes serious allergic reactions to red meat such as pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison and even mammal products like milk.
“Alpha-gal syndrome is an important emerging public health problem, with potentially severe health impacts that can last a lifetime for some patients,” said Dr. Ann Carpenter, an epidemiologist and lead author of one of the papers released Thursday on AGS.
“It’s critical for clinicians to be aware of AGS so they can properly evaluate, diagnose, and manage their patients and also educate them on tick-bite prevention to protect patients from developing this allergic condition.”
Many doctors and health care providers are still unfamiliar with AGS, according to the CDC, which added that the allergic reactions caused by the tick bite can be “potentially life-threatening.”
AstraZeneca Buys Pfizer’s Early Gene Therapy Work for up to $1B
AstraZeneca has reached a deal to acquire a group of early-stage gene therapy programs and related technologies from Pfizer, the British drugmaker’s most significant move to date in the field of genetic medicine.
Once a bystander in the field of genetic medicine, AstraZeneca has started to make its ambitions clear over the last couple years.
The company stuck to the sidelines, while drugmakers such as Novartis, Bristol Myers Squibb and Gilead made significant investments in the field of cancer cell therapy in the last decade. But it has reportedly been quietly building internal development and manufacturing capabilities and, in the last two years, signed alliances with startups working on newer approaches.
AstraZeneca is similarly a latecomer to gene therapy and gene editing, areas in which many of its peers are well-established. But that appears to be changing following its roughly $40 billion acquisition of Alexion in 2020. That deal gave AstraZeneca — which was focused on medicines for cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes — a foothold in rare disease, a hotspot for genetic medicine research.