The Daily Dose: Massive COVID-19 vaccine news; Terrible Alzheimer’s treatment drug news.

There’s some welcome positive news on the COVID-19 front. Pfizer and BioNtech have reported early results from their Phase III vaccine trial. Per STAT, “The vaccine is the first to be tested in the United States to generate late-stage data. The companies said an early analysis of the results showed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo. For months, researchers have cautioned that a vaccine that might only be 60% or 70% effective.” It’s hard to stress how good 90% efficacy really is. It is equally hard to stress that the results were announced via press release and the actual data has not been peer reviewed or been seen by independent researchers. Yet another caveat entails the length of immunity. Does it extend beyond 6 months?

As we’ve reported previously, there is a serious problem around the world that entails governments promoting unproven drugs to treat COVID-19. Per Nature, “In India, which has the world’s second-largest COVID-19 outbreak, there is a desperate need for effective treatments. But researchers are concerned about how the country’s drug regulator is handling potential therapies. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved several repurposed drugs for ‘restricted emergency use’ for treating the disease, the first time it has used such powers. Yet scientists say it’s unclear on what basis the drugs were approved, and critics argue that the manufacturers’ data on their effectiveness is unconvincing so far.” The United States and China have also been guilty of misleading the public.

There’s also positive news on the COVID-19 diagnostic front. “A low-cost, rapid coronavirus diagnostic developed by researchers at the University of Oxford is now in place to screen passengers at major international airports in London and Hong Kong. The test was first unveiled this past July and was initially designed to deliver a result in 15 to 30 minutes for under $25. A pre-departure diagnostic facility at Heathrow Airport has been set up to screen passengers bound for Hong Kong and Italy, giving travelers the option of completing testing requirements at the airport before arrival.” Less sexy than the vaccine news but still important, especially if you miss being able to travel without worrying about being infected.

Unlike the COVID-19 drug development news, there’s been some devastating news regarding the first promising Alzheimer’s treatment candidate in some time. Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug has been pounded by its own advisory board. “During a public comment section of the meeting, people with Alzheimer’s— including some who participated in Biogen studies—and their caregivers strongly urged FDA to approve the drug. But many researchers, including most of the advisory committee members, weren’t convinced by the two large clinical trials of aducanumab—only one of which found evidence of benefit. And the committee was uncomfortable with rosy interpretations of Biogen’s data that FDA presented today and in documents it released this week.” To put it bluntly, the news is a real downer.

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