white pill on yellow surface

DAILY DOSE: At-home Covid-19 treatment approved by FDA; Lab safety in China questioned.


The world’s first at-home Covid-19 treatment medicine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today. Per Reuters, “The U.S. on Wednesday authorized Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) oral antiviral COVID-19 pill for at-risk people aged 12 and above, making it the first at-home treatment for the coronavirus and a potentially important tool in the fight against the fast spreading Omicron variant. Data from Pfizer’s clinical trial showed its antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, was 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness. Recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against Omicron, Pfizer said.” Together with the numerous vaccines available around the world, Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill gets us that much closer to ending the pandemic. https://reut.rs/3mnReNi


Omicron continues to batter Europe with some countries nearing record infection rates that date back to the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic. According Reuters, “France on Wednesday reported 84,272 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, coming close to its all-time high of almost 87,000 cases in November 2020. Coming within reach of the 84,999 new cases recorded at the height of France’s spring wave in April, the value was also the country’s second-highest this year.” It’s a stark reminder that there is still a lot of heavy lifting left to be done. https://reut.rs/3Eln1EO


The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a slew of other problems that have their roots in the mitigation efforts put in place. Depression, suicides, domestic abuse, unhealthy weight gain. Substance abuse is probably one of the worst and it has hit the Native American community particularly hard. An article in the Associated Press documented the toll it has taken: “As the pandemic ravaged the country, deaths from drug overdoses surged by nearly 30%, climbing to a record high. The drug crisis has also diversified from an overwhelmingly white affliction to killing people of color with staggering speed. The death rate last year was highest among Native Americans, for whom COVID-19 piled yet more despair on communities already confronting generations of trauma, poverty, unemployment and underfunded health systems. It is no longer an opioid epidemic, but one in which people are dying from deadly cocktails of many drugs. Deaths involving methamphetamine have nearly tripled in recent years, with Native Americans 12 times more likely to die from it.” https://bit.ly/3efBCqT


All is not well in China when it comes to scientific research lab safety. Yet another explosion has rocked the country’s university system. Per Nature “The deaths of two people following a laboratory explosion at a Chinese university in October have raised alarm among researchers. The full circumstances that led to the deaths at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA), in Jiangsu province, are not yet known — but they come amid wider concerns about safety in university teaching labs in China. The deaths are the latest in a series of fatalities caused by explosions in academic laboratories in China, often involving students in chemistry departments, that have been reported in recent years. Some researchers are optimistic that the situation is improving. But others say China’s government needs to do more to improve safety.” Lab safety problems. Haven’t we heard that somewhere before? https://go.nature.com/32hLX33


One of America’s top chemists has been convicted in court for failing to disclose funding and recruitment ties with Chinese Communist Party. Per the New York Times, “Charles Lieber, one of the country’s top research chemists, sat miserably in a chair at the Harvard Police Department, trying to explain to two F.B.I. agents why he had agreed to partner with a lesser-known Chinese university in a relationship that had soured and landed him in trouble with the U.S. government. The university had money to spend — ‘that’s one of the things China uses to try to seduce people,’ Dr. Lieber said in the interrogation, clips of which were shown in court. But money wasn’t the reason, he said. By training young scientists in the use of technology he had pioneered, he hoped to burnish his credentials with the committee that decides the ultimate scientific honor.” The U.S. government needs to mind how it goes when it comes to intimidating scientists in America. A balance needs to be struck between sending a message and alienating foreign researchers who make tangible contributions to science in the country. https://nyti.ms/3yQeOaD

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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