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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has some warnings about the pandemic causing drug shortages — and some ideas on what to do about it.

Driving the news: COVID is increasing the demand for drugs that are needed to treat patients with the virus — like sedatives and vasopressors, which help patients with low blood pressure, per the report.

  • It's also shutting down the production of important medications, since China produces active pharmaceutical ingredients and it had to close down some of its factories because of the pandemic.
  • And travel bans have created delays that have led to shortages of drugs like propofol, an anesthetic.

The report recommends several steps to address the problems, many of which involve expanding the authority of the FDA:

  • Adding drugs to its shortage list, which would allow it to use strategies to increase manufacturing.
  • Creating quality metrics for manufacturing. (Congress would have to authorize it, since not everyone agrees that the agency has the power to do this.)
  • Creating an FDA database of approved manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
  • Requiring manufacturers to prove they have a stockpile of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and approving new drugs or manufacturing changes more quickly (both of which would have to be authorized by Congress).

The catch: Most of these recommendations rely pretty heavily on giving the FDA more regulatory power.

  • That might not be a slam dunk with Republican lawmakers for anything Congress has to approve — although that might matter less now that Democrats are in control. 

Go deeper

Updated Feb 4, 2021 - Health

Wisconsin governor issues new mask mandate after state GOP kills previous order

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. Photo: Morry Gash-Pool via Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Thursday issued a new statewide mask mandate almost immediately after the state Legislature voted to repeal his previous order.

Why it matters: Evers' attempts to combat COVID-19 have faced pushback from Republicans since early in the pandemic. Even with a new order, the Legislature could again vote to repeal the mask requirement.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

How CRISPR might help diagnose and halt dangerous outbreaks faster

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Gene-editing may lead the next generation of diagnostics that could help to quickly stop disease outbreaks and pandemics.

The big picture: New mRNA vaccine platforms, up-and-coming CRISPR diagnostics and other genomics-based tools may be the key to halting future pandemics. Their "plug and play" characteristics should allow a short turnaround to diagnose a pathogen, contact-trace suspected carriers, and develop a protective vaccine, experts tell Axios.

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