Public health

The big picture

America's poor health is jeopardizing its future

New studies underscore just how bad American health is compared to other rich countries, which has worsened the impact of COVID-19

Oct 24, 2020 - Health
How the world could monitor for potential pandemic viruses

Global monitoring is key to UN strategy for preventing future pandemics.

Jul 9, 2020 - Health
Saving the elderly from coronavirus

America and much of the world is aging rapidly and is in need of technologies to care for the elderly.

Jun 17, 2020 - Health
Pandemic re-emphasizes need for universal flu vaccine

There's been "promising progress" in the quest for the universal flu vaccine.

Jun 4, 2020 - Health
Chart: The mortality rate ranking for each state, by disease

Everything's deadlier in the South.

May 11, 2019 - Health

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Jun 16, 2021 - Health

Watchdog group calls for FDA removals over Aduhelm approval

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Public Citizen is asking Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to fire three top FDA officials — Janet Woodcock, Patrizia Cavazzoni and Billy Dunn — over the agency's "indefensible decision to approve" Biogen's Alzheimer's treatment, Aduhelm, according to a letter the consumer advocacy group sent today.

Why it matters: The FDA increasingly has approved drugs that come with high price tags but have weak or no clinical evidence of working, like Aduhelm, and now more scientists and medical experts are calling for an overhaul of the agency's leadership.

Some Americans were infected with COVID in December 2019

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The National Institutes of Health said Tuesday morning that testing of samples from an ongoing study of Americans show a very limited number of cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in five U.S. states as early as Jan. 7, 2020.

Why it matters: Calling it another "piece of the puzzle" of when and how the coronavirus pandemic began, the NIH researchers say this offers more evidence that the virus was in the U.S. at the end of December.

Jun 14, 2021 - Health

Boris Johnson extends England's COVID restrictions to curb variant spread

Photo: Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday delayed "freedom day", when the U.K. was set end pandemic-related restrictions, to July 19 instead of June 21, as the delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: The delay is likely an attempt to get more people vaccinated, especially with their second dose, before reopening fully, writes the Post. Restrictions on sporting events, bars, nightclubs and movie theaters will stay in place, and people will be asked to continue working from home if possible.

Jun 13, 2021 - Health

More elderly Americans are taking drugs that lead to falls, study finds

Photo: Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images

The past decades have seen an increase in older Americans taking prescription drugs that dramatically increase the likelihood of a dangerous fall, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: A recent study found that 7.8 billion fall-risk-increasing drug orders were filled by older adults between 1999 and 2017. It also found the rate of death by falling doubled during that period.

Jun 11, 2021 - Health

G7 commits to sending 1 billion COVID vaccine doses to lower-income countries

Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

The Group of 7 wealthy nations on Friday pledged to deliver more than 1 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine to lower-income countries beginning this summer.

Why it matters: The G7 countries have been criticized for not sharing vaccines with nations that have fewer resources and are struggling to contain new waves of the pandemic.

HIV prevention and care lags for Latinos

The incidence of HIV across the U.S. has gone down 73% since the first cases were reported in the country four decades ago, but the virus continues to ravage Latino and Black populations.

By the numbers: The Latino communities face four times the rates of HIV infection than white non-Hispanics in the U.S., per the CDC.

Jun 10, 2021 - Health

Johnson & Johnson says FDA has approved extended vaccine expiration date

Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Thursday that the FDA has authorized an extension of its COVID vaccine's shelf life from three months to 4.5 months.

Why it matters: Amid a slowdown in vaccine uptake, a number of state health officials had been sounding the alarm that hundreds of thousands of single-shot J&J doses could expire this month.

Jun 10, 2021 - Health

Pharma industry insiders disavow FDA's approval of Aduhelm

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

A new poll of more than 1,400 people who work in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries by John Carroll of Endpoints News reveals a clear consensus: The FDA made a big mistake approving Aduhelm, Biogen's Alzheimer's treatment, and the $56,000 price tag does not match any possible benefit.

Why it matters: Even the industry's own experts are not defending the FDA and Biogen.

Jun 8, 2021 - Health

Experts question FDA standards with Aduhelm approval

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Following the FDA's approval of Biogen's Alzheimer's treatment Aduhelm, experts fear the approval — based on weak scientific data — is a sign the agency is putting speed over rigor.

The big picture: "A general signal being sent to the rest of the drug industry is: If you can get uncertain, maybe suggestive data and a post-hoc analysis — get that threshold to us — we may approve your drug," said Peter Bach, a drug researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

America's next big wave of sick

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Influenza cases and other common viruses have been at historically low numbers for the past year due to the safety precautions taken by the public to stifle the spread of COVID-19. But that could change soon.

Driving the news: Experts say the last year and a half, we've largely gone without "boosts" to our adaptive immunity from exposure to viruses, as STAT News reported recently. And if flu cases start to rise in the fall, buckle up.

What they're saying: If the U.S. starts seeing the uptick in flu cases in October or November, "that would be a sign that we’re going to be in for ... a strong flu season," said Andy Pekosz, professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

  • A typical flu season begins in late December, early January.
  • "You’ve lost one pathway to immunity, which is natural infection," last flu season, said Ryan Langlois, associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Minnesota. "We’ve never been in this situation."

State of play: Already, cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, have surged across the country in recent weeks for the first time since the pandemic started as the country started to open back up.

What to watch: Last year's flu vaccination rates were the highest seen in years. If we see an early flu season, the public health guidance to get the flu vaccine will be that much more important and, in some cases, it may make sense to ask individuals who are high-risk to wear masks, Langlois said.

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