Mar 18, 2020 - Health

Scoop: Bayer to donate potential coronavirus drug to U.S.

Nurses screen patients for COVID-19 virus testing at a drive-up location outside Medstar St. Mary's Hospital on March 17, 2020 in Leonardtown, Maryland. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pharma company Bayer will soon make a large donation to the U.S. government of a drug that has shown some promise in helping patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, according to a senior Health and Human Services official and another source with direct knowledge.

Why it matters: It doesn't hurt to have a potential treatment on hand, but we're still a very long way from having an approved, clinically tested treatment for the coronavirus.

The big picture: Early evidence suggests that chloroquine — an inexpensive anti-malarial drug — may work just as well, if not even better, than remdesivir, a drug owned by Gilead, which is undergoing clinical trials for treatment of the coronavirus.

  • A study published in Nature found that "remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro."
  • "Chloroquine shouldn’t be left out of the discussion of candidate COVID-19 therapies and may actually be leading the pack," Raymond James wrote in a research note earlier this month.

Yes, but: This doesn't change the need for massive coronavirus efforts, as there is no proven coronavirus treatment or vaccine.

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Big Pharma pushing targeted Facebook ads

Facebook users are seeing more targeted ads from pharmaceutical companies — an ethical gray area for patient data and privacy, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Drug companies don't need to know your medical history to target you for a a drug, and seeing a surprisingly relevant medical ad can feel invasive.

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Brand-name prescription drug prices have spiked since 2007

Reproduced from Hernandez et. al, 2020, "Changes in List Prices, Net Prices, and Discounts for Branded Drugs in the US, 2007-2018"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The price of brand-name prescription drugs went up by 60% between 2007 and 2018, after accounting for rebates and discounts, according to a new study in JAMA.

Why it matters: Drugmakers often argue that the uproar over drug prices is overblown, saying it focuses too much on list prices instead of the discounted prices insurance plans end up paying. But this study shows that those prices, too, are rising.

Go deeperArrowMar 4, 2020 - Health

The other coronavirus test we need

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers are racing to develop tests that detect whether someone may have developed immunity to the coronavirus, which could help society return to normal faster.

Why it matters: These tests could help people know if they are able to go back to work, as well as aid researchers in tracking the scale and death rate of the disease — key data for current and future pandemic policies.

Go deeperArrowMar 28, 2020 - Health