Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Lawsuits filed over U.S. state restrictions on abortion pills
A maker of abortion pills and a doctor have filed lawsuits challenging state restrictions on the medication, in the first lawsuits of their kind since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to abortion. In a complaint filed in federal court in Huntington, West Virginia, GenBioPro Inc said the state cannot override the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval from 2000 of mifepristone by banning the drug, the first in a two-drug regimen for medication abortions.
Updated COVID vaccines prevented illness from latest variants -CDC
The updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE and Moderna helped prevent symptomatic infections against the new XBB-related subvariants, offering new evidence of how the vaccines perform against these fast-spreading strains, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. “Today we have additional evidence to show that these updated vaccines are protecting people against the latest COVID-19 variants,” Dr. Brendan Jackson, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 response, told reporters in a briefing.
FDA classifies recall of Getinge’s heart devices as most serious
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday classified the recall of Swedish medical equipment maker Getinge’s heart devices as its most serious type since their use could lead to death. Datascope, a unit of Getinge, had recalled 4,454 therapeutic devices in December following a death and four serious injuries from their use. The devices are designed to help the heart pump more blood.
Merck scraps Keytruda trial for prostate cancer after dismal interim data
Merck & Co Inc said on Wednesday it was discontinuing a late-stage trial of its blockbuster immunotherapy Keytruda in some prostate cancer patients after interim data showed it was unlikely to meet the study’s main goals. The interim analysis showed the therapy did not extend survival or help extend the time a patient lives without the disease worsening, the U.S. drugmaker said.
UK to give COVID booster dose to higher-risk groups in autumn
British health minister Steve Barclay said on Wednesday a COVID-19 booster vaccination would be offered in autumn this year for those at higher risk of severe disease. Earlier on Wednesday Britain’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said plans should be made to offer such a booster vaccination.
North Korea locks down capital city over ‘respiratory illness’
Authorities in the North Korean capital Pyongyang have ordered a five-day lockdown due to rising cases of an unspecified respiratory illness, the Russian embassy and Seoul-based NK News reported on Wednesday, citing a government notice. The notice, shared by the embassy on its Facebook page, said that a “a special anti-epidemic period has been established” and it called on foreign delegations to keep employees inside. The order also called for individuals to measure their temperatures four times a day and report the results to a hospital by phone.
Juul in deal talks with three tobacco giants – WSJ
E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc is in early talks with three tobacco giants for a potential sale, strategic investment, licensing or distribution deal, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. Juul, which was reportedly looking to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has had separate discussions with Philip Morris International Inc, Japan Tobacco Group and Altria Group Inc, the report said.
China says COVID deaths, severe cases have fallen over 70% since peak
Critically ill COVID-19 cases in China are down 72% from a peak early this month while daily deaths among COVID-19 patients in hospitals have dropped 79% from their peak, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The figures, published on the centre’s website, come after a prominent government scientist said over the weekend that 80% of China’s 1.4 billion population had already been infected, making the possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound over the next two or three months remote.
U.S. signs up over 16 million people for Obamacare health insurance
More than 16 million Americans signed up for Obamacare health insurance for 2023, a jump of more than 12% over last year and the highest since the Affordable Care Act was signed 13 years ago, the U.S. government said on Wednesday. About 12 million people enrolled from the 33 U.S. states that use the online marketplace funded by the federal government and about 4 million people from states that sell the insurance directly to their residents.
Abbott’s medical device sales hit by China curbs, supply chain issues
Abbott Laboratories on Wednesday reported lower-than-expected medical device sales for the fourth quarter as COVID-19 curbs in China and supply-chain issues hit its international operations. The company also flagged that medical devices sales would remain soft in the first quarter, mirroring similar comments a day earlier from rival Johnson & Johnson, which cited China’s COVID outbreak as the reason for the weakness.
(With inputs from agencies.)