Health News Roundup: Pfizer to pay $11.6 billion for Biohaven to tap migraine market; BioNTech completes Phase II trial of COVID-19 vaccine in China and more

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Analysis-Test, test, test? Scientists question costly mass COVID checks

For many people worldwide, having cotton swabs thrust up their nose or down their throat to test for COVID-19 has become a routine and familiar annoyance. But two years into the pandemic, health officials in some countries are questioning the merits of repeated, mass testing when it comes to containing infections, particularly considering the billions it costs.

Texas doctor calls U.S. COVID deaths nearing 1 million ‘mindblowing’

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, pulmonologist Joseph Varon offered an opinion that made headlines around the world and went viral on social media. He was fighting two wars, he said: one against COVID and one against stupidity. As the United States nears the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus-linked deaths, Varon, chief of critical care and COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas said only one of those battles has been won.

GE unit boosts medical dye output as China COVID lockdown cuts supplies

General Electric’s healthcare unit said on Tuesday it had increased output of dye used for medical scans and tests at its factory in Ireland and shipped products by air to help combat shortages caused by the suspension of its Shanghai factory. The steps to boost and speed up deliveries of chemicals used in CT scans, x-rays and radiography highlight the far-reaching impact the city’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdown is having on global manufacturing and supply of critical goods.

BioNTech completes Phase II trial of COVID-19 vaccine in China

Vaccine developer BioNTech completed a Phase II clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in China in January but has yet to release its results, a registry of such trials showed on Tuesday. The vaccine, based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, is one of the most widely used worldwide against COVID, but has yet to receive approval in China, which has vaccinated 89% of its 1.4 billion population with several domestically developed non-mRNA shots.

Dropping zero-COVID policy in China without safeguards risks 1.5m lives – study

China risks just over 1.5 million COVID deaths if it drops its tough zero-COVID policy without any safeguards such as ramping up vaccination and access to treatments, according to new modelling by scientists in China and the United States. The warning follows several recently published reports from senior health advisers in China who said the zero-COVID approach remains essential to defeating the pandemic and buying time for mitigating measures.

Pfizer to pay $11.6 billion for Biohaven to tap migraine market

Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it will pay $11.6 billion to buy Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co, making a big bet on its ability to boost sales of the top-selling pill in a new class of migraine drugs. The boards of both companies have approved the deal, they said. Biohaven shares jumped 70% to $141.31, while Pfizer was up slightly at $48.83.

Pharmacy chains should pay $878 million for opioid epidemic role, Ohio counties say

A lawyer for two Ohio counties said on Monday that CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc should fund an $878 million plan to address the opioid crisis there, as a first-of-its-kind trial got underway to determine the pharmacy chains’ contribution. A federal jury decided in November that the companies created a public nuisance by flooding Ohio’s Lake and Trumbull counties with addictive prescription pain pills that wound up on the black market, in the first trial the pharmacy chains faced over the crisis.

At least 3,000 have died in Ukraine for want of disease treatment -WHO

The World Health Organization’s European chief said on Tuesday that at least 3,000 people had died in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February because they had been unable to access treatments for chronic diseases. So far, the U.N. health agency has documented some 200 attacks in Ukraine on healthcare facilities, and few hospitals are currently functioning, Hans Kluge told a regional meeting of WHO’s 53 member states as well as senior agency colleagues.

World Health Organization members pass resolution against Russia

Members of the World Health Organization’s European region passed a resolution on Tuesday that could result in the closure of Russia’s regional office and the suspension of meetings in the country in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The special session of the European region passed the resolution, supported by Ukraine and the European Union, with 43 in favour and 3 against (Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan) and 2 abstentions.

WHO chief says China’s zero-COVID policy not ‘sustainable’

The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is now known of the virus, in rare public comments by the U.N. agency on a government’s handling of the pandemic. “We don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus and what we now anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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