Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

Search For An HIV Vaccine May Go Through The Cow

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According to a July study done by the Scripps Research Institute, the process in which cows create antibodies could be a key step in developing a vaccine against HIV, the virus that develops into AIDS for millions of humans across the Earth. According to the study, when injected with viral proteins, cows are capable of producing antibodies that are able to block HIV infection. More specifically, the scientists injected four cows with a protein that mimics HIV and proceeded to isolate antibodies created by the cows over the course of a year. The scientists then further tested the antibodies to see if they were capable of blocking HIV from infecting cells.

The main concern scientists have run into when developing vaccines against HIV is that the virus mutates constantly, which makes it so that any successful vaccine has to prevent against a myriad of strains. The human immune system on its own does not usually create such broadly neutralizing antibodies. However, Scripps has noticed that these necessary broadly neutralizing antibodies are usually long and gangly, a description that applies to the antibodies normally created by cows.

The scientists were particularly surprised by how quickly the cows were able to produce the adequate amount of antibodies. Within two months, all the cows involved in the study were able to produce antibodies that blocked a wide variety of viral strains. They were also able to suppress the virus with lesser doses than human antibodies would require. “We definitely didn’t expect to get the response that we did. We didn’t expect the extent of the response or how quick the response developed. That was kind of mind-blowing,” was how Devin Sok, director for antibody discovery and development at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, described his reaction to the results.

As for an explanation on just why cows are able to do this when humans currently aren’t, Dr. Vaughn Smider points to the uniqueness of the cow’s stomach as a potential source. Smider, who is a professor of molecular medicine for Scripps, says that the cow’s stomach’s large capacity contributes to the strength of its immune system. A cow’s stomach can hold as much as 20 gallons of digestive microbes, and is shaped in such a way that its antibodies need to be longer than human antibodies in order to reach the stomach’s grooves and crevices. “The cow immune system has to deal with keeping in check all these microorganisms,” Smider says.

While the headlines may call this a massive breakthrough, experts in the field caution that this is only a small step in the quest for creating an HIV vaccine. As Dr. John Mascola, director of vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explains: “The study… doesn’t tell us how to make a vaccine for HIV in people, but it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response.” Mascola also highlights the importance of using cows to develop an envelope that most closely represents HIV so that vaccine tests in the future can be as accurate as possible.

‘Pharma Bro’ Shkreli Calls EpiPen Price Hikers ‘Vultures’

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Two EpiPens used to treat severe allergic reactions with a dose of Epinephrine delivered in an autoinjector. John Makely / NBC News file

However, those without better insurance plans, or the uninsured, aren’t able to take advantage of the program.

Dr. John Vann, a pediatrician in Omaha, Nebraska recalled the mother of a 14-year-old girl with walnut allergies crying in his office two weeks ago. She was on an HSA with a high deductible, and an EpiPen dual pack would have cost over $600. She didn’t know how she would pay for it.

“You essentially have to have epinephrine around because if you have a reaction you need it,” said Vann. “They hardly ever get used and it’s a good thing — but if you don’t have it, you’re in trouble.”

After doing some quick internet research, Vann was able to find “Adrenaclick,” substitutable as a generic for EpiPen in 21 states, for just $200. The pharmacy was able to order it and have it available the next day.

Not all providers will cover it, though. He tried to do the same for another patient and the drugstore said that patient’s insurance only pays for EpiPens.

“They did a pretty good job marketing themselves where it’s just like Kleenex,” said Vann. “People don’t say ‘epinephrine auto injector,’ they say ‘EpiPen.'”

Patients also expressed outrage in tweets and Facebook posts, and emails to NBC News.

Donna, an archaeology educator in Birmingham, Alabama who asked only her first name to be used, told how she felt her mouth, tongue, and eyes swelling shut after she was stung 26 times by yellow jackets on caving expedition a few years ago. That’s when she learned for the first time that she was allergic. She hiked back several miles to her truck and sought treatment at the nearest hospital, two hours away.

“I barely survived and now have to carry two EpiPens at all times, even to the mailbox,” she wrote in an email. “For Mylan to be the sole producer of this product and hold my life, and the millions of children and adult lives hostage for profit, is extortion and an outrage.”

On Friday Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said he would investigate the “shocking increase.”

“As kids across the country head back to school, it is critical that their parents have affordable access to this life-saving product. I have heard from parents and first responders across Connecticut who are terrified that this steep price increase could put epinephrine out of reach for American families—and literally cost lives,” said the Senator in a statement released to NBC News.

“Sadly, this case is just the latest in a greedy trend of skyrocketing prescription drug prices that are hurting consumers, limiting health options, and strangling our economy. I will investigate this shocking increase and continue doing everything I can in the Senate to combat the rising cost of prescription drugs across the board.”

Senator Blumenthal was the original cosponsor of the bill whose passage awarded grants to states that required public elementary and secondary schools to maintain emergency supplies of epinephrine and authorized school personnel to administer it to students experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.

Source: NBC News

Johnson and Johnson Found Liable for Ovarian Cancer Link

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There have been links between the long term use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, finding the manufacturer at fault for failing to label their product as possibly carcinogenic has been an uphill battle.

Lethal Injection

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The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that current lethal injection techniques could continue to be used.  Prisoners on death row filed suit stating that the current technique used fell under cruel and unusual punishment.

Marijuana Legalization

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The landscape of the war on drugs has changed significantly within the past few years.  Currently, in many states, heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions.  Also, the rising use of prescription drugs has prompted some state governments to implement restrictions on refills of narcotic medication.  Also, with the increase in the use of narcotic medication and the influence of big pharma over many aspects of healthcare, it has become common for people to look for alternatives to habit forming narcotics.

Religious Freedom for Corporations

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There are plenty of corporations in the United States that have based their business models on religious principals. Most are Christian principals.  Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, many of these Christian based corporations have decided that they do not have to provide birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act, although, it is a requirement for them to do so.