The coronavirus pandemic surpassed another grim milestone this week, with more than 19 million cases worldwide and more than 730,000 deaths reported Monday.
Even as the world awaits a vaccine, the World Health Organization remains optimistic about the reduced transmission in many parts of the world.
Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that strong national strategies and quick action have been effective, especially as countries look to reopen for the new school year.
“Chains of transmission have been broken by combination of rapid case identification, comprehensive contact tracing, adequate clinical care for patients, physical distancing, mask wearing, regular cleaning of hands and coughing away from others. Whether countries or regions have successfully eliminated the virus, suppressed transmission to a low level, or are still in the midst of a major outbreak; now is the time to do it all, invest in the basics of public health and we can save both lives and livelihoods,” Ghebreyesus said.
In recent weeks, a positive trend of reduced deaths has emerged in the U.S., whose reign as the leader in cases globally has not waned.
The U.S. surpassed 5 million cases, with Brazil following with 3 million. U.S. deaths are climbing above 163,000, but at a much slower rate than earlier this year.
Recent studies show that several treatment protocols have been adopted by doctors — including using remdesivir, using dexamethasone and laying patients on their stomachs.
Gilead Science’s (GILD) remdesivir, branded as Veklury, has only been approved for emergency use in the U.S., even though it has received full approval in the European Union and Japan. The company announced Monday it is now filing for full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new drug, which had not been approved for any treatments before. It was originally developed to treat Ebola, and received emergency use authorization (EUA) in May for COVID-19.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Gilead has worked with urgency to establish the efficacy and safety profile of Veklury, and we now have a robust data set supporting the evaluation of use of the drug across a range of hospitalized COVID-19 patient populations,” said Gilead’s chief medical officer, Dr. Merdad Parsey, in a statement.
“Today’s filing is an important milestone as we continue to partner with the U.S. government and healthcare authorities around the globe to address the treatment needs of patients with COVID-19,” he added.
Another potential treatment is monoclonal antibodies, which are in clinical trials in the U.S. The National Institute of Health announced Phase 3 is now enrolling participants for two trials, one with Eli Lilly’s (LLY) candidate and one with Regeneron (REGN).
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to circumvent Congress’s slow negotiations for a new round of stimulus for the U.S. economy.
The orders, however, fall short of the potentially robust bill, and have caused confusion about the ability of the President to implement the orders without Congress.
Kodak is having a moment
Eastman Kodak (KODK), the once-famous photo brand saw its stock plunge Monday after the federal government put on hold a $765 million loan which would jumpstart the company’s foray into domestic manufacturing of raw drug materials.
The company is under growing scrutiny for suspicious trading activity among executives the day before the loan announcement from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) last week.
The loan was part of the Trump administration’s push for more domestic production as reliance on a global supply chain became a concern at the height of the outbreak in Asia — where a majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) are made.
The Securities Exchange Commission is looking into the suspicious stock activity as Congress, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, calls for greater investigation. Kodak’s board of directors has also opened an independent internal review.
Meanwhile, the DFC announced a pause on the funding, pending results of the investigations, in a Tweet late Friday.
“On July 28, we signed a Letter of Interest with Eastman Kodak. Recent allegations of wrongdoing raise serious concerns. We will not proceed any further unless these allegations are cleared,” the DFC said.
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