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NASA and Rocket Lab announce second TROPICS launch coverage



Following the successful launch of the first pair of small satellites earlier this month from New Zealand, NASA and Rocket Lab are now targeting no earlier than 1:30 am EST on Monday, May 22 (5:30 pm EST) to launch the second pair storm satellites. tracking CubeSats in orbit.


Drug shortages close to record high, leading to rationing



Thousands of patients are facing delays in receiving treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases, and drug shortages in the United States are nearing record levels.

Hospitals are scouring shelves for a drug that cures lead poisoning and a sterile fluid needed to stop the heart before bypass surgery. Some antibiotics are still in short supply after the winter flu season, when doctors and patients raced for cures for illnesses like strep throat. It was hard to find even children’s Tylenol.

Hundreds of drugs are on the United States drug shortage list as officials grapple with opaque and sometimes intermittent supply chains, quality and financial issues that are causing production to halt.

The shortage is so severe that it is drawing the attention of the White House and Congress, which are studying the root causes of the instability of the generic drug market, which accounts for about 90 percent of prescriptions in the domestic market.

The Biden administration has assembled a team to find long-term solutions to strengthen the pharmaceutical supply chain at a time when the United States remains heavily dependent on drugs and drug ingredients from India and China. And in recent weeks, generic drug makers, supply chain experts and patient advocates have come before lawmakers to debate the issues.

The lack of generic forms of chemotherapy to treat lung, breast, bladder and ovarian cancers has only heightened concerns.

“In my opinion, this is a public health emergency,” the doctor said. Amanda Fader, professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and president-elect of the Society for Gynecological Oncology, “because of the wide range of people it affects and the number of chemotherapeutic agents that are now in short supply.”

The American Cancer Society warned last week that delays caused by drug shortages could lead to a worsening of patients’ condition.

“If these medicines are not available, people will receive poor quality care,” says the doctor. This was stated by the chief physician of the society, William Daut. “That’s the point. These are not third or fourth line drugs where there are many other agents. They are used in advance for the people you are trying to cure.”

Ryan Dwars beat pancreatic cancer in 2021, but a scan late last year showed cancerous patches on his liver. Mr. Dwars, 39, a father of two little girls, was hoping to get his last four doses of chemotherapy in April.

Then his doctor delivered the startling news: he was not among those given priority treatment.

“There was already a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr. Dwars, a special education teacher in Iowa City. “It was even worse being this close – and now it is.”

Laura Bray, who founded the nonprofit organization Angels of Change, works as a bridge between patients, healthcare systems and pharmaceutical companies to “microsource,” as she calls it, hard-to-find drugs.

“Do we have the determination and sense of urgency to fix this?” asked Ms. Bray, an associate business professor who provided information to the White House and Congress. “It’s possible. It can be done. It’s happening in other supply chains. But we need to focus on that and think about ending it, not softening it. I think the jury is on that.”

For Mr. Dwars, Ms. Bray contacted the manufacturer of cisplatin, the chemotherapy drug he needed, and arranged for delivery within a few days, and for others to his hospital. Some in states across the country have been less fortunate, facing frightening gaps between treatments.

The White House team working on the broader problem of longstanding drug supply disruptions includes national security, economic and health officials, according to James McKinney, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration. Bloomberg previously reported about the involvement of the White House.

Officials are discussing possible measures, such as tax breaks for generic drug makers and greater transparency about the quality of generic drugs. Current incentives favor drug makers with the lowest prices, including those that can cut corners, resulting in devastating plant shutdowns if the FDA calls for a fix. (Some shortages, such as those for weight loss drugs, are the result of incredibly high demand, while others are due to overprescribing, including antibiotics, or a lack of investment in potential alternatives.)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has a team of about 10 people working to address and report drug shortages on a daily basis, said it is seeking permission from Congress to obtain more information about the drug production and supply chain. supplies.

But the agency has also expressed its concern to the White House about serious financial difficulties in the generics industry, an economic problem that FDA officials say they are not up to the task of solving.

Dr. Robert Califf, FDA commissioner, in recent speeches before Congress, emphasized the agency’s point of view, saying that officials cannot plug too many holes.

“We have to fix the underlying economy if we are going to fix this situation,” the doctor said. Kaliff announced this to the panel of the House of Representatives on May 11.

David Guo, acting CEO of the Affordable Medicines Association, which represents generic drug makers, recalled that at an April meeting, FDA officials warned that Akorn Pharmaceuticals’ recent bankruptcy and closure would likely be followed by others.

“The deficit is growing. We’ve all seen it,” Mr Guo said in an interview. “And it will probably only get worse, not better, very soon.”

Mr Guo cited data highlighting the pressure the generics industry is facing. Although the number of generic drug makers has increased, a survey by IQVIA, a health analytics company, found that the market has consolidated to the point where three buyers account for about 90 percent of generic drug purchases. Intermediaries include major drug distributors and retail chains such as Red Oak Sourcing, which includes CVS Health and Cardinal Health, and ClarusONE, which includes Walmart and McKesson. Walgreens also has distribution agreements with Amerisource Bergen. The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Competition for contracts with these intermediaries pits US manufacturers against those in India, where labor costs are much lower. When a generic drug company fails to secure a contract for a drug, it typically stops producing it and may face a reduction in its already modest profits.

“There is much less room for error if you are a generic manufacturer,” said Mr Guo.

Hospital pharmacists and supply chain experts were stunned in February by the sudden closure of Akorn, whose products were recalled because there were no staff left to deal with potential quality issues.

It added “an insult to the injury,” said Eric Tichey, chairman of the supply chain at Mayo Clinic and chairman of the board of the Medicines Shortage Alliance.

Acorn produced about 100 drugs, including albuterol bottles that children’s hospitals relied on to relieve breathing problems. And it was the only company that made the antidote for lead poisoning, Dr. Tichi said.

“Health is so important to the smooth functioning of our country,” says the doctor. Tichi said. “And then we have a domestic manufacturer that just goes bust and no action happens.”

Four bipartisan Senate bills could help bring generic drugs to market faster by eliminating tactics or loopholes that cause delays. While at home hearing Thursday, Anthony Sardella, a business research advisor at Washington University in St. Louis, said generic drug prices have fallen by about 50 percent since 2016.

“But low prices come at a cost,” Mr Sardella said, noting that they can lead to cost reductions that could lead to quality issues.

A recent example is Intas Pharmaceuticals, an Indian company that makes three key chemotherapy drugs that are hard to come by: methotrexate, carboplatin and cisplatin, the drug Mr. Dwars needed. Intas temporarily suspended drug production after the FDA found serious quality control violations.

During an unannounced visit to the Intas plant, FDA inspectors found a “truck full” of hundreds of plastic bags filled with torn and shredded documents. report released in December. The report states that one of the QC staff poured acid on the torn records and stuffed them into a trash bag.

The report says FDA inspectors collected documents and found quality control records for products destined for the US. The agency also mentioned a variety of other issues.

To ease supply disruptions, Intas’ US distributor, Accord Pharmaceuticals, said several batches have been third-party tested, certified and released to the US market. Among them were treatments organized by Ms. Bray that reached patients in Iowa.

The companies have been working with the FDA to restart production for U.S. customers, Accord said in a statement, saying the shredding was an “isolated incident.”

In recent weeks, the Society for Gynecological Oncology sent out a nationwide survey. In response, doctors in 35 states said they had almost no stocks of essential chemotherapy drugs, even at major cancer centers and teaching hospitals.

Dr. Patrick Timmins, partner at Women’s Cancer Care Associates in Albany, New York, said his clinic ran out of some chemotherapy drugs on May 9 but still has 25 patients who need them.

“Our patients are at war, and we are busy taking their weapons,” the doctor said. Timmins said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that we can’t come up with a way, at least in the short term, to cure our patients, and in the long term, solve these recurring problems.”

When Ms. Bray met with White House staffers in late April, she said she recommended creating an exchange to get drugs where they are needed most and increasing the production of drugs in small batches, often called compounding.

Dr. Kevin Shulman, a Stanford professor of medicine who has studied the generic drug industry, said he urged the White House team to look into the power of intermediary companies in awarding generic drug contracts. He said they demand minimum prices, but unlike a customer-focused company like Apple, which contracts with suppliers around the world, middlemen don’t take any responsibility when there is a shortage.

Dr. Shulman said he recommended expanding government contracts with the nonprofit Civica, which sells generic drugs at slightly inflated prices, which could help generic drug makers run sustainable businesses.

“Intermediaries are pushing people out of the market,” the doctor says. Shulman said. “I think this is a market problem and we need solutions at the market level.”

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How much COVID is in my community? It’s getting harder to say



As large-scale interventions against COVID-19 are long gone, officials and experts continue to preach the importance of individual decision making in assessing and managing health risks.

However, tracking the status of the coronavirus has become increasingly difficult as data collection and reporting have either been reduced or stopped altogether in the post-emergency phase.

Part of that is by design. The collective experience with coronavirus has allowed some incomplete indicators, such as officially reported cases, to be replaced in favor of others, such as sewage monitoring, which can give a clearer picture of the circulation of the virus in the community.

But declining data is making it harder to assess the trajectory of the virus in specific areas, as well as making it harder for people to adjust their attitudes and behaviors — a potentially worrisome development for those who remain at the highest risk of serious illness.

And the public knowledge gap could widen in the coming months as metrics collection becomes increasingly decentralized after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends, and more residents lose access to resources like free testing.

“Now tracking will be a little harder. Over the past few months, this has already become more of a challenge as states and localities have begun to reduce the frequency of their reports,” the doctor said. Mario Ramirez, ER physician and managing director of Opportunity Labs, a nonprofit research and consulting firm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made several efforts to pack the terms of the pandemic into digestible pieces, including the release of the agency’s COVID-19 community level map in February 2022.

What counties sorted by system across the country into one of three categories—low, medium, or high—depending on incidence rates and certain rates of hospitalization. For each category, the CDC has issued specific guidance on measures such as wearing masks, testing, and avoiding crowds.

However, officials on Thursday abandoned the system. Due in part to case count restrictions that are becoming increasingly unreliable due to the prevalence of home testing, officials also acknowledged the growing difficulty of providing a snapshot on site. . Many states and counties have stopped collecting or sharing data about COVID-19.

On Thursday, the CDC’s COVID data tracker stopped reporting cumulative cases and removed data on positive test results. The old tracker listed weekly COVID-19 deaths; new version says percentage of COVID-related deaths among all reported deathsbased on preliminary death certificate data to indicate the trend in COVID mortality.

The tracker’s leading data point was the number of people who first admitted to hospital with a lab-confirmed coronavirus infection in the previous week.

Hospitalization data is offered down to the district level, with districts sorted into one of three levels: green, yellow, or orange. Much of the country is now on the green, with fewer than 10 coronavirus-positive hospital admissions per week for every 100,000 residents. The worst level, orange, is when the bet is 20 or more.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County reported 2.8 coronavirus-positive hospital admissions for every 100,000 residents.

V weekly trend of coronavirus hospitalizations available for each state on the CDC website. In the week ending May 6, California reported 1,284 coronavirus-positive hospitalizations, the lowest since last spring’s lull.

The all-time low for this indicator was 870 for the week ending April 16, 2022. The all-time peak of 16,663 occurred in the week ending January 9, 2021, at the height of California’s deadliest wave of COVID-19. At the time, Los Angeles hospital mortuaries were so overcrowded that the National Guard was called in to temporarily store the bodies.

While coronavirus-positive hospitalization rates are vital in illustrating the pressure COVID-19 is putting on hospitals, some experts point out that they only provide a limited view of transmission.

“It will be much broader strokes than the predictive analytics we have become accustomed to over the past few years,” Ramirez said on Tuesday. during the panel hosted by the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project. “And so I’m worried that by the time the data comes back, it’s usually two, three, four weeks old, especially because hospitalization is a lagging indicator, and of course, death. We will be weeks behind the increase in cases, if that is what is happening.”

This is not to say that hospital-focused metrics are out of place. According to the California Department of Public Health, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients “showed a 99 percent match” with population levels.

“We are studying how our data collection and reporting will change after the end of the federal emergency and will keep the public informed of any changes that may occur,” the department said in a statement to The Times.

California currently publishes weekly data on cases and deaths from COVID-19 on its website. online panel and also monitors the number of patients with coronavirus hospitalized throughout the state. This information is available at

Los Angeles County releases case and death data weekly every Thursday. Officials also report an average percentage of coronavirus-related emergency room visits, and the rate has remained stable at around 3% over the past month. In late March and early April, this figure was 4%.

Appreciating the county’s progress, Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer noted that “every day, thousands of people in Los Angeles County continue to suffer from COVID-19, whether they are forced to miss work due to illness, need in hospital or are in critical condition. effects of prolonged COVID.

“[The Department of] Public health remains committed to work that reduces the likelihood of transmission and ensures the county is prepared for the possibility of periodic changes in transmission,” she said Thursday. “We continue our work to make sure there are no barriers to those who want to access life-saving vaccines, therapeutics and tests.”

The state also supports model – CalCAT, California Infectious Disease Assessment Tool – for a rough estimate of the extent of coronavirus transmission. This tool uses the available data to arrive at an estimated effective reproductive rate, which shows how many people, on average, an infected person transmits the coronavirus.

However, this model is also not immune to changes in the availability of pandemic data.

“Overall, case rates, including R-effective, are less reliable in the face of changes in testing regimens, including increased use of home/antigen testing versus PCR-confirmed testing,” state health officials wrote in response to an earlier request from the Times. . .

However, they added that “because R-effective represents the rate of change, it can still be useful for identifying trends in COVID-19, especially when combined with hospitalization data.”

For example: The latest statewide R-efficiency score was 1.06, indicating that the spread of COVID-19 is likely to be stable. Accordingly, the number of hospitalized patients with coronavirus across the state has decreased since the beginning of the month – from 1,282 on May 1 to 1,182 on Wednesday.

Another key focus both during the pandemic and in the future is wastewater surveillance. Officials say this provides a more complete picture of how widespread the virus is in a given area than testing alone, and could help identify and track any potentially worrying mutations.

In California, the Department of Public Health expects “wastewater monitoring to become a regular part of public health surveillance for COVID-19” and “plays a potential role in monitoring other pathogens of public health importance, such as smallpox and influenza.”

“At the local health department level, wastewater surveillance can also add useful localized information to health systems, institutions, or campuses that need to track COVID-19 or other diseases of public health importance,” the department wrote in a statement last week. .

Updated data from the State Wastewater Surveillance Network Cal-SuWers. regularly online.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also regularly reports wastewater data in its reports. weekly news releases. District on Thursday informed its levels were only 11% of last winter’s peak, according to the most recent data available.

And last week, San Francisco International Airport announced that it had become the first airport in the country start off CDC’s program to monitor wastewater samples from international flights.

However, whatever the current extent of the coronavirus, officials say there are a few things residents can do to protect themselves.

“Even though COVID emergencies are ending, the virus is still with us,” the state health department said in a statement. “It’s important for Californians to continue using the tools we have to fight COVID, including vaccines, testing, and treatments.”

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A rare, endangered seal named Julia basks on a Tel Aviv beach.



TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — An unexpected visitor spotted sunbathing on a beach in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv is garnering attention and media hype.

But it’s not American filmmaker and Tel Aviv mainstay Quentin Tarantino or another Hollywood celebrity—it’s Julia, the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.

The sea cow first appeared south of Tel Aviv’s main coastline last Friday. On Tuesday, Julia, named by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, attracted groups of curious people to a rocky beach south of Jaffa’s historic center.

These seals are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and it is estimated that only 350 mature individuals exist in the wild. Its population has declined due to historical seal hunting, fishing, and habitat destruction.

The dwindling populations of Mediterranean monk seals, which are rarely seen off the coast of Israel, are believed to survive in only a few locations in the Mediterranean.

The Israel Parks Authority cordoned off the part of the beach where Yulia came ashore to rest and sent volunteers to watch her from a distance.

Nevertheless, her appearance made a splash.

“It’s very rare for a monk seal to stay on shore for that long,” said Aviad Scheinin, a marine biologist at the University of Haifa.

Yulia sheds, this is a multi-day process of shedding her winter coat, he explained, at this time she rested on the shore and from time to time went to sea.

Sheinin said fellow researchers from across the eastern Mediterranean have previously spotted Yulia in Turkey and Lebanon in recent years. She is estimated to be around 20 years old.

“I have been studying marine mammals for 20 years; this is the first time I see this, and because of this, I hardly sleep at night, ”he said.

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