The Department of Health and Human Services will invest $3.2 billion to develop and manufacture COVID-19 antiviral medicines, it announced Thursday.
The initiative, funded as part of the American Rescue Plan, is designed to accelerate research into antivirals as well as build platforms for urgent response to future viral threats, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement Thursday. Specifically, the plan expands antiviral clinical trials, forms partnerships between health agencies and pharmaceutical companies, and funds “drug discovery groups” tasked with innovating new antiviral medicines.
“New antivirals that prevent serious COVID-19 illness and death, especially oral drugs that could be taken at home early in the course of disease, would be powerful tools for battling the pandemic and saving lives,” said chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci in the statement.
The Michigan House Oversight Committee on Thursday heard opposing testimony related to whether Michigan is undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
For over a year, Republicans have alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to an excess number of deaths than otherwise would have happened. In March, more than 50 lawmakers asked the federal government to investigate Whitmer’s policy. The death data from Michigan’s nursing homes could be compared to states with similar senior populations that didn’t pursue similar nursing home policy.
Steve Delie, an attorney for the Mackinac Center For Public Policy, sued the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on behalf of reporter Charlie LeDuff, testified before the committee on Thursday. Delie argued the nursing home and long-term care COVID-19 death count in Michigan isn’t accurate, saying MDHHS enacted an accountability check between March 1 and June 30 of 2020, where it located 648 deaths out of a pool of 1,468 vital records deaths that could be traced back to a nursing home facility.
A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.
Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.
For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.
Children and young adults are experiencing increased mental health issues, and suicide also is on the rise within the age group at least in part because of ongoing state shutdowns, according to several reports.
Within months of governors and local authorities shuttering schools, children were increasingly brought to emergency room doctors and specialists, according to a by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Earlier this year James Payne, a 73-year-old retired attorney in Utah, was so fed up with the high cost of a blood thinner medication he takes, he researched prices in Canada, where he found it was cheaper.
“Under Medicare, I am now paying $225 for a three-month supply,” Payne explained. “That’s $25 more than I was paying last year. Under my employer’s insurance I was only paying $20.” Payne says he is not sure why the costs are so much higher and continue to climb under Medicare, but he thinks there must be ways to make life-saving medications more affordable.
Michigan pharmacies will be able to continue to dispense emergency refills for up to 60 days’ worth of medication after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended an executive order designed to make accessing medications easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order allows pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of up to 60 days’ worth of medication, as well as requires an insurer to cover early refills for up to 90 days’ worth of supply. The executive order also allows pharmacists to dispense treatments for COVID-19 according to government protocols.