Health Highlights: Oct. 19, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Trump’s Promised Prescription Drug Card Program Stalled

It’s unlikely that the Trump administration’s plan to mail $200 prescription savings cards to millions of seniors will happen before the election.

Legal and budget concerns have slowed a review of the plan by agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Associated Press reported.

Trump announced the plan last month during a health care speech.

A White House official had no comment on the status of the prescription card plan, the AP reported.


No Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine Before Election

Pfizer won’t apply for emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine before the third week in November, the company’s chief executive said in a statement posted to Pfizer’s website on Friday.

The reversal from the company’s previous claims that it would apply for the approval in October is a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly said that a vaccine would be available before Election Day on Nov. 3, The New York Times reported.

Even though Pfizer could have preliminary data about the vaccine’s effectiveness by the end of October, gathering safety and manufacturing data would take until at least the third week of November, Dr. Albert Bourla said in the statement.

Pfizer’s announcement was welcomed by some scientists.

“This is good, really good,” Dr. Eric Topol, a clinical trial expert at Scripps Research in San Diego, told The Times. He was one of 60 public health officials and other medical experts who sent a letter to Pfizer urging it not to rush its vaccine, The Times reported.

Pfizer is one of four companies with a coronavirus vaccine in late-stage clinical trials in the United States. The others are Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer has given the most optimistic timeline, while the other three have said later this year is more likely.


Remdesivir Doesn’t Reduce COVID-19 Patients’ Risk of Death: Study

The antiviral drug remdesivir doesn’t reduce COVID-19 patients’ risk of death, a new study says.

The World Health Organization-sponsored study of the drug — the only antiviral authorized for treatment of COVID-19 in the United States –included more than 11,000 people in 30 countries, The New York Times reported.

The findings were posted online on Thursday, but have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

“This puts the issue to rest — there is certainly no mortality benefit,” Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Alberta in Canada, told The Times.

However, another infectious-disease expert expressed caution about the findings.

A large trial like this that’s conducted in numerous countries with different health care systems can result in inconsistent treatment protocols whose effects can be difficult to analyze, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, University of California, San Francisco, told The Times.

“So much goes into care,” he said. “The drug is only part of it.”

Remdesivir’s maker, Gilead, challenged the study’s findings. The company said more rigorous studies had found a benefit, The Times reported.

Remdesivir was granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May after a U.S. National Institutes of Health study concluded that the drug modestly reduced the time to recovery in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

But that study didn’t find that remdesivir prevented deaths in COVID-19 patients. A final analysis published Oct. 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested “a trend toward reduced mortality” in certain COVID-19 patients who received remdesivir, according to Gilead.