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What We’re Reading: Drug Firms Retain Vaccine Prepayments; FDA Revamps Food Leadership; Drug Decriminalization in Canada

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Pharmaceutical companies will not refund prepayments made by global organization Gavi for COVID-19 vaccines it no longer needs; following the countrywide baby formula shortage of 2022, the FDA looks to consolidate food division leadership; a province in Canada starts a 3-year drug decriminalization program to try to reduce drug overdose deaths.

Vaccine Manufacturers Hold On to $1.4 Billion for Prepaid COVID-19 Shots for Global Poor

Due to dwindling demand for COVID-19 vaccines, Gavi, the organization tasked with vaccinating the poor internationally, is desperately trying to escape the deals it made with pharmaceutical companies to purchase now unneeded vaccines, reported The New York Times. So far, the companies won’t refund $1.4 billion in prepayments for the canceled vaccines. Negotiations are continuing even as wealthier countries are donating surplus vaccines to Gavi.

FDA to Streamline Following Baby Formula Criticism

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf reacted to criticism of the FDA’s response to the baby formula shortages and other food safety worries by proposing to put one deputy commissioner in charge of food policy and regulation, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, outside critics said the move did not go far enough because responsibilities would still be split among different silos, including the inspectors. The FDA has been pressured to make changes in the wake of the national baby formula shortages in 2022.

Canadian Province Decriminalizes Drugs in Attempt to Reduce Overdoses

On Tuesday, the western Canadian province of British Columbia started a 3-year pilot program to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of heroin, meth, ecstasy, or crack cocaine in an attempt to battle a drug overdose crisis, Reuters reported. Drug overdose in this region was declared a public health emergency in 2016 and was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that this initiative can reduce stigma and eliminate barriers to treatment, thus allowing individuals with substance use disorder to come forward for help.

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