What We’re Reading: Epilepsy Drug Approval; Free COVID-19 Testing Ends; EPA Sued

The FDA approved a drug to treat a rare form of childhood epilepsy; uninsured Americans will no longer have access to free COVID-19 tests; a conservation group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over failure to protect rivers from pollution.

FDA Approves Childhood Epilepsy Drug

The FDA has approved UCB SA’s drug to treat seizures associated with a rare form of childhood epilepsy, according to a report from Reuters. The drug fenfluramine (Fintepla) is already approved to treat Dravet syndrome, another form of childhood epilepsy, in patients aged 2 years and older but is now indicated for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) as well, which is known to cause cognitive dysfunction and frequent seizures for about 30,000 to 50,000 Americans. The approval was granted after the agency reviewed safety and efficacy data from a phase 3 clinical trial of 263 patients with LGS. In the United States, patients can access fenfluramine through a restricted drug distribution program.

Uninsured Americans Will No Longer Receive Free COVID-19 Testing

As reported by ABC News, uninsured Americans will begin to see some of the free testing options for COVID-19 go away, even if they are showing symptoms, because several testing companies will stop providing free tests. Quest Diagnostics, one of the companies suspending its free-testing policy, said that patients who are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance will be charged $125, including $119 for the test and a $6 physician fee, when using one one of its polymerase-chain reaction tests, either by ordering the test online or visiting an in-person location. Additionally, federal funding to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured patients has run out and any renewal of funds must be approved by Congress, which has been unable to agree on whether to provide the White House’s request for more relief.

Conservation Group to Sue EPA Over River Protection Failures

The Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, a group devoted to the conservation of natural waterways, has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to protect rivers in Montana from pollution, according to The Associated Press. The group alleges that the agency failed to intervene when the Montana Legislature rolled back its water pollution regulations and argued that the implementation of new rules proposed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will allow more nutrient pollution in streams, rivers, and other waterways across Montana. Nutrient pollution is a product of runoff from farm fertilizer, industrial plants, treated sewage waste, pet waste, among other sources, which can harm wildlife and encourages the growth of toxic algae blooms.