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What We’re Reading: Examining Generic Drug Shortages; Long COVID Research; Hospital Cyberattacks Increase

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The Federal Trade Commission and HHS will examine generic drug shortage causes; the Biden administration recently dedicated an additional $515 million to a major initiative to study long COVID; cybersecurity experts warn that US hospitals are at risk for attacks and the government is doing little to prevent such breaches.

US Agencies Open Inquiry Into Generic Drug Shortages

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and HHS have announced that they will examine the causes of generic drug shortages and the practices of supply chain middlemen, according to The New York Times. The inquiry is aimed at group purchasing organizations and drug distributors, as drug shortages reached a 10-year peak; the agencies want to examine the companies’ influence on how the drugs are sold to hospitals and other health facilities, assessing whether the middlemen put pressure on pricing and manufacturing that lead to breakdowns. The Association for Accessible Medicines, a trade group for the generic drug industry, commended the agencies for attempting to address this issue.

NIH Long Covid Research Funding Gets a Nearly 50% Boost

The Biden administration recently dedicated an additional $515 million to a major initiative to study long COVID, a nearly 50% increase to the project’s budget, according to Stat. The research initiative at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called RECOVER was created in 2020 with a $1.15 billion investment to understand and investigate long COVID treatments. Despite reports that the project started sluggishly, the NIH has announced that this newest funding will be used to test additional treatments in clinical trials, to study how long COVID affects each part of the body, to examine who fully recovers long term, and to maintain research infrastructure. Although patient advocates and experts are glad to see more research funding, they are concerned about transparency and accountability.

Cyberattacks on Hospitals are Likely to Increase, Experts Warn

Cybersecurity experts are warning that hospitals around the US are at risk for attacks while the government is doing too little to prevent such breaches, according to The Associated Press. In recent years, hospitals have shifted their use of online technology to support everything from telehealth to patient records to medical devices, making them a favorite target for internet thieves who hold systems’ data and networks hostage for ransoms. Brett Callow, an analyst for cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, counted 46 hospital cyberattacks last year compared with 25 in 2022, with the average payout for criminals increasing from $5000 in 2018 to $1.5 million last year. This increase in attacks has prompted HHS to develop new rules for hospitals to protect themselves from these threats, and the agency says it will rewrite Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules to include new provisions that address cybersecurity.

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