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What We’re Reading: FDA Advisers Back Alzheimer Drug; Drug Shortage Record; Protecting Rural Hospitals From Cyberattacks

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Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer disease drug donanemab unanimously earned the backing of FDA advisers; recent research found 323 active drug shortages in the first 3 months of 2024, marking the highest number since 2001; Microsoft and Google will offer free or discounted cybersecurity services to US rural hospitals to make them less vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Alzheimer Drug Gets Backing From FDA Advisers

Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer disease drug, donanemab, earned the backing of FDA advisers on Monday and is expected to be approved for patients with mild dementia caused by the disease, according to the Associated Press. Although the FDA was expected to approve the drug in March, it instead asked its neurology expert panel to publicly review the company’s data. After review, the FDA advisers voted unanimously that the drug’s ability to slow disease outweighs its risks, like brain swelling or bleeding. However, the FDA will make the final approval decision later this year. If the FDA agrees with the panel’s recommendation, donanemab would become the second Alzheimer disease drug cleared in the US that slows related cognitive decline and memory issues; the FDA approved lecanemab (Leqembi), a similar infused drug from Eisai, last year.

Pharmacists Report Highest Drug Shortage Number Since 2001

Recent research by the University of Utah Drug Information Service found 323 active drug shortages in the first 3 months of 2024, marking the highest number since 2001, according to the Washington Post. This was determined by quarterly data generated from health care professionals’ reports, most of which came from pharmacists at health systems or hospitals. Based on these reports, the researchers contacted drug companies to verify the existence of the shortage; if it existed, they asked why it happened and how long it was expected to last. The drugs in short supply include antibiotics, pain medications, and chemotherapy agents. The researchers determined that manufacturing or supply chain problems were the most common reasons for the shortages. However, the Drug Information Service’s definition of a drug shortage is broader than the FDA’s, so the Utah shortage numbers are larger than those reported by the FDA.

Microsoft, Google to Help Protect US Rural Hospitals From Cyberattacks

Microsoft and Google announced Monday that they will offer free or discounted cybersecurity services to US rural hospitals amid the increase in cyberattacks, according to CNN. Rural community hospitals are among the most vulnerable to dangerous ransomware attacks since they often lack information technology security resources and cybersecurity-trained staff; because they may be the only hospital in the area, a ransomware attack can put patients’ lives at risk. Consequently, Microsoft will provide free security updates to eligible rural hospitals and security training and assessments for hospital staff. Similarly, Google will provide rural hospitals with free cybersecurity advice and start a pilot program to align their cybersecurity services with the needs of rural hospitals. These service offerings resulted from private discussions between the tech firms and White House National Security Council officials, who have grown increasingly concerned about hospital cyberattacks.

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