What We’re Reading: Free N95 Masks, COVID-19 Rapid Tests; Easing Limits on Blood Donors; Counterfeit HIV Drugs

The Biden administration will distribute 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks; a study aims to develop a questionnaire to enable gay and bisexual men to donate blood; counterfeit versions of Gilead HIV treatments were discovered in 9 states.

Biden Administration to Distribute 400 Million Free N95 Masks

The White House will announce Wednesday the United States will distribute 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks sourced from the federal Strategic National Stockpile, Politico reported. It aims to make these adult-sized masks available at tens of thousands of pharmacies and health centers across the country by early February, and is still working on a similar plan for child-sized masks. The administration also launched COVIDtests.gov this week for Americans to order up to 4 free rapid tests per household. Some apartment residents ran into issues placing these orders, but an administration official said this was not widespread and orders are being prioritized for people in higher-risk areas.

Study Aims to Lift Blood Donation Restrictions for Gay, Bisexual Men

As reported by The Hill, a FDA-funded study is working to develop alternatives for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood to replace existing restrictions. The ADVANCE study will recruit 2000 gay or bisexual men across 8 cities to test the reliability of a donor history questionnaire based on individual HIV transmission risk. If successful, the questionnaire could replace the FDA’s current deferral policy that bars men from donating blood if they have had sexual contact with another man less than 3 months prior to donation. This news comes after the American Red Cross declared its first national blood crisis.

Network Sells Counterfeit Versions of Biktarvy, Descovy HIV Treatments

Gilead Sciences announced that an unauthorized network of drug suppliers sold counterfeit versions of its HIV treatment over the last 2 years, totaling $250 million, Reuters reported. Gilead found 85,247 tampered with or fake bottles of its Biktarvy and Descovy treatments. As part of an investigation, fake Gilead-labeled medications were seized from 17 locations in 9 states and identified unauthorized pharmaceutical distributors involved. The company believes that it has stopped any additional counterfeit products from these distributors from reaching patients.