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What We’re Reading: H5N1 Vaccine Plan; Long-Acting Insulin Safety Risk; LA County's Plan to Tackle Medical Debt

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HHS officials are moving forward with a plan to produce 4.8 million doses of H5N1 avian flu vaccine; Novo Nordisk’s long-acting insulin had a greater risk of excessively lowering patients’ blood sugar without offering better sugar level management; Los Angeles County launched an ambitious effort to tackle medical debt.

HHS Advances H5N1 Vaccine Plan

HHS officials are moving forward with a plan to produce 4.8 million doses of H5N1 avian flu vaccine for pandemic preparedness, according to CIDRAP. Officials have identified a manufacturing line at one of its partners for fill-and-finish steps of the H5N1 vaccine that would not disrupt seasonal flu vaccine production. Since it takes a couple of months to fill and finish vaccine doses, identifying this manufacturing line would save time in case a vaccine is needed. Federal health officials also announced that 1 of 2 H5N1 candidate vaccine viruses are well matched to the circulating strain. This comes as a second human case of H5N1 was recently discovered, this time in a Michigan dairy worker. According to the Washington Post, this is the second human case identified in less than 2 months.

Safety Concerns Raised for Novo Nordisk’s Long-Acting Insulin

FDA staff found that Novo Nordisk’s long-acting insulin had a greater risk of excessively lowering patients’ blood sugar without offering better management of sugar levels or other benefits, according to Axios. European regulators endorsed the injection in March, considering it the world’s first once-weekly insulin. However, in an FDA briefing document, late-stage trial data showed that, after a year of taking the shot, patients with Type 1 diabetes had 50% to 80% more clinically significant or severe hypoglycemia events than those who took daily insulin; the period of highest risk was within 2 to 4 days of receiving the injection, coinciding with the peak glucose-lowering effect of the drug. Amid this discovery, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee is due to evaluate the long-acting insulin shot when they meet on Friday.

LA County Launches Plan to Tackle Medical Debt

Los Angeles (LA) County recently launched an ambitious effort to tackle medical debt, targeting hospitals for their role in the $2.9 billion problem, according to KFF Health News. For over a year, the LA County Department of Public Health has worked on a comprehensive plan to track patient debt and hospital collection practices, boost bill forgiveness for low-income patients, and forgive billions in medical debt; LA County considers medical debt to be an urgent public health threat instead of a political issue. In the coming months, the county plans to score hospitals based on financial assistance accessibility and provide them with guidelines and templates to make it less confusing and burdensome for patients. In response, the local hospital association asked LA County to revise its plan as it believes it will burden hospitals with unnecessary requirements without helping to address the underlying issue.

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