What We're Reading: Infectious Omicron Subtype; Rise in Drug Prices; Alcohol Consumption and Cancer

A novel Omicron subvariant, BA.2, was found to be 1.5 times more transmissible than the original Omicron strain; analysis finds drugmakers increased list prices by 6.6% at the beginning of the year; alcohol consumption linked with the development of several cancer types.

COVID-19 Subtype More Contagious Than Omicron

As reported by CNBC, research on the Omicron subvariant, called BA.2, indicated that it is 1.5 times more transmissable than the original Omicron strain. As of this past Friday, the novel variant has been found in nearly half of US states and accounted for 127 cases nationwide, with other countries reporting growing circulation in proportion to Omicron. Although more infectious, early data has suggested that vaccines remain effective against the subvariant, with a booster dose shown to be 70% efficacious at preventing symptomatic illness.

Drug Prices Rose 6.6% Earlier This Year

According to findings of an analysis by Rx Savings Solutions, drugmakers increased list prices on cancer, diabetes, and other prescription drugs by 6.6% at the beginning of the year. Reported by The Wall Street Journal, 150 drugmakers raised prices on 866 products in the United States through January 20, in which price increases nearly matched the 7% overall consumer inflation rate—the highest rate in nearly 4 decades. Companies were found to keep most increases in the single digits as Congress continues to explore strategies to curb high drug costs.

Study Links Alcohol Consumption, Several Types of Cancer

Findings of a recent large-scale genetic study of Chinese adult populations linked the consumption of alcohol with the development of several types of cancer. As reported by Fox News, the main analysis focused primarily on men and investigated how the presence of specific alleles contributed to drinking habits. Data showed that the frequency of low-alcohol tolerability alleles was 21% for aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 and 69% for alcohol dehydrogenase 1B, with the low-tolerability alleles strongly linked to reduced alcohol consumption and lower cancer incidence in men. Overall, 7.4% of male participants developed cancer during the follow-up period.