What We’re Reading: Licensing COVID-19 Pill; Pig-to-Human Transplants; Blood Tube Shortage

Drug makers sign on to help produce Merck’s COVID-19 pill for developing countries; research shows promise for organ transplants from genetically modified pigs; blood sample collection tubes added to FDA list of shortages.

Drug Makers Sign On to Manufacture Merck COVID-19 Drug

The Medicines Patent Pool has signed agreements with 27 generic drug manufacturers to produce versions of Merck’s COVID-19 pill, according to a report from ABC News. These deals would enable the drug companies to make the raw ingredients needed for molnupiravir and the finished product itself, and they would help 105 developing countries. Molnupiravir, from Merck and Ridgeback Bioherapeutics, reportedly cuts hospitalization rates in half among patients with early signs of COVID-19. It is approved for use in the United Kingdom and the European Union, and received an emergency use authorization from the FDA in December.

Research Shows Promise for Pig-to-Human Organ Transplants

Reported by The Associated Press, researchers in Alabama successfully transplanted genetically modified pig kidneys into a brain-dead man, potentially opening the door for the testing of similar transplants in living patients. The latest in a string of experimental surgeries provides hope at overcoming the organ shortage experts consider an “unmitigated crisis” with no real solution. Similar experiments have involved temporarily attaching a pig’s kidney to blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient and giving a dying man a heart from a pig, which continues to keep him alive.

FDA Adds Blood Sample Collection Tubes to Shortage List

The FDA has expanded their medical device shortage list to include all blood specimen collection tubes, according to Reuters, marking yet another challenge caused by increased demand and vendor issues from the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, according to the FDA, laboratory professionals should only perform blood draws when medically necessary, adding that health care personnel should consider sharing samples between lab departments if specimens are already available. Previously, only sodium citrate tubes, which were used to help and treat bleeding disorders in patients with COVID-19, were added to the shortage list.