What We’re Reading: McKinsey Settles Over Opioid Crisis; Study to Test Mixing COVID-19 Vaccines; HIV Vaccine Clinical Trial Results

McKinsey pays $573 million over its role in the opioid crisis; a British study will test mixing 2 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines; new clinical trial data point to a potential vaccine approach to combat HIV.

McKinsey Pays $573 Million in Settlement Over Opioid Crisis Role

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company has agreed to pay $573 million to settle investigations into its role helping fuel opioid sales, according to The New York Times. The agreement, made with attorneys general in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 territories, comes after lawsuits revealed documents showing the firm worked to drive sales of Purdue Pharma’s Oxycontin (oxycodone). Specifically, documents show the firm advised Purdue to focus on selling lucrative high-dose pills and advocated for the company to “band together” with other opioid makers to head off potential repercussions from the FDA. In the past 20 years, the opioid epidemic has contributed to the deaths of over 450,000 Americans.

British Study to Test Mixing AstraZeneca, Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines

A new British study will test whether 1 shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine followed by a Pfizer dose, or vice versa, is safe and effective, the Associated Press reports. Current guidelines require 2 doses of the same shot, administered weeks apart. Although guidelines say vaccines are not interchangeable, in the event that the same kind is not available for the second dose or if the source of the patient’s first dose is unknown, vaccines can be mixed. Researchers cite the need for data supporting more flexible immunization campaigns amid a global vaccine shortage. The study is scheduled to run for 13 months and will also test different time intervals between doses.

Phase 1 Data Announced on HIV Vaccine Approach

IAVI and Scripps Research announced new promising results from a phase 1 clinical trial testing a vaccine approach to prevent HIV. Because HIV constantly evolves into different strains to evade the immune system, it is one of the most difficult viruses to target with a vaccine. Overall, 97% of participants who received the vaccine produced rare immune cells needed to begin the process of generating antibodies against the virus. Results demonstrate a proof of principle for a new vaccine concept that could be applied to other pathogens, the researchers said. The 2 companies plan to partner with Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine based on the approach to produce the same immune cells. HIV currently affects over 38 million individuals worldwide.