What We’re Reading: Merck COVID-19 Pill Ineffective; Medicaid Use in Prisons; Ozempic in Short Supply

Merck’s COVID-19 pill has been shown to not be successful against household infection risk; the government plans to allow states to use Medicaid funds for prison drug treatment and other services; Ozempic, used to treat type 2 diabetes, is in short supply because it’s being sought for weight loss.

Merck’s COVID Pill Ineffective at Curbing Infection

On Tuesday, Merck & Co said its COVID-19 pill, Lagevrio, was ineffective at reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection risk in individuals living with an infected person, reported Reuters. Similar results have been seen with rival Pfizer pill Paxlovid, which also has been shown to not be able to prevent infection among people living in the same household. Both drugs have emergency use authorization to be used as treatment for those at risk of severe COVID-19 infection, but eagerness for Merck’s pill has declined due to its low effectiveness of 30% vs the 90% seen with Paxlovid.

Prisons, Jails May Soon Use Medicaid for Drug Treatment

The federal government plans to permit states to use their Medicaid funds to provide medication assistance for addiction and other medical services for people in state jails and prisons to try to help those at risk of dying in the midst of the United States overdose epidemic, reported the Associated Press. On Tuesday, Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, FACP, MBA, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said states would be urged to submit proposals for how joint federal-state low-income health insurance money would be used, and those same states would be required to deliver mental health and drug treatment with the option to add other services. Full guidance from the CMS is expected in spring.

Ozempic Scarce Because of Weight Loss Use

Diabetes drug Ozempic is in national shortage because it’s being sought for weight loss, said The Wall Street Journal. People with diabetes who depend on the drug are reporting that they’re spending hours trying to find it, sometimes having to reduce their dosage, as well as those of other drugs, to make them last longer or switch to different drugs. Manufacturer Novo Nordisk is trying to increase production capacity, but a spokesperson says shortages may still occur. The FDA approved the drug in 2017 for treatment of type 2 diabetes; it is not indicated for use among persons considered obesity who do not have diabetes. Wegovy, an injectable medication approved for weight loss use in patients considered overweight or obese, experienced a similar shortage in 2021, prompting people to look to diabetes drugs instead.

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