What We're Reading: FDA Approves Alzheimer Drug; Spike in Adolescent COVID-19 Hospitalization Rates; Racial Bias in Health Care

AJMC Staff

The FDA approves a new drug for Alzheimer disease; COVID-19–related hospitalization rates are on the rise among adolescents; efforts to address racism, discrimination, and implicit bias in health care; the United States will send 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico cities along the border and resorts.

FDA Approves New Alzheimer Disease Treatment

The FDA issued an approval for Biogen’s aducanumab (Aduhelm) for Alzheimer disease, making it the first new therapy approval in the space since 2003. Aducanumab is the first treatment to target the buildup of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, which are thought to be a pathophysiological driver of the neurodegenerative disease. Although aducanumab cannot reverse the progression of Alzheimer disease, it is expected to slow cognitive decline. An online post by the FDA acknowledged that “there has been considerable public debate” around the drug’s efficacy, but it concluded that the benefits for patients outweigh the therapy’s risks.

CDC Report Finds Spike in COVID-19–Related Hospitalizations in Teens

According to findings in the latest issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, hospitalization rates related to COVID-19 have been shown to be on the rise among adolescents, with more than 30% of 204 examined teens shown to have been admitted to the intensive care unit and nearly 5% requiring mechanical ventilation. According to USA Today, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, expressed concern around the findings, which have coincided with a lag in vaccination among adolescents. So far, 2.3 million 12- to 17-year-olds nationwide have been fully vaccinated.

Addressing Racial Bias in Health Care

An article from Kaiser Health News spotlighted the unequal treatment of racial and ethnic minorities in health care, which is leading some Black patients to seek out Black clinicians. The piece highlighted the field of obstetrics in particular, as mortality rates in childbirth have been shown to be 3 times greater in Black women than White women in the United States, with Black patients also reporting issues of clinicians being dismissive, condescending, or impatient. The article noted that there are ongoing efforts to educate medical students on how to communicate with patients from various cultures and backgrounds.


United States to Send 1M Vaccines to Mexico Border Cities, Resorts

As reported by NPR, the United States is sending 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico cities along the border and Caribbean resort hotspots, such as Cancún, as well as Pacific coast resorts. Currently, more than 23.2 million adults have received at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine shot in Mexico, which was noted to have been hit hard by the virus and has struggled to control its spread. The vaccine distribution announcement is part of the 25 million doses the White House announced it will ship to other countries worldwide, which will be handled largely through COVAX.