What We’re Reading: Texas Abortion Law Stands; Sackler Family Granted Immunity; Oral COVID-19 Drug Trials Begin

The Supreme Court rules to allow Texas to keep strict abortion law; the family behind Purdue Pharma has been granted immunity from future lawsuits related to the opioid crisis; Pfizer and Merck start trials for oral COVID-19 drugs.

Supreme Court Leaves Texas Abortion Law in Place

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal to block enforcement of Texas’ strict abortion law after initially refusing to respond before the law went into action, as reported by The Associated Press. However, the justices said that their word likely won’t be the last on whether the law is constitutional, as other challenges are still being made. The law prohibits clinics from performing abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which is typically around 6 weeks and often before many individuals know they are pregnant. The law also allows for private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helped facilitate an abortion. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with associate justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Judge Grants Immunity to Sackler Family in Opioid Suit

A US bankruptcy judge approved a request to shelter members of the Sackler Family, who are behind Purdue Pharma, from future lawsuits related to the sale and promotion of OxyContin (oxycodone), according to a report from STAT News. Purdue is currently wrapped up in a string of lawsuits over the drug and has largely been blamed for the widespread opioid crisis. The Sacklers have also agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle with people, local governments, and tribal communities harmed by the crisis. Purdue Pharam also will be dissolved into a new trust or public benefit company to harness sales for OxyContin and other medicines toward the overall settlement.

Pfizer, Merck Begin Trials for Oral COVID-19 Drugs

According to Reuters, Pfizer and Merck announced they have begun trials for their experimental oral COVID-19 antiviral drugs. Pfizer said that its latest mid-to-late stage trial will enroll 1140 nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19 who are not at risk of severe illness. Patients will be administered the experimental drug with a low dose of ritonavir, a drug often used in combination treatments for HIV. Merck is testing its drug, molnupiravir, which is designed to prevent COVID-19 transmission among adults in the same household as someone with diagnosed COVID-19. Testing for molnupiravir is currently in late-stage trials.