What We're Reading: STD Medication Shortages; HPV-Related Cancers Increase; Patients Respond to Remdesivir

April 17, 2020

Manufacturers are reporting shortages of a common medication for sexually transmitted disease (STDs); rates of cancers related to human papillomavirus (HPV) increased from 2007 to 2016; early trial data show patients infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) respond to remdesivir.

Manufacturers Report Z-Pack Shortages

After President Trump promoted a commonly prescribed antibiotic for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as a potential cure for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), suppliers of azithromycin tablets (Z-Packs) have been struggling to meet the demand, The Hill reports. The FDA loosened restrictions on how the drug can be used and as a result, some doctors are combining azithromycin with hydroxychloriquine—an anti-malarial medication—to treat patients with COVID-19. However, azithromycin is currently the only approved treatment for chlamydia in pregnant women; there is little evidence that the 2-drug combination is effective against the virus, although trials are underway.

HPV-Related Cancer Rates Increase

According to a new CDC report, rates of oral and pharynx cancers increased from around 35,000 cases in 2007 to nearly 45,000 cases in 2016. The increase was driven by high rates of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers, researchers said. In particular, tonsil and oropharynx cancers caused by HPV increased by more than 2% per year. In comparison, non-HPV-associated cancer rates decreased by around 0.4% each year. Researchers note public health efforts focused on HPV vaccination will be essential to prevent future increases.

Partial Results Indicate Promise for Remdesivir as COVID-19 Treatment

An early report of partial, incomplete data of Gilead’s remdesivir shows it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19, according to Reuters. A University of Chicago hospital participating in the clinical trial said it is seeing rapid symptom recoveries, with the majority of patients being discharged in less than a week after receiving treatment. Complete results from the phase 3 study will become available at the end of the month, and researchers emphasize partial data should not be used to draw conclusions. In addition, there is no control group and the patient sample size is small.