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Also In Global Health News: House Passes Bill Including Haiti Relief; Kenya Adopts Safer ARVs; Florida At Risk Of Dengue Outbreak; Merck, Sinopharm Form Joint Venture On Vaccines

House Passes War Supplemental Spending Bill; Includes Fund For Haiti

The House on Tuesday passed a $59 billion war supplemental spending bill by a vote of 308-114, which will now be sent to President Barack Obama “for his signature,” CongressDaily reports (Sanchez, 7/28). The bill includes “$2.8 billion for relief efforts in Haiti,” Foreign Policy’s blog “The Cable” notes (Rogin, 7/27).

Kenya To Roll Out Safer ARV Regimen

Kenya will switch its HIV treatment regimens to contain a less toxic combination of drugs in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, PlusNews reports. Patients will be initiated on the safer drugs “as soon as next month [August],” according to Ibrahim Mohamed, director of Kenya’s National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme. “WHO has recommended that [antiretroviral drug] Stavudine be replaced with less toxic drugs such as Tenofovir (TDF) or Zidovudine, better known as AZT. Some of the side-effects of Stavudine include nerve damage and changes in body shape.” The article also discusses patients’ reaction, one of “cautious excitement,” and funding concerns, which Mohamed said will make the roll out gradual: “we expect to phase it [Stavudine] out completely by the end of four to five years” (7/27).

Florida At Risk Of Dengue Outbreak, Expert Says

An epidemic of dengue fever in the Caribbean and Latin America has increased the risk of an outbreak of the sometimes deadly mosquito-borne virus in South Florida, a bioclimatologist and dengue expert said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. The state’s “proximity to affected countries,” and similar tropical climate increased the possibility of dengue spreading in Florida, Douglas Fuller, chair of University of Miami’s Geography and Regional Studies, told the news service. Fuller also noted Florida’s needs to “put more effort into early warning capacity, preventative kinds of measures, rather than reactive measures based on passive surveillance” (Fletcher, 7/27).

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post features an article about the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute-Florida in Port St. Lucie, which has been “researching dengue fever for years” and has discovered leads they hope will foster vaccine and treatment developments. Specifically, the institute has been “examining the human immune system’s responses to dengue fever compared with its response to yellow fever, a similar mosquito-transmitted virus for which an effective vaccine has existed since the mid-20th century” (Duret, 7/27).

CBC Reports On Needle-Free ‘Nano-Patch’ Vaccine

Researchers in Australia have “developed a needle-free, dissolving vaccination that they say could be mailed to households during a pandemic,” CBC reports. The “nano-patch,” which researchers described in a paper in the journal Small, is smaller than a postage stamp and does not need to be refrigerated. “When the patch is placed against the skin, the projections push through the outer skin layer and deliver the biomolecules to the target cells,” according to the CBC. The new patch, which has not yet undergone clinical trials, uses one-100th of the dose found in a needle so the “cost to the health system is reduced,” explained study co-author Mark Kendall of the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Biotechnology and Nanotechnology (7/27).

Merck Forms Joint Venture With Chinese Pharmaceutical Group Sinopharm

The pharmaceutical company Merck on Tuesday announced “it will team up with Sinopharm, a huge Chinese distributor and maker of pharmaceutical and other health products,” the Associated Press reports. “In its latest move to expand in emerging markets, Merck will form a joint venture with Sinopharm, cooperating on vaccines for diseases such as human papillomavirus in China,” the news service writes (Johnson, 7/27). As part of the agreement, the companies “will also discuss the potential for promoting and marketing Merck’s pharmaceutical products in China,” according to a Merck press release (7/27).

“Merck and other Western drug companies are rushing to grab market share in emerging markets such as China and India,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Rivals including Pfizer Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC believe much of the industry’s growth in coming years will be in these countries, as expanding middle classes gain better access to health care, and changes in lifestyle increase the prevalence of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes” (Loftus, 7/27). Merck “has projected that more than 25 percent of its pharmaceutical and vaccine sales will come from emerging markets by 2013, up from 17 percent currently,” according to Reuters (7/28).

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