KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Declares End Of Ebola Transmission In Guinea; Country Enters 90-Day Heightened Surveillance Period

News outlets report on the WHO’s December 29 declaration announcing the end of Ebola transmission in Guinea.

Associated Press: Guinea declared free of Ebola, step to end spread of disease
“The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak over in Guinea [on December 29], a huge step in the fight against the world’s largest epidemic and the first time there are no known cases anywhere since the virus emerged in Guinea two years ago…” (Diallo/Petesch, 12/29).

Bloomberg Business: Guinea Urged to Strengthen Health System as Ebola Outbreak Ends
“The World Health Organization urged Guinea to strengthen its health system in order to prevent a new Ebola virus epidemic, as the West Africa nation was declared free of the disease…” (Camara, 12/29).

CNN: Guinea declared free of Ebola virus
“…[T]he country now enters a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to make sure that any new cases are identified quickly, the WHO said…” (Melvin, 12/29).

Newsweek: Guinea’s Next Challenge: Staying Free of Ebola (Gaffey, 12/31).

New York Times: In Guinea, a Hard-Won ‘Victory’ Over Ebola (Fink/Bah, 12/29).

NPR: World Health Organization Declares Guinea Ebola-Free (Quist-Arcton, 12/30).

Reuters: Guinea declared free of Ebola virus that killed over 2,500 (Samb et al., 12/30).

U.N. News Centre: U.N. declares end to Ebola virus transmission in Guinea; first time all three host countries free (12/29).

VOA News: West Africa Ends 2015 Declared Ebola-free (Pearson, 12/30).

Washington Post: Guinea is finally declared Ebola-free, but that does not mean the crisis is over (Cha, 12/30).

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Brazil Joins Philippines, Mexico In Approving Sanofi's Dengue Vaccine

Deutsche Welle: Dengue: a closer look at a spreading fever
“With Mexico, the Philippines, and now Brazil giving the green light to Dengvaxia, the first antidote to dengue fever ever released globally, the bandwagon has begun to roll. Regulators in all three countries authorized use of the vaccine [in December], providing a nice Christmas present for French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi, which said Dengvaxia could bring in revenues in excess of $1 billion (920,000 euros)…” (Borrud, 12/30).

International Business Times: Dengue Vaccine From Sanofi Approved In Brazil After Cases Triple In A Year
“…Dengue, once native to only nine countries, is now endemic in over 100 countries and infects as many as 400 million people a year. The deadliest of its four strains kills 22,000 people a year, mainly children, according to World Health Organization data. Dengvaxia is effective against all four strains of the virus, Sanofi said…” (Goenka, 12/29).

Smithsonian SmartNews: Introducing the First Dengue Fever Vaccine
“…Sanofi’s vaccine isn’t the only one in development against the illness, but it was the first to gain approval. The vaccine itself uses a live but weakened form of yellow fever virus — which is related to dengue — that carries genetic modifications to help it mimic some of dengue’s proteins…” (Fessenden, 12/31).

Syracuse.com: Meet the ‘Infectious Disease Cowboys’ who are hunting down dengue fever in Syracuse
“…Dr. Timothy Endy, chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Upstate Medical University, … and Dr. Mark Polhemus are at the center of an effort to build a new defense against dengue. They are working with a $12 million federal grant from the Army. They are ironing out how to infect human volunteers with mild versions of the four strains of dengue fever…” (Eisenstadt, 1/3).

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News Outlets Report On Zika Virus Spread In Brazil, Puerto Rico, Potential Link To Birth Defect

Forbes: Zika: Coming To America Through Mosquitoes, Travel, and Sex
“…The latest two [viruses] that hit the U.S., chikungunya and dengue, are painful and bad enough — and dengue can kill people who are infected more than once. Zika adds an added nasty punch of perhaps causing microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with abnormally small skulls and brains, and often have developmental abnormalities…” (Stone, 1/4).

New York Times: Alarm Spreads in Brazil Over a Virus and a Surge in Malformed Infants
“…Brazilian researchers say that Zika, an obscure mosquito-borne virus that made its way to the country only recently, is to blame for the sudden increase in brain damage among infants. But other virologists caution that more testing is needed to prove the dangerous link between the virus and brain damage, leaving the full extent of the threat to the country, and to the hemisphere, unclear…” (Romero et al., 12/30).

Reuters: Puerto Rico reports first case of Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes
“Puerto Rico has reported its first case of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been spreading across South America and the Caribbean and has been linked by Brazilian authorities to a serious birth defect, a U.S. Congressman said on [December 31]…” (Brown/Cavaliere, 12/31).

Wall Street Journal: Spread of Brazil’s Mosquito-Borne Virus Is Growing, but at Slower Pace
“…Health authorities fear the Southern Hemisphere’s approaching summer tourism and Carnival seasons could help further spread the virus as travelers leave homes and yards unattended, and unwittingly transport mosquitoes and mosquito larvae with them…” (Johnson/Jelmayer, 12/29).

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2016 Marks Beginning Of Efforts To Reach Sustainable Development Goals

U.N. News Centre: Sustainable Development Goals to kick in with start of new year
“As 2015 comes to an end, and with it the 15-year cycle of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nations officially will usher in — on 1 January 2016 — an even more ambitious set of goals to banish a whole host of social ills by 2030. ‘The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people,’ U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said…” (12/30).

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Child-Friendly TB Treatment Unveiled At Lung Health Conference

NPR: Could A New Berry-Flavored Pill Help Stop Childhood TB?
“…[C]hildren with TB have to take the same drugs as adults, and getting kids to swallow those large, foul-tasting tablets is no easy task. So for global health groups — and parents around the world — the arrival of kid-friendly, berry-flavored TB medicine is a big win. Researchers debuted the new treatment [in December] at the annual Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town, South Africa…” (Singh/Kritz, 12/21).

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South Korea Marked End Of MERS Outbreak In December

Agence France-Presse: South Korea announces official end to MERS outbreak
“South Korea announced on Wednesday the official end to a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that killed 36 people and sparked widespread panic in Asia’s fourth-largest economy…” (12/23).

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India Increases Number Of Essential Medicines, Adding Treatments For HIV, Cancer, Hepatitis C

Reuters: India adds more cancer, HIV/AIDS drugs to essential medicines list
“India has revised its list of essential medicines to add drugs for diseases ranging from cancer and HIV/AIDS to hepatitis C, in a move aimed at making them more affordable. The update to the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) is just the third since it was compiled in 1996. It increased the list to 376 medicines from 348 and includes drugs ranging from analgesics and antivirals to contraceptives, cardiovascular and anti-tuberculosis drugs…” (Siddiqui, 12/24).

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Science Survey Examines 10 Potential Vaccines Needing To Move Forward In Clinical Trials

Science: Unfilled Vials
“…Developed in university, government, or industry labs, [several experimental vaccines] have proven effective in animals and even been tested in small human trials. But because the diseases they target, like Ebola, are not seen as important threats in the developed world, they have not attracted the industry investment needed to prove efficacy in people. … With the help of a dozen vaccine experts, Science compiled its own list … [of experimental vaccines] that do not present obvious scientific hurdles, would fill a pressing public health need, and have attracted scant attention from the pharmaceutical industry…” (Cohen, 1/1).

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Few Positive Research Outcomes From Ebola Epidemic, Science Special Report Says

ScienceInsider: Special report: Ebola’s thin harvest
“…The [Ebola epidemic] offered a unique opportunity: Never before had the disease affected enough people to allow researchers to test Ebola drugs and vaccines in a real-world setting. As the number of cases exploded in mid-2014, they set in motion a vast research program that operated at breakneck speed. But the harvest of that massive effort is thin…” (Cohen/Enserink, 12/31).

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Editorials and Opinions

NIH Funding Increase, Regulatory Reform Can Boost Global Biomedical Research, Lead To More Cures

Forbes: Congress’s NIH Funding Increase: Reasserting America’s Competitiveness In Medical Innovation
Bill Frist, former U.S. senator from Tennessee and chair of Hope Through Healing Hands

“To continue to lead the world in medical science, we need to invest now. On Friday [December 18, 2015], the House and Senate approved the 2016 spending bill, which includes the largest investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in over a decade. … While most Americans have a positive view of the NIH, most do not realize it is the largest funder of biomedical research in the world. … Today’s increase in NIH funding is a vital step in the right direction. But more work needs to be done to bring our regulatory process into the 21st century. … Investing more in biomedical research will pay full dividends only if we make regulatory changes to rein in unnecessary costs for researchers and developers. … I commend Congress for coming together on this national priority. For 2016, I hope we pair this funding with policies that modernize the discovery, development, and delivery of drugs and devices — leading to vital cures for today’s life-threatening diseases” (12/23).

Washington Post: Congress is finally investing in health
Editorial Board

“Congress has finally started to boost federal funding for biomedical research. … Progress in [the biomedical research field] is difficult, and there may not be results right away. Biomedical research must be seen as a long-term investment. Now that Congress has done the right thing for one year, it must continue to provide a sturdy, multi-year funding platform for NIH and avoid going back to the days of slow stagnation” (12/25).

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WHO, International Community Must Not Become Complacent Against Ebola, Other Disease Threats

New York Times: Nearing Triumph Over Ebola
Editorial Board

“…For the moment, … largely ending the transmission of a disease for which there was no vaccine and no effective treatment when the [Ebola] epidemic was detected in March 2014 was a major triumph. … Stopping the Ebola virus, despite the late start and the huge challenge of working in countries with woefully poor health systems, was an example of what the world can do once it acknowledges an emergency and provides the resources needed to save lives. The entire experience is also a clear warning of the need for significantly better preparations and procedures next time” (12/30).

Toronto Star: Don’t forget hard-won lessons in victory over Ebola: Editorial
Editorial Board

“…[The WHO’s declaration of the end of Ebola transmission in Guinea] is no cause for complacency. On the contrary, the epidemic’s up-and-down history illustrates the importance of maintaining an aggressive response to Ebola. … [The] WHO has announced that Guinea is now entering a 90-day period of ‘heightened surveillance’ to ensure any new ‘flares’ of the virus are quickly identified before spreading to other people. … That commitment marks a welcome shift from [the] WHO’s unsatisfactory response in the early stages of this epidemic, signaling that much has been learned from past failures. … Lessons learned over the past two years must not be forgotten. With any luck, these insights could spare the world from having to endure another disaster caused by this horrific virus” (12/29).

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2015 Marks Year Malaria Eradication Goal Became Possible

CNN: A turning point in an age-old fight against a killer
Martin Edlund, founding member and CEO of Malaria No More

“…[I]t wasn’t just global leadership that made 2015 so pivotal [in global efforts against malaria]. Breakthrough innovations and swift advances in technology promised to transform the very battleground of our fight against the deadly parasite and the mosquitoes that carry it to humans. … A recent Economist cover story said eradicating malaria would ‘rank among humanity’s greatest achievements.’ In every great achievement there is a moment when the path to success comes into focus. … I believe 2015 has been that moment in the malaria fight. The story of humanity’s battle against its deadliest disease is an inspiring tale of commitment, innovation, and persistence. … Success won’t just mean defeating this single disease — it could provide a blueprint for disease eradication in the 21st century. And it will remind us of what humankind can accomplish when it harnesses its full capacity to change the world for the better” (12/28).

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Melinda Gates Reflects On Overcoming Fear To Help 'Put Family Planning Back On Global Agenda'

New York Times: I Stepped Out of My Comfort Zone and Made a Difference
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“…I’m a practicing Catholic who grew up in Dallas and went to Catholic high school. I cherish quiet time and I’ve never loved being in the spotlight. In other words, I’m a pretty unlikely candidate to become an outspoken advocate for contraceptives. … Through my work with [the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation], I have met so many women in the world’s most impoverished places who tell me they lack access to contraceptives. Like parents everywhere, they want to make all of their children’s dreams come true. But without the ability to plan and space their births, they have more children than they can afford to feed or send to school — they feel helpless as their children become trapped in poverty, too. Once I heard their stories, I was determined to help them build a better future. … Helping to put family planning back on the global agenda is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life…” (12/30).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.S., Partners To Continue Support For Ebola-Affected West Africa

White House Blog: This is How We Got to Zero Ebola Cases in West Africa
Amy Pope, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, discusses ways in which the U.S. and its partners helped end Ebola transmission in West Africa and will continue to support affected countries, including remaining vigilant against Ebola and other infectious diseases, working with governments and partners to achieve the Global Health Security Agenda, assisting with the economic recovery of West Africa, and supporting the restoration of basic health services in West Africa (12/30).

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Blog Post Discusses White House's National Action Plan For Combating MDR-TB

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: White House releases plan to combat MDR-TB at home and around the world
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” examines the White House’s recently released National Action Plan for Combating Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis, which “set[s] specific treatment and disease impact targets in the U.S. and abroad as well as goals to build collaborative international responses and capacities to fight the disease” (12/22).

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Feed The Future's '2015 Year In Review' Highlights Progress Made Against Global Hunger, Poverty

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Looking Back on a Year of Progress in Global Food Security
Saharah Moon Chapotin, deputy assistant to the administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security, discusses the 2015 Feed the Future Year in Review, which highlights “milestones of meaningful progress made against hunger, poverty, and malnutrition this past year by Feed the Future and its partners” (12/30).

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Blog Post Discusses U.S. House Approval Of Global Health Innovation Act

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: Global Health Innovation Act has passed the House of Representatives
Courtney Carson, GHTC’s senior policy and advocacy associate, discusses the Global Health Innovation Act (HR 2241), which the House passed on December 18, 2015, and highlights the bill’s key provisions. Carson notes, “The new legislation … directs USAID to analyze how it is using innovation to address global health challenges and the ways in which the agency can further accelerate the development and use of health technologies…” (12/18).

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Germany Should Reassert Commitment To Eliminating NTDs

Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect”: Upholding Germany’s Historic Commitment to Poverty-Related and Neglected Diseases
Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, discuss Germany’s history of discovering and treating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Hotez and Mistry urge the German government to support efforts and legislation aimed at improving research and development of and access to NTD treatments (12/30).

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Blog Posts Look Back On 2015's Top Global Health Stories, Forward To Leading Issues Of 2016

Several blog posts recap the top global health stories of 2015 and look ahead to potential leading issues of 2016.

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: Global Health 2015: Top 10 stories in HIV, TB, and more (Barton, 12/23).

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: 365 review: Top global health innovation news of 2015 (Kelley, 12/23).

Humanosphere: The 5 global stories that will dominate 2016 (Murphy, 1/1).

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January 2016 Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

WHO: Bulletin of the World Health Organization
The January 2016 WHO Bulletin includes news, research, and policy articles on various topics, as well as an editorial by WHO economists Joseph Kutzin and Susan P. Sparkes on health systems strengthening, universal health coverage, health security and resilience (January 2016).

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