Health Care — Biden administration releases doses of Tamiflu

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Today in health news, a ruling from a Texas federal judge could mean the end of a federal program giving teens confidential access to birth control.

But first, the administration is giving states and territories more doses of Tamiflu amid an early and severe flu season.

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Tamiflu doses released from national stockpile

The Biden administration on Wednesday said it is making additional doses of the prescription flu medicine Tamiflu available from the Strategic National Stockpile so states can respond to the sharp, early rise in influenza cases this year.

Flu season has hit especially hard this year, though it may be peaking in some parts of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been at least 15 million illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations and 9,300 deaths from flu this year.

That sharp increase has led to increased demand for over-the-counter medicine as well as the antiviral Tamiflu in parts of the country, though the Food and Drug Administration has not officially listed the drug as being in shortage.

Tamiflu can be prescribed to treat flu in anyone over the age of 2 weeks old.

“Today we are taking action so that every jurisdiction can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season. State stockpiles can be utilized, and if jurisdictions need access to the Strategic National Stockpile, they now have it to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Influenza has not been a serious problem the last two years because of the precautions people took against COVID-19, like masking and physical distancing. But a large majority of the country has moved on from those protections, and as more people head inside in the colder months, the virus is taking its toll.

Read more here.

Judge rules against confidential teen birth control

A federal judge in Texas set aside a rule allowing teenagers to access birth control from providers participating in a federal family planning program without their parents’ permission.

  • The ruling from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk on Tuesday could mean that teenagers who receive care through the Title X family planning program will no longer be allowed to do so confidentially.  

  • Kacsmaryk ruled that the Title X program, which provides free and confidential contraception, cancer screenings and other services to millions of low-income women and men, violates the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Title X clinics are often the only ongoing source of healthcare and health education for the people who use them.

Kacsmaryk granted summary judgment on Dec. 8, and on Tuesday he issued a final ruling that sets aside the confidentiality portion of the Title X law, though he did not grant an injunction prohibiting clinics from providing contraception to minors without parental consent.

“Title X-funded providers are considered highly trusted sources of health care information for their patients, and not being able to access confidential care will block a critical pathway to essential health services for young people,” said Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

Read more here.


New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) said simultaneous surges of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have created an “extremely challenging” health situation for the city.

The city indicated flu cases are already higher than they were during the peak in each of the past four years, also noting increases over the past month in COVID-19 and RSV cases.

“This year, particularly around the flu, from the briefing we received, the numbers are higher than it traditionally is around this year,” Adams said at a Tuesday news conference. “When you combine it with the other elements that we are facing, the other RSVs, COVID-19, it just makes it extremely challenging for New Yorkers. But we can get it done right if we get covered.”

City officials earlier this month advised the public to wear masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.

Read more here.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved a monoclonal antibody from Roche to treat COVID-19 in hospitalized adult patients, the company announced.

The drug, called Actemra, was originally approved in 2010 to treat adult patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. It is the first FDA-approved monoclonal antibody to treat severe COVID-19, the company said.

The drug is intended for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized adult patients who are receiving certain steroids and require supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation, or are on life support through extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

FDA last year authorized the emergency use of Actemra to treat severe cases of COVID in adults and children between the ages of 2 and 17. That authorization remains in place, the company said.

As new variants of the virus have taken hold, antibody treatments have become ineffective. The FDA in November paused authorization of bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly, which was the last remaining COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, because it was not effective against the dominant BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants of omicron.

Read more here.

Biden administration asks chief justice to OK Title 42 end

The Biden administration late Tuesday asked Chief Justice John Roberts to rule against 19 GOP-led states that initiated court action to keep the controversial Title 42 policy in place.

  • The administration was responding to Roberts’s administrative stay from Monday in which he temporarily halted the end of the policy, set to end Wednesday.

  • Title 42 has taken center stage in the political debate over immigration and border policy.

Title 42 is legally based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order to keep coronavirus from spreading through the border, but the CDC’s involvement in its implementation is now known to have been the result of political pressure from the Trump White House.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar did not raise questions about the original public health considerations behind Title 42, but she did tell Roberts they are no longer valid, as the CDC issued a termination of its emergency order in April.

“The government has been barred from implementing that termination by a preliminary injunction in separate litigation … but the government could scarcely have sought extraordinary relief to perpetuate a CDC-imposed public-health measure that CDC itself has concluded is no longer justified under the public-health laws,” Preolgar wrote.

Read more here


  • Hundreds of US hospitals sue patients or threaten their credit (Kaiser Health News)

  • Infectious disease board recommends hospitals stop screening asymptomatic patients for Covid-19 (Stat)

  • Nursing homes risk another wave of covid deaths as vaccinations lag (Washington Post)


  • Brought ‘to the brink’ by the pandemic, a Mississippi clinic is rebounding strong (NPR)

  • As fentanyl use spikes, feds urge states to ease methadone rules (Stateline)

  • Kansas approves $15 million to help build 50-bed state mental health hospital in Wichita (Kansas City Star)


Classifying aging as a disease could speed FDA drug approvals

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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