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Colorado Could Cap A Drug’s Price. Big Pharma Has Other Plans

By Andrew Perez, Rolling Stone

Colorado lawmakers are trying to follow Medicare and become the first state in history to set price caps on drugs it deems too expensive. It would mark a tremendous milestone in the push to reduce ever-increasing prescription drug costs in the United States. However, large pharmaceutical companies are having none of it. They argue that lower drug prices would decrease the amount they can spend on research and development, despite data showing that they spend less on research than they do on marketing. Nevertheless, pharma companies are steadfast in maintaining their profit levels and more than 15 of them have already begun intense lobbying efforts to reduce the impact of price caps by supporting a different bill that would exclude orphan drugs from price-setting. The problem is many drugs used to treat orphan diseases are also used to treat more common conditions, meaning large amounts of people would still pay the extremely high amounts they do today. Deliberation is still underway, but many patient advocate groups are rooting against the bill exempting orphan drugs.  

— by Andrew Feld

What a lab-made meat-rice hybrid says about the future of food 

By Kelly Kasulis Cho, The Washington Post 

With the influences of climate change on the rise, and the availability of agricultural resources diminishing, sustainable food research has become a growing industry. At the forefront of these sustainability efforts is the creation of meat-infused rice at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Created by Professor Jinkee Hong, this “bowl of pink rice” is actually a series of beef cells grown in grains that are “coated in fish gelatin and…food grade enzymes”. This chemical composition allows for an “8% increase in protein” compared to the average grain crop.

Beyond the nutritional implications of this discovery, infusing animal proteins in something as seemingly simple as rice poses multiple questions for food safety. Proponents say the rice and similar lab-grown meat projects could obviate animal slaughter, reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella, or prevent hormone or antibiotic overuse in livestock. 

However, a critical question still lingers: Cultivated meat products require billions of dollars in investments; will this be feasible for all countries? Moreover, given that these meat products are lab-grown, will tje general public accept them? In a 2023 survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, at least half of all U.S. adults surveyed said they were “not at all likely” to consume such products.

In other words, consumer behavior is not exactly in favor. But through marketing initiatives that shift public perception, a more sustainable and safe transition into food alternatives may be possible. 

by Manju Karthikeyan

Equal but different: The specific health considerations of female combat soldiers  

by Renee Ghert-Zand, The Times of Israel

As the war in the Gaza Strip reaches its sixth month, there has been a major rise in conscripts in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), particularly among females. Legal amendments in the country have permitted applications from females to traditionally closed-off, “elite units,” and the nature of the current war has spurred conversation as to the specific challenges female combat soldiers are facing.  

The IDF has helped account for these challenges by bringing attention to the need for accessible supplies and conversation. The issue at hand ranges from lack of access to a shower for weeks on end, to more serious concerns such as menstrual product access.

Cotton underwear is advised for soldiers dealing with fungal infections near the breasts or vaginal area due to long periods of moisture retention without bathing. Military health services are supplied with antibiotic courses for yeast infections, and antifungal oral medication is recommended for soldiers who are prone to said infections. Arguably, the most difficult dilemma is dealing with contraceptive access when considering if a soldier wants to have a period, and if so, how frequently. Different advertised options include intrauterine devices (IUDs) or combined birth control pills, but this conversation raises the interesting point that contraceptive options serve elements of convenience and necessity that male soldiers do not have to consider. 

As the war in the region ensues, with those in combat deployed for invariable segments of time, access to basic health necessities is a pertinent conversation. In a post-war climate, there will undoubtedly be even more discourse as to the best measures for these soldiers to account for their fundamental healthcare needs being met.

by Saanvi Nayar

C.D.C. Shortens Isolation Period for People With Covid

By Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced a reduction in the isolation period for Americans with COVID-19. Individuals can now end their isolation if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without medication, but they must continue to limit close contact with others, wear masks, and maintain proper hygiene. 

These new guidelines fall in line with those provided for other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and common cold. According to Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist, this decision  “makes a lot of sense, because people are not testing,” and the viruses spread and can be prevented in similar ways. Nevertheless, as it is typical with any public policy change, there are backlash and concerns towards this decision. 

This decision has the potential to diminish the perceived severity of covid among the general public, which could ultimately decrease individuals adherence to the new guidelines. For example, one may find wearing a mask in today’s day and age, especially if they do not feel any symptoms, “socially uncomfortable.” Additionally, if covid isolation guidelines are shortened, employers may force their employees to return to work before they are fully healthy, compromising the health of everyone in the workforce. 

To overcome these issues, experts such as Raynard Washington, health director of Mecklenburg County, N.C. recommends that health officials focus on communicating the still-prevalent severity of the coronavirus. Immunocompromised people are at high risk of facing severe health consequences upon contracting the virus, and society must stay vigilant in protecting the health and well-being of these vulnerable individuals. 

by Julia Roth

Items contributed by: Andrew Feld, Manju Karthikeyan, Saanvi Nayar, Julia Roth