Pharma: No exclusive rights to a treatment
Faced with a barrage of criticism, the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences this week backed off on “orphan drug” status for an experimental Covid-19 medicine, said Sydney Lupkin in NPR.org. The drug, remdesivir, is an “antiviral medicine being studied in clinical trials around the world.” Orphan status gives companies exclusive rights to market a drug for seven years, blocking cheaper generic competition. It is usually granted only to drugs that treat illnesses affecting fewer than 200,000 patients; with some 52,000 confirmed infections early last week, Gilead was able to slip under the “technical threshold for a rare disease,” raising accusations that it was exploiting a world health crisis.
Medicine: Ford turns to making respirators
Ford has teamed up with 3M to “speed production” of respirators to battle the coronavirus, said Phoebe Wall Howard in the Detroit Free Press. The automaker said this week that its engineers have been working on ways to rapidly manufacture “powered air-purifying respirators,” even utilizing “parts that are currently used in the best-selling F-150 pickup,” such as fans from the truck’s cooled seats. By combining parts from both companies and using 3D printing, Ford and 3M say that they could boost production of disposable respirators and plastic face-shields to 100,000 per week.
Airlines: Contingency plans for a shutdown
Major airlines are planning for the possibility of a halt to domestic commercial flights, said Gio Benitez in ABCNews.com. While the Trump administration has resisted such travel restrictions, some airlines “are not ruling out a voluntary shutdown” because of the steep decline in demand. One flight from New York City to Los Angeles this week “had only six passengers on board,” and the TSA said it was screening “about 2 million fewer passengers” per day at its checkpoints. Flight cutbacks are already costing Delta “roughly $50 million in cash each day.”
Utilities: PG&E pleads guilty in 84 fire deaths
California utility giant PG&E pleaded guilty this week to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Camp Fire that raged in northern California in 2018, said Joseph Serna and Matt Hamilton in the Los Angeles Times. Two state regulators had already “concluded that poorly maintained PG&E equipment had sparked the blaze,” which also destroyed more than 13,900 homes. Prosecutors said they “won’t pursue further criminal charges,” meaning the utility’s executives won’t be held personally responsible.