European Cities Plead for More Flu Shots as Winter Looms, Pandemic Rages | Top News

By Alicja Ptak, Emilio Parodi and Francois Murphy

WARSAW/MILAN/VIENNA (Reuters) – A surge in demand for vaccines to ward off the winter flu has led to shortages in some European cities, raising the risk of a potentially lethal “twindemic” as COVID-19 cases spike.

Many governments boosted vaccine orders this year and launched campaigns to encourage citizens to get shots.

The aim was to inoculate earlier than usual and cover a bigger portion of the continent’s 450 million population to reduce the burden on health services.

Top manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline

, Sanofi

, Abbott

and Seqirus have boosted supplies to the region by an average of 30% in anticipation of higher demand. But they are operating at full capacity and cannot meet all the late extra demand, Vaccines Europe, which represents the producers, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Interviews with at least 10 city and government officials, as well as medical experts, also show systems in major cities such as Warsaw are struggling with the strong early demand, causing delays and temporary shortages.

“This year, patients come all the time and ask about vaccines, more than 10 people every day,” said Grazyna Lenkowska-Mielniczuk, manager at Apteka Non Stop pharmacy in Warsaw’s Wola district.

“The wholesalers tell us the same thing as we tell patients: that there are no vaccines and we have to wait.”

Europe’s flu season begins in October and infections typically pick up between mid-November and the start of December, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Seasonal flu viruses cause between 4 and 50 million infections each year and up to 70,000 Europeans die each year of causes linked to flu, particularly among older adults and at-risk groups.

Precautionary measures to curb COVID-19 transmission such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing may help curb infections this season.

There was “very limited” flu transmission in the southern hemisphere this year for that reason, Sylvie Briand, director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness at the World Health Organization said in a briefing last week.

Even so, surging coronavirus infections across the continent prompted EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides to warn last month of the risk of a “twindemic of COVID-19 and the flu”.

Medical experts are urging more people get inoculated to prevent a deeper crisis.

“There is a need to prevent a double wave of influenza plus COVID-19,” said Clemens Wendtner, chief physician of infectiology and tropical medicine at the Munich Schwabing Clinic, who recommends people younger than 60 get the jab this year.

Poland’s Ministry of Health said it bought 3 million doses this year and will buy more if needed – as of Tuesday it had received 1.6 million shots.

But Mylan’s Influvac Tetra and Sanofi’s Vaxigrip Tetra vaccines are available in only 1% of pharmacies in Poland, according to gdziepolek.pl, a Polish website that helps patients find the nearest pharmacy with a drug they are seeking.

GSK’s Fluarix Tetra is not available and AstraZeneca’s

Fluenz Tetra is available

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OxyContin maker reportedly to plead guilty to 3 criminal charges

Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, the powerful prescription painkiller that experts say helped touch off an opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, Justice Department officials told The Associated Press. 



a hand holding a cup: A pharmacist holds a bottle OxyContin made by Purdue Pharma at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah


© George Frey / REUTERS
A pharmacist holds a bottle OxyContin made by Purdue Pharma at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah

The company will plead guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws, the officials said. The resolution will be detailed in a bankruptcy court filing in federal court.

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The deal does not release any of the company’s executives or owners — members of the wealthy Sackler family — from criminal liability. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The settlement is the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000.

The settlement comes less than two weeks before a presidential election where the opioid epidemic has taken a political back seat to the coronavirus pandemic and other issues. But the deal does give President Donald Trump’s administration an example of action on the addiction crisis, which he promised early in his term.

As part of the resolution, Purdue will admit that it impeded the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely representing that it had maintained an effective program to avoid drug diversion and by reporting misleading information to the agency to boost the company’s manufacturing quotas, the officials said.

A Justice Department official said Purdue had been representing to the DEA that it had “robust controls” to avoid opioid diversion but instead had been “disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up.”

Purdue will also admit to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors, through a speaking program, to induce them to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioids and for using electronic health records software to influence the prescription of pain medication, according to the officials.

Purdue will make a direct payment to the government of $225 million, which is part of a larger $2 billion criminal forfeiture. In addition to that forfeiture, Purdue also faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine, though that money probably will not be fully collected because it will be taken through a bankruptcy, which includes a large number of other creditors. Purdue will also agree to $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability.



David Sackler defends Purdue Pharma family 11:44


© Provided by CBS News
David Sackler defends Purdue Pharma family 11:44

Purdue would transform into a public benefit company, meaning it would be governed by a trust that has to balance the trust’s interests against those of the American public and public health, the officials said. The Sacklers would not be involved in the new company and part of the money from

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