Holiday Weekend Update

The FEHBlog trusts that everyone is enjoying the holiday season

From Washington, DC,

  • Congress is out of town this week.
  • On December 22, 2023, the President signed into law H.R. 2670,
    • “the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024,” which authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations principally for Department of Defense programs and military construction, Department of Energy national security programs, Department of State, and Intelligence programs; specifies authorities relating to the U.S. Armed Forces; extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; and other matters.”
  • Congress convenes for the second session of this 118th Congress in the first full week of January 2024.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • The American Medical Association tells us what doctors wish their patients knew about the current reigning Omicron sub-variant, JN.1.
  • Medscape points out,
    • “Gut bacteria are stronger together when it comes to preventing infectious diseases.
    • “When a large, diverse community of gut bacteria compete with pathogens for nutrients, the pathogens may not have enough fuel to colonize and invade the body, according to a new study in Science.
    • “The more microbes there are, the more different nutrients they’re likely to eat, increasing the chances of nutrient overlap with the pathogen. The greater the overlap, the better the host is protected, the study found.
    • “The nutrients available to the pathogen are limited,” said lead study author Frances Spragge, a researcher in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxfordshire. “So, its invasion is blocked.”
    • “It makes sense, said Thomas Schmidt, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (Schmidt was not involved in the study.) “It’s kind of no surprise that competition for resources is what is providing the colonization resistance,” Schmidt said. “But we didn’t have evidence that that was the case.”
    • “The study is among the first to take a systematic approach to addressing competition between pathogens and specific host microbes, Schmidt said. It’s a step toward identifying microbes that could be useful in treating infections.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • BioPharma Dive reports,
    • “Bristol Myers Squibb has agreed to acquire Karuna Therapeutics for $14 billion, betting that the biotechnology company’s experimental schizophrenia drug will become a top-selling medicine.
    • “Per deal terms announced Friday [December 22], Bristol Myers will pay $330 a share for Karuna, a roughly 53% premium to its closing price on Dec. 21. Net of the cash that Karuna has on hand, the deal is worth about $12. 7 billion.
    • “The acquisition hands Bristol Myers a closely watched medicine known as “KarXT” that’s currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration as a potential treatment for schizophrenia. The drug is a newer type of medication that doesn’t work like available schizophrenia treatments. It’s already succeeded in three mid- to late-stage trials and, if approved by regulators, could be launched by the end of 2024.
    • “KarXT is also in advanced testing as an adjunctive therapy to existing schizophrenia drugs and as a potential treatment for psychosis in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
    • “The FDA is expected to make a decision on its use in schizophrenia by Sept. 26 of next year.”