March 29, 2021

Around the nation: Deborah Birx says many Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided

Daily Briefing

    Deborah Birx, who was the coronavirus response coordinator under former President Donald Trump, said in an interview with CNN that she believes many of the more than 548,000 American deaths from Covid-19 could have been prevented had the Trump administration acted more aggressively, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and New Jersey.

    • Connecticut: Valisure, an online quality-assurance pharmacy, on Wednesday filed a citizen petition urging FDA to investigate nearly two dozen hand sanitizers sold during America's coronavirus epidemic after the company found the products contained high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. Valisure analyzed 260 hand sanitizer bottles from 168 brands and found 21 bottles from 15 brands contained benzene levels above FDA's temporary recommended limit of two parts per million. Valisure CEO David Light and other company executives in the citizen petition asked FDA "to expeditiously request recalls on the affected batches of products." Jeremy Kahn, an FDA spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the agency tests hand sanitizers and collaborates with companies to recall products when appropriate, but "manufacturers … are responsible for the quality of their products" and must "test their ingredients to ensure they meet specifications and are free from harmful contamination." An FDA spokesperson separately confirmed that the agency is reviewing Valisure's citizen petition (Edney, Bloomberg, 3/25; Bowden, The Hill, 3/24).
    • District of Columbia: Deborah Birx, who was the coronavirus response coordinator under former President Donald Trump, said in an interview with CNN that she believes many of the more than 548,000 American deaths from Covid-19 could have been prevented had the Trump administration acted more aggressively. Birx said, for the first wave of about 100,000 deaths, "we have an excuse." As for the remaining deaths, Birx said those "could have been mitigated or decreased substantially" had the United States "mitigated earlier … paused earlier and actually done" stricter social distancing and shutdown measures (Stolberg, New York Times, 3/28; Reston, CNN, 3/27; Knutson, Axios, 3/27; Brown, USA Today, 3/28).
    • New Jersey: Merck has named Caroline Litchfield as EVP and CFO, effective April 1. Litchfield currently serves as Merck's treasurer and has worked at Merck since 1990. Litchfield will succeed Robert Davis, who is becoming Merck's president on April 1 and CEO on July 1, succeeding Kenneth Frazier, who is retiring (Chen, Bizwomen, 3/25).

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