Gilead's $2,340 price for coronavirus drug draws criticism

The maker of a drug shown to shorten recovery time for severely ill COVID-19 patients says it will charge $2,340 for a typical treatment course for people covered by government health programs in the United States and other developed countries.

Gilead Sciences announced the price Monday for remdesivir, and said the price would be $3,120 for patients with private insurance. The amount that patients pay out of pocket depends on insurance, income and other factors.

“We’re in uncharted territory with pricing a new medicine, a novel medicine, in a pandemic,” Gilead’s chief executive, Dan O’Day, told The Associated Press.

“We believe that we had to really deviate from the normal circumstances” and price the drug to ensure wide access rather than based solely on value to patients, he said.

However, the price was swiftly criticized; a consumer group called it “an outrage” because of the amount taxpayers invested toward the drug's development.

The treatment courses that the company has donated to the U.S. and other countries will run out in about a week, and the prices will apply to the drug after that, O'Day said.

In the U.S., federal health officials have allocated the limited supply to states, but that agreement with Gilead will end after September. They said Monday that the government has secured more than 500,000 additional courses that Gilead will produce starting in July to supply to hospitals through September, and stressed that that does not mean the government actually was acquiring that much, just ensuring the availability.

Top US judge in LA steps down over remark called insensitive

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The top-ranking federal judge for the Los Angeles area has told fellow judges and court staff that he is stepping down from his post because of a remark he made about a Black woman who is the court’s top administrative official that some regarded as racially insensitive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, chief judge of the federal Central District of California, announced his decision Friday in an email that summarized his remarks, the critical reaction and his decision to leave the four-year position he had begun on June 1, the Times reported Sunday.

Carney apologized to Kiry K. Gray, who has been the district's executive and clerk of the court since 2015.

“I have apologized to Ms. Gray, but I have concluded that a simple apology will not put this matter to rest. There will be division in the Court, unnecessary, negative and hurtful publicity, and a diversion from the Court’s essential mission of administering justice if I were to continue serving as the Chief District Judge,” Carney wrote. “I cannot allow the Court to become politicized and embroiled in controversy.”

The Times said the controversy dates to a June 9 webinar sponsored by the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

Carney was speaking about taking on the role of chief district judge when he mentioned Gray.

“Fortunately for me, we have just a fabulous clerk of the court in Kiry Gray. She’s so street-smart and really knows her job,” Carney said.

When Carney learned that some who heard or learned of the “street-smart” remark thought it was derogatory or racially insensitive, he explained: “To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color. I never knew that there was a different definition of the term.”

Democrats want John Wayne's name, statue taken off airport

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — In the latest move to change place names in light of U.S. racial history, leaders of Orange County’s Democratic Party are pushing to drop film legend John Wayne’s name, statue and other likenesses from the county’s airport because of his racist and bigoted comments.

The Los Angeles Times reported that earlier this week, officials passed an emergency resolution condemning Wayne’s “racist and bigoted statements” made in a 1971 interview and are calling on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to drop his name, statue and other likenesses from the international airport.

The resolution asked the board “to restore its original name: Orange County Airport.”

“There have been past efforts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our backing into this to make sure there is a name change,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.

According to those who crafted the resolution, the effort to oust Wayne, a longtime resident of Orange County who died in 1979, is part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names (that are) reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams.”

In a 1971 Playboy magazine interview, Wayne makes bigoted statements against Black people, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people," he said.

Wayne also said that although he didn’t condone slavery: “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”

The actor said he felt no remorse in the subjugation of Native Americans.

“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … (O)ur so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Diageo goes green with carbon neutral distillery in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Spirits giant Diageo announced Monday that it's going green with its newest whiskey-making venture in the Bluegrass State.

Its distillery being built at Lebanon, Kentucky, is expected to be carbon neutral — a first for the London-based company. The $130 million distillery of Bulleit bourbon is expected to be fully operational in 2021.

The site will be powered by 100% renewable electricity, with a capacity to produce up to 10 million proof gallons per year — or 3.8 million 9-liter cases, the company said.

“As a company we know that our long-term sustainable growth depends on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change,” said Perry Jones, president of North America Supply for Diageo. “This groundbreaking undertaking to electrify our operations and then power them with renewable electricity will result in one of the largest carbon neutral distilleries in North America."

The new distillery moves the company closer to its goal of sourcing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, it said. The renewable electricity will be supplied by Inter-County Energy and East Kentucky Power Cooperative, it said.

Mississippi surrenders Confederate symbol from state flag

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will retire the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem, more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

A broad coalition of lawmakers — Black and white, Democrat and Republican — voted Sunday for change as the state faced increasing pressure amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.

Mississippi has a 38% Black population, and critics have said for generations that it's wrong to have a flag that prominently features an emblem many condemn as racist.

Democratic Sen. David Jordan told his colleagues just before the vote that Mississippi needs a flag that unifies rather than divides.

“Let's do this because it's the right thing to do," Jordan said.

The Senate voted 37-14 to retire the flag, hours after the House voted 91-23.

Cheers rang out in the state Capitol after the Senate vote. Some spectators wept. Legislators embraced each other, many hugging colleagues who were on the opposing side of an issue that has long divided the tradition-bound state.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign the bill into law in the next few days.

Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez choked back tears as he told reporters that he has seen white colleagues develop more empathy about how the Confederate symbol is painful to him and other African Americans.

“They began to understand and feel the same thing that I’ve been feeling for 61 years of my life,” Johnson said.

Nebraska man faces felony charges after dog brutally killed

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska man faces felony charges after allegedly killing his dog with a baseball bat and then burying it in his backyard.

Khaleem Baringer, 21, of Kearney is charged in Buffalo County Court with felony use of a weapon to commit a felony and intentional felony animal cruelty of his dog, Mary Jane, a week ago, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

A witness told police Baringer hit the dog several times in the head with the bat after it defecated on the floor and nipped at a woman as she tried to place the dog into a kennel.

Records show the dog was stabbed at least once before it was wrapped it in several towels and buried behind a shed in the yard.

Police found blood spatter on the wall and window of the master bedroom, in the bathroom, and inside and outside of a trash can.

Experts see no proof of child-abuse surge amid pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — When the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the United States in mid-March, forcing schools to close and many children to be locked down in households buffeted by job losses and other forms of stress, many child-welfare experts warned of a likely surge of child abuse.

Fifteen weeks later, the worries persist. Yet some experts on the front lines, including pediatricians who helped sound the alarm, say they have seen no evidence of a marked increase.

Among them is Dr. Lori Frasier, who heads the child-protection program at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center and is president of a national society of pediatricians specializing in child abuse prevention and treatment.

Frasier said she got input in recent days from 18 of her colleagues across the country and “no one has experienced the surge of abuse they were expecting.”

A similar assessment came from Jerry Milner, who communicates with child-protection agencies nationwide as head of the Children’s Bureau at the federal Department of Health and Human Services. “I’m not aware of any data that would substantiate that children are being abused at a higher rate during the pandemic,” he told The Associated Press.

Still, some experts believe the actual level of abuse during the pandemic is being hidden from view because many children are seeing neither teachers nor doctors, and many child-protection agencies have cut back on home visits by caseworkers.

“There’s no question children are more at risk — and we won’t be able to see those children until school reopens,” said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania professor who heads CHILD USA, a think tank seeking to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Several states said calls to their child-abuse hotlines dropped by 40% or more, which they attributed to the fact that teachers and school nurses, who are required to report suspected abuse, no longer had direct contact with students.

Prosecutors: Woman burned home in attempt to destroy records

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A woman burned down her $1.6 million suburban Fort Worth mansion while trying to destroy documents from her husband's health care clinic as authorities were investigating the couple for fraud, prosecutors allege.

A seven-count federal indictment, filed June 17, charges Mark and Melissa Kuper with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud aiding and abetting. They both have pleaded not guilty to allegations that they submitted more than 100,000 claims to federal health care programs for “sham” physical therapy, psychotherapy and pain management services from 2014 to 2017, according to court records.

Mark Kuper operated the Texas Center for Orthopedic and Spinal Disorders, with clinics in Fort Worth and Weatherford. The indictment alleges that his wife started a fire to burn clinic records in the outdoor fireplace of the couple's Benbrook mansion in October 2017, then left it unattended, destroying their home. After the blaze, firefighters said they found charred and burned documents in the fireplace that were still legible, the indictment says.

Travis Couey, a physical therapist who worked for Mark Kuper, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit health fraud for allegedly preparing false medical records.

The trio allegedly submitted $10 million of false claims to Medicare, Medicare or TRICARE, which covers military members and their families, for services they didn't performed, the indictment says.

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