Louisiana news in brief for Wednesday, Aug. 5

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Landry urges federal government to increase production of COVID-19 drug

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and numerous other attorneys general are urging the federal government to use its authority to scale up production of remdesivir, a drug that has shown promise in treating COVID-19.

According to their letter to federal health and drug regulators, Giliead Sciences received federal funding to produce remdesivir, yet is expected by the end of the year to produce only two million treatments, or enough to cover about half of the current confirmed COVID-19 patients in the country. Despite a manufacturing cost of between $1 and $5, Gilead has set the price of the drug at an “outrageous and unconscionable” $3,200 per treatment course, the coalition says.

Gilead says it donated the drug through the end of June and says the price is below drug’s value, which it says can save hospitals $12,000 per patient.

Under the Bayh-Dole Act, the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have the authority to license remdesivir to third party manufacturers to scale up production and ensure the drug is made available at a reasonable price, the attorneys general say. If these agencies are unwilling to exercise this authority, they request the agencies assign this authority to the states.

Louisiana native confirmed as deputy energy secretary

The U.S. Senate in a 78-14 vote Tuesday confirmed Louisiana native Mark Wesley Menezes as the next Deputy Secretary of Energy, said U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who chairs the Senate Energy Subcommittee.

Menezes is a Luling native who received his undergraduate and law degrees from LSU. He currently serves as undersecretary of Energy. Previously he held senior positions at energy companies and a partnership at a law firm, and also served as chief counsel for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for three years, Cassidy says.

“His skill set is invaluable as the United States’ energy sector recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cassidy said. “I look forward to working with him to save energy jobs and rebuild this industry.”

Louisiana dog tests positive for coronavirus that causes COVID-19

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has received its first reported case of a dog in Louisiana testing positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in humans, the department reported Tuesday.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, there is currently no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus, LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said. Based on the limited information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low, he said.

“It appears that people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact,” Strain said. “It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended.”