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Brainstorm Health: Red Cross Ebola Funds Theft, ‘Female Viagra’ Drug, Anthem CEO Stepping Down

November 6, 2017, 7:24 PM UTC

Hello, readers! This is Sy.

In 2014, Ebola tore through West Africa. The epidemic lasted more than two years, killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and posed one of the most prominent global health challenges to the worldwide medical industry in many years. But at least $6 million meant to fight the deadly virus was wasted by Red Cross workers and other players through fraud, according to the results of an internal investigation by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IRFC).

The investigation examined how $124 million appropriated to combat Ebola’s spread in the region had been used by Red Cross and its partners. It revealed that millions of dollars had likely been wasted through: “Likely collusion” between Red Cross workers and local employees at a bank in Sierra Leone involving improperly fixed exchange rates; inflated prices for certain relief items and payroll; and other types of fraudulent billing. In response, the IRFC says it will significantly bolster its anti-corruption efforts and move to recover money wasted through fraud.

The world health community has been criticized for what many called a slow response to the 2014 Ebola crisis. The IRFC points out that the kind of intentional fraud unveiled in the investigation only adds to the many challenges of fighting these outbreaks.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


CVS responds to Amazon. The prospect of a mega-deal between CVS and Aetna and Amazon's potential entry into the pharmaceutical business has sent the health care sector into a tizzy. And while there's still a lot to work out for those plans to go forward, the various involved players have already been making some interesting moves. On Monday, CVS announced it will offer free next-day prescription drug delivery service at all of its locations next year—and same-day delivery in certain big markets. Does that model sound familiar? (Fortune)


Valeant to sell back so-called "female Viagra" drug to former owners after sales flop. The "female Viagra" drug Addyi has never actually been "female Viagra"—technically, it's a "female sexual libido" drug, since the biological mechanisms at work are entirely different from what happens with male sexual enhancement drugs. There's another key way the two are different: Addyi has been a total sales flop for Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which bought the treatment's manufacturer Sprout Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion two years ago. Valeant is selling it back to the original owners in exchange for future royalties. The drug itself is fairly controversial for its side effects, like low blood pressure and an increased chance of fainting. (Reuters)

Could a flu shot provide lifelong immunity against the virus? Researchers at the Nebraska Center for Virology may have gotten one step closer to creating a flu vaccine that lasts a lifetime. The studies are still very early-stage (in mouse models); but the vaccine uses ancestral genes from four different flu strains to offer protection. (Fortune)


Anthem CEO Swedish to step down, be replaced by former UnitedHealthcare chief. Joseph Swedish, CEO of insurance giant Anthem, is stepping down from his perch. He will be replaced by longtime insurance industry vet Gail Boudreaux, who has previously served as the chief executive of UnitedHealthcare, later this month. (Fortune)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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