The Canadian government is investing $14.3 million to support new research on SARS-CoV-2 variants. Provided through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the investment includes $5.3 million in supplementary funding for 90 ongoing COVID-19 projects and $9 million for a new national network, the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network, that will coordinate and align the research throughout Canada. The network is expected to enable a rapid assessment of the immune response to the variants and the variants’ resistance to the current vaccines. The findings will be used in guidance regarding therapies ad vaccine effectiveness, according to the CIHR.

Time needed to develop immunity with Sputnik V

Post-vaccination follow-up shows that it could take up to three weeks for people to develop COVID-19 immunity after receiving the second dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. “A person is considered vaccinated and, accordingly, protected from coronavirus, only three weeks after the introduction of the second component – at this time, immunity to infection is formed,” Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya Institute that produced the vaccine, said March 26. He added that young people appear to develop immunity faster, whereas it can be a slower process in older people, especially those older than 60. The two doses of the vaccine should be given 21 days apart. The follow-up study revealed “rare” cases of people developing COVID-19 following the first dose of the vaccine and “isolated” cases of infection in people who had not passed the 21-day mark after getting the second dose, according to Russia’s Health Ministry.

CRS: Rutledge opens door to more PBM reforms

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-0 ruling in Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association a few months ago could point the way for more state laws to address concerns about pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) impeding access to affordable prescription drugs, according to a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. In the Rutledge case, the court greenlighted an Arkansas law that established mechanisms intended to anchor PBM pharmacy reimbursement rates to pharmacies’ drug acquisition costs. The law stemmed from complaints from some pharmacies that they were often having to pay more to obtain drugs than what the PBMs would pay in reimbursement, a problem that was threatening the economic survival of independent pharmacies that had to compete with pharmacies owned by the PBMs. The PBM trade group had argued that PBM reimbursement policies were outside of state control due to federal preemption under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Supreme Court disagreed, saying the Arkansas law is permissible because it doesn’t compel plans to offer coverage in a particular manner. The court also noted that the law applies to PBMs regardless of whether they manage ERISA plans. The practical impact of the court’s opinion has yet to be seen as states consider ways to lower prescription drug prices, the CRS said, even as it suggested Congress look at setting ERISA preemption parameters to help guide the courts as they weigh in on future legal challenges to state health reform efforts.