Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

UK PM Sunak to meet health service leaders as crisis drags on

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will on Saturday meet leaders of England’s health service, as it faces one of its toughest ever winters as flu and COVID-19 spread amid strike action by frontline staff who say high inflation has eroded their salaries. Ambulances have been queuing outside hospitals, facing long waits to hand over patients to emergency wards as doctors and nurses, hampered by worker shortages, struggle to discharge patients amid staff shortages.

China in talks with Pfizer for generic COVID drug – sources

China is in talks with Pfizer Inc to secure a licence that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid in China, three sources told Reuters. China’s medical products regulator – the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) – has been leading the talks with Pfizer since late last month, one of the sources with knowledge of the matter said.

China reports three COVID deaths for January 6

China reported three new COVID-19 deaths in the mainland for Jan. 6, compared with five deaths a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday. The official death toll now stands at 5,267.

Factbox-Who can get the newly approved Eisai and Biogen Alzheimer’s drug?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc’s Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab for the treatment of early forms of the fatal, brain-wasting disease. Like their earlier Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, lecanemab, to be sold under the brand name Leqembi, belongs to a class of treatments that aim to slow disease progression by removing sticky clumps of the toxic protein beta amyloid from the brain.

U.S. FDA says Evusheld may not protect against Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday it does not expect AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail Evusheld to provide protection against the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. The subvariant has been causing concern among scientists after its rapid spread in the United States in December.

Now able to sell abortion pill, U.S. pharmacies weigh if they should

Pharmacies across the United States are weighing whether to sell mifepristone, a pill used in medication abortions, following the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement earlier this week that they can now do so. What they decide is primarily based on where they are located given that almost half the states ban or restrict abortion after the Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v Wade ruling, though some pharmacists told Reuters the local culture and attitudes or their own personal beliefs on abortion is what guides them.

Travel curbs rack up as COVID-hit China readies reopening

More countries around the world are demanding that visitors from China take COVID tests, days before it drops border controls and ushers in an eagerly awaited return to travel for a population that has been largely stuck at home for three years. From Sunday, China will end the requirement for inbound travelers to quarantine, the latest dismantling of its “zero-COVID” regime that began last month following historic protests against a suffocating series of mass lockdowns.

U.S. FDA approves Eisai, Biogen Alzheimer’s drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab developed by Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc for patients in the earliest stages of the mind-wasting disease. The drug, to be sold under the brand Leqembi, belongs to a class of treatments that aims to slow advance of the neurodegenerative disease by removing sticky clumps of the toxic protein beta amyloid from the brain.

Eisai files for full FDA approval for Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi

Japanese drugmaker Eisai Co Ltd said on Saturday it had submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a standard review of its Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi, which was recently approved under the agency’s accelerated review process.

Chinese-made mRNA vaccine starts trial production

China’s CanSino Biologics Inc has entered “test production phase” for its COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine, the company said in a post on its social media account late on Thursday. The vaccine, known as CS-2034, targets new Omicron variants of the virus, which are responsible for the vast majority of infections that have swept across China since the country began dismantling strict COVID curbs last month.

(With inputs from agencies.)