Hirono Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Eliminate Copays for Veterans Accessing Contraception

~ Legislation passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year ~

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, joined Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and 17 of their Senate colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act to eliminate copayments for contraception covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While civilians can receive contraception without a copay through the Affordable Care Act and active duty servicemembers can receive health care—including basic contraceptive services—without copays through TRICARE, VA healthcare only waives contraception copays for a limited number of veterans. The legislation is originally authored by U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) and was approved by the House of Representatives in June by a bipartisan vote of 245-181.

“Access to contraception is a fundamental, constitutional right,” said Senator Hirono. “But while civilians and active duty servicemembers can access contraception free of charge, hundreds of thousands of veterans receiving VA care are still forced to pay out-of-pocket costs. We owe it to our veterans to ensure they receive the quality, comprehensive health care they deserve, including contraception. The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act will help do exactly that.”

Under current law, only a restricted group of veterans, including 50 percent disabled veterans and veterans below specific income levels, are exempt from copayments for contraception. This legislation will eliminate out-of-pocket costs levied against countless veterans, including women who make up the fastest growing group of veterans enrolling in the VA healthcare system.

The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Oregon State research shows hemp compounds prevent coronavirus from entering human cells

January 10, 2022

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Hemp compounds identified by Oregon State University research

via a chemical screening technique invented at OSU show the ability to prevent the

virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells.

Findings of the study led by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s

Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute,

were published today in the Journal of Natural Products.

Hemp, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa, is a source of fiber, food and animal

feed, and multiple hemp extracts and compounds are added to cosmetics, body

lotions, dietary supplements and food, van Breemen said.

Van Breemen and collaborators, including scientists at Oregon Health & Science

University, found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike

protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.

The compounds are cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA, and

the spike protein is the same drug target used in COVID-19 vaccines and antibody

therapy. A drug target is any molecule critical to the process a disease follows,

meaning its disruption can thwart infection or disease progression.

These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van

Breemen said. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive

ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research

showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2,

including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant

B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”

Those two variants are also known the alpha and beta variant, respectively.

Characterized by crown-like protrusions on its outer surface, SARS-CoV-2 features

RNA strands that encode its four main structural proteins – spike, envelope,

membrane and nucleocapsid – as well as 16 nonstructural proteins and several

accessory” proteins, van Breemen said.

Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral

intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to

the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” he said. “That

means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARSCoV-

2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from

infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to

the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in

the lungs and other organs.”

Using compounds that block virus-receptor interaction has been helpful for patients

with other viral infections, he notes, including HIV-1 and hepatitis.

Van Breemen, Ruth Muchiri of the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute

and five scientists from OHSU identified the two cannabinoid acids via a mass

spectrometry-based screening technique invented in van Breemen’s laboratory. Van

Breemen’s team screened a range of botanicals used as dietary supplements

including red clover, wild yam, hops and three species of licorice.

An earlier paper in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

described tailoring the novel method, affinity selection mass spectrometry, to finding

drugs that would target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

In the later research, lab tests showed that cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid

prevented infection of human epithelial cells by the coronavirus spike protein and

prevented entry of SARS-CoV-2 into cells.

These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in

humans,” van Breemen said. “They have the potential to prevent as well as treat

infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as

precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they

are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.”

Van Breemen explains that affinity selection mass spectrometery, which he

abbreviates to AS-MS, involves incubating a drug target like the SARS-CoV-2 spike

protein with a mixture of possible ligands – things that might bind to it – such as a

botanical extract, in this case hemp extract.

The ligand-receptor complexes are then filtered from the non-binding molecules

using one of several methods.

We identified several cannabinoid ligands and ranked them by affinity to the spike

protein,” van Breemen said. “The two cannabinoids with the highest affinities for the

spike protein were CBDA and CGBA, and they were confirmed to block infection.

One of the primary concerns in the pandemic is the spread of variants, of which

there are many, and B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 are among the most widespread and

concerning,” he added. “These variants are well known for evading antibodies against

early lineage SARS-CoV-2, which is obviously concerning given that current vaccination

strategies rely on the early lineage spike protein as an antigen. Our data show CBDA

and CBGA are effective against the two variants we looked at, and we hope that trend

will extend to other existing and future variants.”

Van Breemen said resistant variants could still arise amid widespread use of

cannabinoids but that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment

should make for a much more challenging environment for SARS-CoV-2.

Our earlier research reported on the discovery of another compound, one from

licorice, that binds to the spike protein too,” he said. “However, we did not test that

compound, licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding

for that.”

Timothy Bates, Jules Weinstein, Hans Leier, Scotland Farley and Fikadu Tafesse of

OHSU also contributed to the cannabinoid study.

About the OSU College of Pharmacy: The College of Pharmacy prepares students of today to be the

pharmacy practitioners and pharmaceutical sciences researchers of tomorrow by contributing to improved

health, advancing patient care and the discovery and understanding of medicines.


Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039



Richard van Breemen, 541-737-5078



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…it is a SCAM!

Do not give scammers money or personal information – Ignore Them!

Walk In Vaccines Available At The VA

All VA facilities and clinics that administer COVID-19 vaccines are accepting walk-ins for eligible Veterans, spouses and caregivers.
This walk-in service ensures all Veterans enrolled in VA health care and those authorized under the SAVE LIVES Act have an opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccination from the VA at a time convenient for them.
The effort is in support of the president’s goal of administering at least one vaccine shot to 70% of the U.S. adult population by July 4. The urgency to vaccinate as many eligible individuals as quickly as possible remains a top priority for the VA.
“VA encourages those who wish to get their COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment to check the walk-in hours and requirements at their local facility,” said Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone, M.D. “ Individuals taking advantage of walk-in vaccinations may need to wait for the vaccine to be prepared and will be screened when entering the facility.”
To date, the VA has vaccinated more than 2.7 million individuals, including over 60,000 individuals under the SAVE LIVES Act. For more information about COVID-19 vaccinations at the VA, click here.
The VA vaccination clinics are not open 24 hours. Facemasks are mandatory for all and physical distancing measures will be in place.

VAPIHCS Veterans,

 VAPIHCS will resume offering the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years and older, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, following a 10-day pause recommended by the CDC and FDA after a very small number of people who received the vaccine experienced rare but serious blood clots.

 After careful review and evaluation, the FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe for use and effective in preventing COVID-19. The available data show that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks and the chance of blood clots occurring following its administration is very low. Anyone who is offered the J&J vaccine from VA will receive information about the potential risks and benefits of the vaccine, including the rare risk of blood clots and will be made aware of alternative vaccine options.

 The primary goal of COVID-19 vaccination is to protect those we serve from COVID-19, and VA’s priority remains the safety of all those receiving vaccine from VA, including Veterans, their spouses, caregivers, employees and federal partners.

 One and Done” with only one required dose, the Johnson &  Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is providing our Veterans, spouses, and caregivers an option to receive their vaccinations and be “One and Done”.

VAPIHCS has more than 3,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines that must be administered by June 23rd.

Call to secure an appointment: 1-800-214-1306

 We have both face-to-face or telehealth appointments and you can still utilize our drive-thru pharmacy service (on Oahu) from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

 One Team, One Ohana!

Adam M. Robinson, Jr., MD, MBA, CPE

Director, VA Pacific Islands Health Care System


36th Surgeon General, USN

VAPIHCS Veterans,  

 This past Tuesday, the CDC and FDA’s decided to pause use of the J&J/Janssen vaccine after receiving reports of blood clotting in six people out of the over 6,800,000 people in the United States who have received the J&J vaccine. Per the national guidelines, VA is pausing the use of the J&J vaccine as the CDC and FDA continue their review. VA has not seen these serious side effects in the more than 100,000 people we have vaccinated with the J&J product at VA and the J&J vaccine has not been removed from the market.

 While it is highly unlikely that you will experience any serious adverse reactions outside of the common flu-like symptoms seen in the first day or two after vaccination, we are reaching out to ensure you are informed. The six people that had a blood clot were women under the age of 48 and experienced this adverse event within two weeks of receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine As such, VA is calling all women 55 years and younger that received the J&J vaccine to check on their health and wellbeing. We are also conducting this wellness check on everyone who received the J&J vaccine by US mail.

 People who received their vaccine at least 3 weeks ago have a low risk of developing a blood clot. The general symptoms from a blood clot include severe headaches, blurred vision, fainting, seizures, pain in your abdomen (chest or stomach), leg pain or swelling, or shortness of breath. We are asking Veterans to contact us if they had any of these symptoms within the last 3 weeks and to seek emergency care or dial 9-1-1 if symptoms are severe.

 Your health and safety are our number one priority. We are here to answer any questions and to assist you as needed. Please contact your primary care team at 1-800-214-1306 dial 0.

 We will continue to update the VA vaccine website with what we learn about the J&J vaccine. https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/