Chemophobes continue attack on FDA

There is an old story that’s told around major league baseball parks. An umpire, whose name is lost to the mists of time, reported for duty one evening.  He had brought two people with him, and stopped at the stadium’s business office to see if he could get them passes to watch the game. The team’s representative wasn’t sure whether this request could be granted, so he phoned the team’s general manager for help.
“One of tonight’s umpires is here,” he said, “and he wants to know if he can get free tickets for two of his friends.”  “Absolutely not—the guy’s a fake,” the GM responded immediately. “Umpires don’t have any friends.”


Animal health and human health are inextricably linked

The Food and Drug Administration’s long-awaited policy announcement on antibiotic use in food animals has accomplished an almost impossible Beltway feat – just about everyone’s happy about it.
The new policy aligns antibiotic use in animals and humans and eliminates the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, similar to the European ban on antibiotic growth promoters. The FDA’s new guidance requires that all medically important antibiotics used in animal agriculture be administered with the supervision of a licensed veterinarian for therapeutic purposes -- meaning disease treatment, control and prevention. Use for growth promotion will be phased out. Medicines will now be used in animal health much the same way they are by humans –to address disease and under the watchful eye of a licensed medical professional.


FDA proposal threatens access to care for asthma and allergy patients

It wasn’t that long ago when asthma and severe allergies, like anaphylaxis, were treated with fumigating powders, caustic vapors, opium and stramonium cigarettes. Patients were debilitated, unable to work, go to school and many died.
The last 30 years have brought radical advancements in research, technology, medical devices and treatment. Federally funded evidence-based national asthma and anaphylaxis treatment guidelines are shown to prevent needless death and suffering while reducing healthcare costs.

Yet a new paradigm to cut healthcare costs proposed by the Food and Drug Administration threatens to deliver us back to the dark ages.


A shared passion for ending chimpanzee experiments

We might seem like an unlikely couple: one of us is a Hollywood actress who plays a vampire on True Blood, the other a physician who served as the medical director of immunization practices in the vaccine division of GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. But a common desire brings us together: improving human health and ending cruel chimpanzee experiments by passing the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2012.
We know that it’s a critical moment for this bill. The legislation currently has more than 175 congressional co-sponsors who want to see it pass this year for scientific, financial and ethical reasons.
The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act will help the United States move toward more effective treatments for a laundry list of human diseases. It will save more than $330 million in taxpayer dollars over the next decade. And it will help the nearly 1,000 chimpanzees currently suffering in U.S. laboratories.


Give us a healthcare system that works and is affordable

With Mother’s Day approaching, many of us think of the usual ways to honor the women who hold this most important 24/7 job – beautiful flowers, a relaxing day at the spa, or perhaps a scrumptious brunch that mom actually doesn’t have to prepare. But, for the moms out there who also happen to be small business owners, they have one major Mother’s Day wish that they are sending out to our nation’s leaders: resolve the healthcare crisis and give us some definitive answers on what will happen when it comes to health insurance costs.

Not only are these women concerned about insuring themselves and their families without breaking the bank, but they want to be able to provide cost-effective, easy-to-understand healthcare plans for their employees. As moms, in particular, they know how important good-quality medical care is to the growth and development of healthy children. They are anxiously waiting for the Supreme Court to make its final decision on the fate of President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform. There are many who oppose it, and just as many who favor it. But, whether in favor or against, Democrat or Republican, one fact is certain for all those who are self-employed: something needs to be done to lower skyrocketing health care coverage costs.


Action required on influenza research

In the sobering annals of disaster prevention, genetic manipulation of the H5N1 influenza virus is looming as a seminal case. As has been widely reported, laboratory experiments have rendered the highly virulent avian strain transmissible among ferrets, strongly suggesting that it would be transmissible among humans as well. The potential is seriously alarming. The 1918 H1N1 strain is believed to have killed some 20 to 100 million people worldwide with a case fatality rate of 2- 20 percent, disproportionately young adults. The naturally occurring H5N1 virus has so far infected only about 600 people but half of them have died. If the virus could achieve efficient transmissibility while retaining anything like its current case fatality rate, it could inflict global disaster of unprecedented proportions.


The false choice of student loans and prevention

The House proposal to subsidize student loans by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, scheduled for a vote Friday, is just a continuation of political maneuvers designed to prioritize politics at the cost of health. America cannot afford to sacrifice the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Affordable Care Act opponents have tried to pit much-needed infrastructure fixes and popular programs against the Prevention Fund as a means of undermining the ACA more broadly, from Medicare payments for doctors to tax relief for small businesses. Now they’re using student loan subsidies to attack the Fund.

Young people desperately need  reasonable loan rates to make sure they can afford college. Congress knows that we all benefit when more young people go to college. We can’t have engineers unless we’ve invested in the infrastructure that allows students to take math and science classes. We won’t have doctors when we need them in the future if we can’t help them afford medical school now. Education is an investment that pays off—and that’s why we must create and resource the infrastructure today.


“Listening” is the key to creating value in health care

The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) recently published criteria that it will use to fund research to “help people make informed healthcare decisions.”  To this end, PCORI asserts that health care outcomes research should be guided “by the voice of the patient”. This “patient-centric” orientation is key to assuring that comparative effectiveness research truly serves the public.  At a fundamental level, all of us who design, deliver and finance health care need to continually remind ourselves that it is the public who we serve first and foremost. The first step in such service is simply to listen.
Whether or not the ACA survives the upcoming Supreme Court decision and/or the presidential election, it will have helped to focus the country’s attention on health care, its cost, its structure and its value to us as individuals. And, regardless of the ACA, the overwhelming issue of health care’s cost and its value to society will remain.


Health reform - Genie is out of the bottle

The cherry-picking of harsh Supreme Court questions about the Affordable Care Act has fed a misleading impression that health reform is on life support or perhaps already deceased. Here’s the reality -- health reform continues. Virtually every state is now engaged in using federal grants to build state exchanges and expand Medicaid – a process that will persist in some form even if the Supreme Court strikes reform.  

The reality on the ground is fuelling reform. Large insurers welcome the opportunity to end freeloading and the new revenue from individual premiums and federal government tax credits to cover everybody. Meanwhile, hospitals are eager to escape from the financial weight of caring for 53 million uninsured Americans, and family physicians and skilled nurses welcome new pools of patients with coverage for needed care without being buried in unnecessary paperwork. And large employers look forward to a day when they won’t be used as a piggy bank to pay for the costs of treating the uninsured – costs that can amount to $1,000 for every employee – and to reimburse medical providers for quality rather than driving up the number of services.

Whatever the flaws of health reform, many stakeholders prefer it over the disaster that existed previously and see it as a starting point for further reform to address its weaknesses.


Putting health ahead of politics: what do we really want to save?

It’s time to forego the rhetoric and have an honest dialogue about the state of our nation. We’re throwing away good health in the name of reducing debt. Those who oppose prevention would have us believe that the country’s suffering is primarily due to runaway debt. However, our spending must be informed by values—by what matters to us as a nation. When we see friends and family die unnecessarily, we know that health matters. When we fail to protect our health and wellbeing through prevention we are allowing linear thinking to replace values and common sense.

In truth, we are suffering, but the national debt is not the only reason. Right this moment, many in our communities are sick, injured and dying from preventable illness and injuries. Preventable chronic illnesses alone continue to account for seven out of ten deaths annually.

Our economy suffers as well and this suffering is not relieved when a recent Gallup poll finds that U.S. businesses bear the burden of $153 billion in annual lost productivity due to chronic diseases, including those resulting from lack of access to healthy food and opportunity for physical activity. When we don’t prioritize prevention, we’re failing to realize prevention’s 5:1 cost savings.