Policy and Ethics

There is ongoing discussion in the medical community and among politicians about when and whether terminally ill patients can receive access to medicines not approved by regulators. With the support of the “right to try” movement, 37 states—and recently, the U.S. Senate—have passed laws aimed at providing easier access to experimental treatments that have undergone only the most rudimentary human testing.

The “right to try” website, operated by the libertarian Goldwater Institute, seeks to allow “terminally ill Americans to try medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process and remain in clinical trials but are not yet on pharmacy shelves. . . [and]...

For the last 17 years, the United States government has given organic food corporations a key ally within their halls. But things may get a little more difficult now that Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), is stepping down.

If you are not aware, organic food has long had its own special section inside USDA - the National Organic Standards Board.(1) In the 1990 Farm Bill was a then-obscure handout for the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. It created a National Organic Program under USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to define organic farming practices and create a list of organic production inputs so food could claim it "Meets USDA Organic Requirements." it was such an afterthought...

The state of Arkansas just announced that it was able to obtain a drug that would enable lethal injections to proceed. Man, do they need a pharmacology lesson because this is going to be ugly.

My recent piece Chemistry, Politics, And The Death Penalty discussed how capital punishment by lethal injection was impacted by of a shortage of the drugs necessary to carry out the procedure. Although shortages of drugs for lethal injection began around 2009, these drugs became almost impossible to get in 2012. At that time, the European Union, which is firmly opposed to capital punishment, banned the sale of several drugs to the US...

"I cut it three times and it's still too short"

Old carpenter's joke (1)

Pretty funny, especially for us do-it-yourselfers, who may not think things over carefully enough before we plunge into a home project like a new deck or replacement windows. This kind of stuff happens when amateurs try to do the work of professionals, and it's often good for a chuckle or two. I mean, who amongst us hasn't hung a door upside down or measured deck boards incorrectly?

But when so-called professionals who act like amateurs screw up public health policy, things become decidedly less funny. Especially for the...

It's hard to find a great pair of leggings. It's also hard to find the perfect tote bag. Thankfully, one trip to Lululemon takes care of both of those. 

Unfortunately, it's not hard to find bad medical or health advice. Lululemon jumped on that bandwagon with the inclusion of a phrase about the sun and sunscreen on the side of their (otherwise perfect) tote bags. 

If you are not familiar with Lululemon's tote bags, you don't have to look far to see one. They are bright red and have phrases written on all sides. Most of the messages are inspirational or thought provoking such as 

  • "this is not your practice life. this is all there is" 
  • "friends are more important than money" 
  • "do one thing a day that scares you" ...

Previously I discussed the inaccuracies and misdirection found in "Seeing Red", a marketing and advocacy screed labeled as a 'white paper' by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In and amongst the plethora of hand-picked papers simplified for an audience of concerned, but not expert, citizens I found two quotes, from their experts testifying before the FDA review committee, that I think, summarize their goal, at least scientifically.

“As I’ve mentioned, causality is a distant aspiration, but certainly these data don’t give us any confidence that we can say there’s nothing to worry about here, this problem is taken care of, this shouldn’t be looked at.”...

Aric Hausknecht, M.D., (1) who is a neurologist and a specialist in pain management, kindly agreed to speak with me about how changing opioid laws and regulations have affected his practice and patients, as well as what these changes will mean for pain patients across the U.S.

"I believe that we have reached the level of a crisis"

JB: Dr. Hausknecht, thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the radical changes in the way opioid analgesics are being viewed and prescribed. I believe that this is one of our most important public health issues at this time, and it is urgent to address it very quickly. Do you share this sense of urgency?

AH: I believe...

Glyphosate, a component of the popular herbicide commonly known as Roundup in the United States, has been placed on California's Proposition 65 list, which requires a cancer warning label on it. It now joins products like coffee, where a Prop 65 warning label is ubiquitous in every Starbucks, in baffling tourists with how silly our labels are.

After all, if it causes cancer, just ban it. Right?

That's the problem. No regulatory body can find evidence it harms anyone or anything other than what it is supposed to harm, much less that it causes any cancer in people.

How is a system designed to protect California citizens...

Given the title of the article and the topic, I am going to make a Conflict of Interest disclosure - my son works for Google and I remain immensely proud of him even if someone claims Google controlled the tone of my article due to that.(1)

Now that we got that out of the way let us consider concern about academic conflicts of interest. An advocacy group, the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), which is funded by a competitor of Google, published a report on how Google pays academics to research topics and complains that a disclosure of Google’s funding was in some cases absent.

Some of the people included in this report...

Bloomberg Businessweek has written another anti-Monsanto article, nothing special about that, but this time they did something new; they consciously sought to interfere in an environmental lawsuit against Monsanto in California and to promote fear and doubt about the science community and regulators who overwhelmingly accept the science consensus on genetically-modified foods - colloquially called GMOs, because Monsanto received a patent on that one kind of genetic engineering.

It's not the first time members of this team of Peter Waldman, Lydia Mulvany, Tiffany Stecker, and Joel Rosenblatt have...