Policy and Ethics

Here's a splendid idea. Let's say that North Korea finally comes up with a missile that can travel more than 20 feet before blowing up and they decide to launch one at California. Naturally, we would retaliate by attacking... Sweden.

Ridiculous, right? Maybe so, but conceptually it is not a whole lot different from our war on the "opioid epidemic," which, to be accurate, should be called by its correct name - the "fentanyl epidemic." The strategy that our government is employing is much like attacking Sweden. We are fighting the wrong enemy. Pain medications, like Percocet and Vicodin, on their own, kill few relatively few people while illicit fentanyl and its monster analogs like carfentanil are responsible for the carnage we see daily on the news.

The proof of the...

Every relatively wealthy country on Earth could be energy independent if it chose to be. That's because, unlike foreign policy, countries can "go it alone" on energy.

Here's how: Build nuclear power plants. Yes, energy policy really is that simple. Any deviation from that simple formula is a needless distraction. Unfortunately, there's a lot of money to be made in distracting people.

Far from being a free market, the energy sector is a radically distorted behemoth of bizarre subsidies and regulations. We demand, for instance, that gasoline...

Chris Portier, Ph.D., an activist statistician who pushed to get the common herbicide ingredient glyphosate listed as a "hazard" for carcinogen labeling purposes while with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, only later revealed he was on the payroll of an anti-science litigation group that was targeting glyphosate at the time - Environmental Defense Fund.

A court deposition and the implicit threat of perjury should he lie forced Portier to disclose he was also being paid by a lawyer who wanted to sue over glyphosate once he helped get it declared a "probable" carcinogen. That left glaring questions: How did the law firm learn of the IARC...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking action on possibly false data reported in a highly cited paper on suicide rates stratified by occupational groups. Approached by the study authors that coding errors might have produced flawed results, researchers are undergoing “reanalysis” of their findings.

So says the published statement

“Recently, MMWR Editors were informed by the authors of “Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012” (1) that some results and conclusions might be...

Hang on. This one is really unbelievable. The anti-opioid madness continues. 

Normally I have a good deal of respect for FDA expert advisory panels (1). They consist of doctors and scientists (2) who take a serious look at both risks and benefits of a drug or device and make a recommendation to the FDA about whether they believe that the drug or device should be approved. The FDA can either accept or reject the panel's advice. The agency usually accepts the findings of the panel, but it is under no obligation to do so. 

In general, I think they do a good job; most of the panels' decisions I have read are well thought out and logical. The risks and benefits of whatever is being evaluated usually make sense.

Not this time. Two...

Authors of a newly published piece in The New England Journal of Medicine sought to provide an analysis of who ought to be responsible for obtaining a patient’s consent. They conclude, upon discussion of a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in Shinal v. Toms which held that a treating physician could not “fulfill through an intermediary the duty to provide sufficient information to obtain a patient’s informed consent,” that this definition is too rigid, inefficient and out of step with shifting team-centered approaches to care delivery. This in itself is a misnomer given medical care has always been driven by teams - including but not...

Should a public university, which derives much of its funding from state and federal government, be in the business of using that taxpayer money to fund a project whose sole purpose is to besmirch the reputation of scientists, including those of other public universities?

That's the dubious position in which the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) finds itself. And those in charge of the project won't answer any questions about it.

UCSF operates an online archive called the Industry Documents Library. Its "About" page begins with this ominous warning:

Increasingly, connections are being made between tactics taken by the tobacco industry and other...

The American Council on Science and Health has long been concerned about the decision-making process at organizations like EPA and especially National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, where baffling secret meetings have led to unreal levels of weight for solitary statistical analyses that defy the pattern of available empirical data. Epidemiology has become a secret trump card over science, while risk experts, toxicologists and other experts who care about public health have been routinely ignored. 

Yet the government has been able to hide this process from taxpayers, and groups like EPA have used such "secret science" to legislate without being accountable to the public the way Congress and the President are accountable. 

The public won't have confidence in...

Moments after Neo eats the red pill in “The Matrix,” he touches a liquefied mirror that takes over his skin, penetrating the innards of his body with computer code. When I first learned about the controversial new digital drug Abilify MyCite, I thought of this famous scene and wondered what kinds of people were being remade through this new biotechnology.

Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health won Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Abilify MyCite in late 2017. This drug contains a digital sensor embedded within the powerful antipsychotic drug Abilify, the brand name for aripiprazole, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The...

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Stigma, judgment and guilt are so rampant when it comes to decisions mothers make regarding infant feeding that the London-based Royal College of Midwives (RCM) was compelled to release a new position statement underscoring that it is a woman’s right to bottle feed her baby. This is what happens when misguided “at all costs” breastfeeding strategies run amok - look no further than the fact the United Kingdom has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.  

In it, the...