health policy

A judge in California is going to determine whether or not coffee causes cancer.

Think about that. We live in a society where judges and lawyers -- not medical doctors, scientists, or even a group of really clever AP biology high school students -- get to determine the credibility of biomedical research. The stakes are high: If coffee is deemed carcinogenic, then the State of California will be required to give up all pretense at common sense and sanity.

To give just a small flavor of the level of insanity California has reached, attorney Raphael Metzger and the non-profit Council for Education and Research on Toxics sued several coffee companies, alleging that their product causes cancer. For restitution, they want to slap a Proposition 65 label on coffee cups and, as...

I voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the State of Washington. My general belief is that adults should be allowed to do whatever they want to do, as long as they aren't harming anybody else.

So, this article is not about whether adults should have the right to smoke pot. Instead, this article is about basic responsibility, something that a lot of potheads apparently don't have.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a 9-year-old 5th grader took what she believed to be a box of gummy candy to school and shared them with friends. The problem is that it wasn't just any gummy candy; instead, the candy contained THC, the active...

Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, has announced his retirement. When he leaves, the Senate will lose its most ardent supporter of alternative medicine.

Previously, that title was held indisputably by Tom Harkin, a Democratic Senator from Iowa. He is largely to blame for the abomination known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), an organization so worthless that it had to change its name so biomedical scientists would stop mocking it.

If Ted Kennedy was the Lion of the Senate, Sen. Harkin was the Snake Oil Salesman of the Senate. Given that his pet project wasted billions investigating pure...

Open displays of bipartisanship are rare these days and, as such, should be applauded. Unfortunately, a recent example of bipartisanship promotes junk science and bogus health claims.

In a press release, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis and Republican Congressman Mike Coffman announced their intention to launch the Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus. That sounds nice, until you realize that "integrative" and "wellness" are code words for "alternative medicine."

However, as we've said multiple times, there's no such thing as alternative medicine. If alternative medicine worked, it would just be called medicine. In other words, a patient has two choices: evidence-based...

A recent editorial in JAMA Marijuana, Secondhand Smoke, and Social Acceptability begins by remarking on “The cloud of secondhand marijuana smoke” visible a half mile away from a 420 party [1] in Golden Gate Park. (Obviously, the work of people capable of making joints larger than Cheech and Chong could imagine.)

The authors point out that this behavior, if smoking tobacco rather than weed, would be “unthinkable (and illegal)” because it has to do with social acceptability – pot good, tobacco bad. To bolster their acceptability argument, they note differences between the two combustibles. For example, 16% of high school sophomores and 25% of high school seniors report marijuana use,...

Like most topics in America these days, e-cigarettes are controversial. The reason stems largely from the fact that the debate is driven less by science and more by religious zealotry.

On the one side is the pro-vaping lobby, who seems to believe that e-cigarettes are the greatest invention since the wheel. Not only are e-cigarettes effective for quitting smoking, they are safe and fun.

On the other side is the prohibitionists, who believe that the mere thought of vaping is blasphemous. According to them, e-cigarettes are just as bad as tobacco, and therefore the only acceptable public health policy is total abstention.

Both sides are wrong. While the vapers are right that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit, it is unlikely that they are as safe as breathing fresh...

The other night, I had dinner with one of my best childhood friends who became an OB/GYN. She has three amazing children and was pregnant with her fourth.

Trigger warning: She ordered a glass of wine. And drank it.

I warned her that there was a lunatic on Twitter with a master's degree in photojournalism who pretends to be a science journalist that would be publicly mommy-shaming her into submission. She shrugged. A little bit of alcohol isn't going to hurt.

Of course, she's right. But when it comes to alcohol, the United States is incredibly puritanical. Our society has promoted the view that even a single drop of alcohol is harmful to developing babies. However, the totality of evidence does...

For the vast majority of people who live in the developed world, infectious disease is an afterthought.

Sure, we still catch colds and (if we're old or immunocompromised) can die of influenza, pneumonia, or food poisoning. Antibiotic resistance is scary -- and directly responsible for about 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year -- but it hasn't quite become the apocalypse we all feared. In general, the microbial world is just not something the average person has to think about very much.

That luxury of modern life is due to the strong defense provided by the "pillars" of our public health system. According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, these...

Several years after the ACA ("Obamacare") passed, healthcare costs continue to rise in America. The question of why – and, perhaps more importantly, how much of these costs should be covered by the government – continue to spark intense political debate.

New research funded by the Gates Foundation and led by Joseph Dieleman of the University of Washington may shed some light on this issue. The researchers investigated global patterns of healthcare spending, and their results are published in The Lancet.

For their investigation, the team analyzed healthcare spending (which was adjusted for inflation and purchasing power) in 184 countries from 1995 to 2014. Then, they conducted regression analyses, with the general aim of making two broad determinations: (1) Given...

We have entered dangerous times in my beloved medical profession. Non-doctor health professionals, backed by powerful lobbies, are increasingly interested in the easing of certain practice restrictions. New titles like “clinician” or “advanced practitioner” or “provider” are masking a stark reality - people will be able to practice medicine without ever having to attend medical school, perform rigorous residencies or be comprehensively and extensively trained as physicians.

This is not to diminish the powerful benefits of nurses. Far from it. But nurses are not doctors and the people most likely to get medical treatment from people who are not doctors are among the poorest that health care reform was supposed to improve. We shouldn't cave into it. From an ethics perspective...