Archive for prevention

As children suffer, meningitis cases confirm need for FDA reform



You may have read about meningitis outbreaks at college campuses, in some instances resulting in deaths . Today's guest post is by someone whose name you may very well recognize, Dr. Julianne Malveaux. She makes a good case for urgent FDA reform:

Meningitis Cases Confirm Need for FDA Reform
by Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

It is virtually impossible to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything healthcare related these days. Even issues that everyone can agree on - like covering Americans with pre-existing conditions and keeping young adults on their parents' health plan - become political footballs.

But while Congress continues to debate healthcare policies, they are missing opportunities to genuinely effect Americans' health. There is common ground to be found, including ensuring our nation is properly expediting life-saving vaccines for a deadly disease.

Recent scares at Princeton University and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have highlighted a sluggish, reactive approach to disease prevention and that the consequences of this leadership vacuum, particularly at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could be deadly.

Last spring, a Princeton University student was diagnosed with Meningitis type B (MenB), a highly contagious and life-threatening bacterial infection known to strike college campuses. By November, officials made national headlines by confirming an eighth case.

Just as Princeton was taking steps to protect its students against this deadly disease, UCSB confirmed that MenB had stricken four of its students. One young man – a lacrosse player, Aaron Loy – had to have the lower portion of both legs amputated.

As a former college president, I can assure you that no university is prepared for this kind of crisis. This is particularly true because many college administrators believed they had protected their campuses by requiring incoming freshmen to be vaccinated against meningitis. But it turns out that immunizations cover every meningitis type except for MenB, which accounted for more than 30 percent of meningococcal cases last year.

Because FDA has not approved a MenB vaccine for use in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been scrambling to respond to public health crises like those at Princeton and UCSB. Rather than proactively immunizing susceptible college students before or immediately after a meningitis outbreak occurs, the CDC can only administer “Bexsero” – a MenB vaccine that is currently in use for all ages in European Union, Australia, and Canada – weeks after students have already fallen ill.

FDA’s ad hoc approval for Bexsero means that it takes months for the vaccine to reach college students, rather than days. In the case of Princeton, CDC and FDA launched a vaccination program more than two months after university officials requested special permission to administer the vaccine. Just last week UCSB began immunizing students, some three months after the first case of MenB was confirmed. As one CDC official told CNN, “You don't go online and order 10,000 doses and get next-day delivery of this vaccine. It takes time.”

That statement underscores the need for full U.S. approval of Bexsero -- quickly. A country that has long been the world leader in developing and deploying life-saving medicines should not have to depend on partners in the EU or Canada.

Moreover, other college campuses should be afforded the opportunity to vaccinate their students proactively, well before a disease like MenB strikes their campus. But this option for college administrators, state health officials, and parents is not possible so long as Bexsero remains unapproved in the U.S.

If Congress isn’t yet convinced that there is an urgent problem, perhaps they should listen to the parents of affected students.

"It's absolutely devastating to have Aaron, in the prime of his life, be stricken,” Mike Loy said. “We hope that Aaron's horrific illness brings increased awareness and rapid approval by the FDA of the vaccine.”

I've also heard one mother whose healthy daughter contracted MenB at college and she died within 30 hours of entering the hospital with a headache. She said the FDA would be moving a lot faster if they had to watch their children suffer the way she did.

Improving efficiency at FDA is an issue that should find bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Our system’s continued failure on the MenB vaccine is just one example that illustrates that there’s too much at stake for FDA reform to turn into the partisan fight du jour, or worse yet, be ignored by Congress altogether.


As Legalized Marijuana Goes Up, Suicides Go Down. 'Highly' Recommended Reading



Okay, I'm not telling anyone that they should smoke anything. I'm just commenting on the new study out by the American Journal of Public Health. They conducted a study on marijuana laws and suicide rates. From the results which follow, one could certainly make a furthering argument for legalization, but not just for medical reasons. For law enforcement.

Suicide is against the law. I know, how are you going to prosecute someone after their dead? Well, that's really not the point. Suicide is a crime as is assisted suicide. There have been prosecutions for those. Think Dr. Kevorkian.

According to the results of this study, maybe crime will go down.

American Journal of Public Health:

Objectives. We estimated the association between legalizing medical marijuana and suicides.

Conclusions.Suicides among men aged 20 through 39 years fell after medical marijuana legalization compared with those in states that did not legalize. The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events.

prevent suicide

Think of all those suicides smoking grass might be preventing. And with each one, that's another crime not committed. HuffPo goes on in its reporting of this study:

The researchers took a close look at state-level suicide data over a 17-year period, from 1990 to 2007, from the National Vital Statistics System’s mortality detail files. They analyzed data from the 12 states that had legalized medical marijuana during that time and compared it with states that continued to criminalize the drug. In states that had legalized marijuana for medical use, there was a 10.8 percent reduction in the suicide rate of men in their 20s and a 9.4 percent reduction in men in their 30s, the study found.

Could it be Reefer Madness actually saves lives? Draw your own conclusions, but add this life- saving use for cannabis to the hopper of reasons to legalize (and of course, tax) recreational marijuana, not just for medical use. The life it saves may be your very own. And don't forget how it's also going to cut down on crime. This has win-win-win written all over it.


Breast Cancer Isn't Contageous - Ignorance About It Is


breast cancer survivor

One week ago today, the New York Times front page garnered a lot of attention with a lead story and picture about breast cancer. Awareness to this all too common disease was the intended purpose. The controversy it caused wasn't. But in drawing such vast outcry, much for the wrong reason, it may net out at doing some major good.

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, this one's bringing down the house. From Yahoo News:

Criticism was fierce, though, both in the newspaper’s comments and letters section and elsewhere online, on blogs and in social media. People noted a variety of reasons for being shocked and offended, from the tattoo, which reminded some readers of the Holocaust, to the fact that the disembodied image did not include the woman’s face or head. But the biggest problem seemed to be that of the nearly exposed nipple, which readers called “trashy,” “inappropriate” and “risqué.” The Drudge Report called the photo a “Peep Show” in a headline, while freaked-out tweets talked about “boobs” and warned, “Areola above the fold!” The shots continued: The Daily Caller criticized the paper for using "boob shots," while Bustle noted that "the New York Times has managed to titillate and enrage the always-prim-and-proper Internet."

The truly shocking thing here is that there is a discomfiture at all. That we've become so "modest" or even juvenile in treating medical issues with silly, guilty little snickers and holier than thou stands on something that is killing women and men everyday. The guilt should be that we can do something about breast cancer in many of the cases, yet instead, some people resort to giggles or gazes in titillated awe (yes, purposeful choice of adjective). It used to be women and men all had to wear full body bathing suits because or puritanical values. We got over that. Is dealing with a life threatening disease going to become victim of the same primitive thinking? Can't we act as adults here?

There is one thing offensive to this photo. It's that it stirs up controversy at all. It only points out the ignorance of so many in this country. That's both shocking and alarming. Millions of people are dying from this disease. Grave stones and memories are all that are left for far too many.

Here's how the woman in the photo feels about this perceived "immodest" picture, as quoted in the NYTimes:

When I first saw the photo I did not find it either provocative or inappropriate. I thought it was powerful and told my story – I am a proud, young Jewish woman who had breast cancer, and I have a scar that proves it. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by the scar. Most of my breast was not exposed and the small part that was does not make the picture “cheap.” I think it’s very artistic.

Unless we get over our bigotry and educate ourselves, millions more marble headstones will be sent to the stone cutters when it's diagnosis, prevention and treatment of breast cancer that should be the focus of our attention.

Fortunately for us, the Affordable Care Act will soon allow millions to be provided with pre-screenings, early diagnosis and treatment. Early detection is the key to survival. This picture is doing what it's intended to do -- bringing about attention to prevention -- of unnecessary deaths.

So let's stop the childish prudishness. There's  nothing in the picture you can't see on regular network TV. No new ground is being plowed her. The human body is something we have to live with and accept, not snicker and hide. Certainly videos on breast self-exams are far more graphic. But they save lives. So let's step out of the closet, turn on the light. Your life may depend on it.