Posts Tagged ‘public health’

Medical roundup

  • Bill advancing in California legislature would authorize jail for nursing home staff who “willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns” [Eugene Volokh, SB 219]
  • “The FDA cannot get out of its own way on the issue of off-label communications.” [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law Blog first and second posts]
  • Public health covets territory of other studies and disciplines, part CLXXII [British Medical Journal on American College of Physicians’ resolution declaring “hate crimes” and “legislation with discriminatory intent” to be public health issues]
  • Podcast on battle between Vascular Solutions and the FDA [Federalist Society with Howard Root and Devon Westhill]
  • Policy U-turns needed: “Deregulation and Market Forces Can Lower Pharmaceutical Prices” [Marc Joffe, Reason]
  • Florida Supreme Court ignored market history in striking down noneconomic damages limits in medical malpractice awards [Robert E. White, Jr., Insurance Journal and Andrew S. Bolin, WLF on North Broward Hospital District, et al v. Kalitan]

Medical roundup

Food and nanny state roundup

  • Has Obama administration endorsed anti-GMO campaign with new labeling law? Not really [Thomas Firey, Cato, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • United Nations anti-tobacco meeting seeks to exclude persons overly involved with tobacco production, ban list turns out to include many officials of member governments [Huffington Post UK]
  • Dumping Michigan tart cherries to comply with USDA marketing order? There must be a better way [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “I am the man, the very fat man, who waters the workers’ beer.” [Science Daily, prompting Christopher Snowdon’s recollection of that line of song]
  • Feds alone have spent $500 million chasing food-desert mirage, with “negligible” impact on health [Mac McCann, Dallas News, earlier]
  • “FDA Assigns Zero Value To Smokers Who Die Because Of Its E-Cigarette Regulations” [Jacob Sullum, more on vaping]

WHO: children should not be allowed to watch films with smoking

“Bad news for Pinocchio and Cruella De Vil.” The ever-meddlesome World Health Organization “would like to see all films that feature smoking given an adult rating.” That would exclude kids from many of the kid-oriented classics of the past, from Alice in Wonderland (hookah-smoking caterpillar) to Peter Pan (Captain Hook), to say nothing of more recent films such as “Lord of the Rings (Gandalf and his pipe) or X-Men (Wolverine and his cigar)” [The Guardian; Brian Doherty]

“Despised lifestyles are now identified as noncontagious epidemics”

Pierre Lemieux in Cato’s Regulation magazine on the tendency of “public health” to pursue prescriptive moral reform in the guise of regulating health risks:

“In many respects,” writes [Bernard] Turnock, “it is more reasonable to view public health as a movement than as a profession.” “Public health,” the Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us, “is focused on regulation and public policy.” Public health experts claim a jurisdiction that covers anything related to welfare, little of which consists of genuine public goods. The basic thrust of public health is to remove decisions from the domain of individual choice. For example, public health experts believe that driving is a privilege, not a right, and probably extend this characterization to any activity that they don’t like or for which they think they would easily qualify (like parenting rights).

Slippery slopes mar the whole history of public health…if one wishes softer examples, from the treatment of the insane to Prohibition, to the current harassment of smokers, and to the partial nationalization of “public” places. Despite some reversals, the slope is as slippery as it ever was.

Related, cruel but predictable: HUD plans nationwide ban on letting public housing tenants smoke in their own units [Washington Post]

Medical roundup

  • Surprised this story of interstate lawsuit exposure hasn’t had national coverage: “Texas docs threaten to stop seeing New Mexico patients” [Hobbs, N.M., News]
  • More on the Daraprim episode and the fiasco of FDA generic-drug regulation [Watchdog, earlier here and here] More: Ira Stoll/N.Y. Sun;
  • Warrants, HIPAA be damned: Drug Enforcement Administration agents pose as Texas medical board to get at patient records [Jon Cassidy/Watchdog, Tim Cushing/TechDirt via Radley Balko]
  • Litigation finance and champerty: the reaction is under way [MathBabe, earlier on pelvic and transvaginal mesh surgery speculation]
  • No longer alas a surprise to see JAMA Pediatrics running lame, politicized content on topics like “youth gun carrying” [Jacob Sullum]
  • “Shame, blame, and defame”: in alcohol regulation as in other public health fields, government-funded research can look a lot like advocacy [Edward Peter Stringham, The Hill]
  • More adventures in public health: study finds dry counties in Kentucky have bigger problems with methamphetamine [Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post “WonkBlog”]

Whole milk not so bad for you, it seems

It’s looking now as if decades of health alarmism about whole milk was misguided: in one survey, “contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.” More from me at Cato at Liberty (“Government on Nutrition: Often Wrong, Seldom in Doubt”) and from David Boaz on how the embarrassment to officialdom contrasts with “the humility that is an essential part of the libertarian worldview.”

I have no criticism of scientists’ efforts to find evidence about good nutrition and to report what they (think they) have learned. My concern is that we not use government coercion to tip the scales either in research or in actual bans and mandates and Official Science. Let scientists conduct research, let other scientists examine it, let journalists report it, let doctors give us advice. But let’s keep nutrition – and much else – in the realm of persuasion, not force. First, because it’s wrong to use force against peaceful people, and second, because we might be wrong.

On a lighter note, regarding government’s bad advice on eggs and cholesterol, from the comedy/documentary film “Fat Head”:

Trans fats banned! Now make way for palm and coconut oil, GMOs…

Pushed by a lawsuit, the Food and Drug Administration has followed through and banned the use of trans fats in processed food: producers have three years to phase out the substance. I’ve got a new piece at Cato making a few basic points: the move is sheer paternalism, it’s setting a precedent (against voluntary consumer assumption of even small risks) that activists are eager to roll out against other ingredients like salt and sugar, it’s not popular with the public (this poll finds a plurality, not majority, going along, while this one finds majorities opposed). And voluntary consumer adjustments (trans fat consumption is down by an estimated 85 percent) have already cut Americans’ average daily intake to half of what the American Heart Association recommends.

Then there’s the sadly ironic history of the whole subject: trans fats were avidly promoted at the time by the same sorts of public health activists and government nutritionists who now push for a ban. CNN:

Dr. Steven Nissen, the chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, praised the FDA for its “bold courage” and said it “deserves a lot of credit” for taking this “enormously important” move.

“In many ways, trans fat is a real tragic story for the American diet,” Nissen said. “In the 1950s and ’60s, we mistakenly told Americans that butter and eggs were bad for them and pushed people to margarine, which is basically trans fat. What we’ve learned now is that saturated fat is relatively neutral — it is the trans fat that is really harmful and we had made the dietary situation worse.”

Or as my colleague Scott Lincicome puts it, “Food tyranny didn’t fail. It just needed better managers”

Now make way for the most popular, and still legal, substitutes for trans fats: tropical palm and coconut oils, each with problems of its own. And an even better prospect — the next panic? –is GMO-derived high-oleic soybean oil.

My Cato piece is here. And I made the WSJ’s Notable & Quotable today on this subject, which is always nice.