By: Katherine Donigan
Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.
FDA Gets Tough on Tobacco– The FDA earlier this week announced its rejection of four proposed tobacco products, signifying the agency’s new oversight over tobacco products. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009, allows the FDA to regulate new tobacco products that are looking to enter the market. Though a promising step, medical professionals remain concerned that the FDA’s assessment of these products took four years. Authorization by the FDA is not an indicator of safety, nor does it allow companies to claim FDA approval. It simply means that the product does not pose more of a risk to public health than those already available. By further regulating ingredients in cigarettes (like nicotine and menthol), experts are hopeful that such regulation may generally help reduce tobacco use. (Gillian Mohney, ABCNews)
W.H.O. Issues Guidelines for Earlier H.I.V. Treatment– According to new guidelines released by the W.H.O. people infected with HIV should be placed on anti-retroviral therapy sooner than they are currently – when a patient’s CD4 white blood cell count falls to the lowest level of the normal range. For certain populations (including those with other serious infections, pregnant women and young children), the new guidelines recommend starting treatment as soon as a positive HIV result is seen. Scientists have been recommending that all patients begin therapy immediately upon testing positive, so as to maximize patient outcomes and reduce further infections. Such early intervention comes at increased cost, but falling costs of HIV drugs combined with improving economies in at-risk countries are helping to reduce this burden. (Donald G. McNeil, Jr. NYTimes)
Questions about effect of over-the-counter Plan B for all ages– Timely access to emergency contraception (EC) is critical to preventing unintended pregnancies. In 2011, the Obama administration overruled the FDA’s decision to make EC available over the counter to women and girls of all ages. This meant that girls 16 and younger needed to obtain a prescription for EC, and girls 17 and older had to show identification to a pharmacist. The decision was reversed a few weeks ago when the administration announced they would no longer fight to keep the age restriction (see link). Emergency contraception is now (theoretically) available to women and girls regardless of age, but whether the FDA’s recommendation will actually increase access remains to be seen. Some pharmacists indicate they will still refuse to provide EC to girls who look “too young”, and the price (around $40-50) is still a barrier for some, including teens. (Meeri Kim, Washington Post)
Have an interesting science policy link? Share it in the comments!