FDA Restricts Sale of Contraceptive Device

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released an order indicating its intent to restrict the sale of the contraceptive device Essure, the only FDA-approved nonsurgical permanent birth control method.

Essure is extremely effective, over 99 percent successful, and popular. As of July 2017, over 750,000 devices have been sold worldwide.

FDA Cracks Down on Online Eye-Exam Company

This past October, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Opternative, a company specializing in providing online eye-exams. The FDA has now made its letter public and set up a meeting with Opternative in July to make sure the company is in regulatory compliance.

The crux of the letter is that the FDA considers theses eye exams to be a Class 2 device, which requires premarket approval. Because the agency considers any device “intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body” to be approved as a Class 2 device,  it considers Opernative to be shirting around the required approval process.

The FDA Plans to Regulate Nicotine in Cigarettes

47043924 - open pack of cigarettes with the filter

In an unprecedented effort, the Food and Drug Administration is working to significantly reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes. In one policy scenario, the FDA would set a limit of 0.4 milligrams of nicotine per gram of tobacco, reducing the typical nicotine level by 97 percent.

Their goal is clear: get current smokers to quit and deter future generations from getting hooked.  Smoking is deadly, causing over 480,000 preventable deaths per year. It is also financially taxing, resulting in nearly $170 billion in direct medical cost costs annually.

Medical Apps: Improving Healthcare on a Global Scale

A recent survey of physician wait times in the United States found the average wait time for a new patient to see a physician in 15 metropolitan areas has increased 30 percent since 2014. This statistic includes an average wait time of over two months to get a physical in Boston, a month to get a heart evaluation in Washington, and one month for a skin exam anywhere in the nation. With a current U.S. shortage of 61,000 to 94,700 physicians, longer wait times are likely to continue.

Fortunately for patients tired of waiting for swift medical attention, health apps are providing solutions.

Health apps use smartphone technology to provide medical assistance or access to medical professionals. More than 318,000 health apps are currently available, and according to a national survey, 65 percent of smartphone users downloaded at least one health app and used it daily.

Politics Is Costing Lives by Delaying Right-to-Try Legislation

A little over a week ago, I wrote a piece addressing some common misunderstandings and misleading arguments against recent federal right-to-try legislation. Since that short time ago, it seems countless articles expressing more confused ideas and misleading criticisms have made their way into major media outlets.

The legislation they are attacking is Senate Bill 204. The bill would enable terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs without the FDA’s approval. Patients could receive access with the help of their doctor, consent from the drug producer, and approval by their state government approval. If passed, Senate Bill 204 would provide a decentralized method to prolong the lives of the terminally ill.

Markets Provide Care for an Aging Population

A recent a WIRED article followed Arlyn Anderson, who was struggling to find care for her aging father Jim. At 91 years old with Alzheimer’s, Jim was no longer able to care for himself but still wanted to maintain his independence. When Arlyn urged him to consider relocating to a nursing home, Jim refused. Arlyn wanted to respect her father’s wishes, but between a 40 minute drive to check on him and Jim’s quickly deteriorating health, something had to change.

Situations like these are common. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017 about 19 percent of households were composed of at least two adult generations. Further, between 2010 and 2030, the percent of the population at least 80 years old is expected to increase 79 percent while the number of family caregivers is only expected to rise one percent.

FDA Greenlights Testing ‘Ecstasy’ for PTSD Therapy

DMA, more commonly called “ecstasy” or “Molly,” is an illicit substance often taken to induce euphoria. The Controlled Substance Act considers MDMA a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which has no known medicinal benefits and a high likelihood of abuse.

Penalties for using or distributing MDMA are considerably high even for a Schedule 1 substance. In 2001, the U.S. federal government increased penalties for people convicted of dispensing over 50 grams of MDMA to a four-year prison sentence and up to $4 million in fines. These penalties could double if the buyer was harmed from the exchange. Similarly, possessing 5 grams of MDMA can result in a prison sentence ranging from 4 to 50 years.

New Blood-Pressure Guidelines Raise Concerns about Interest-Group Lobbying

On November 13, millions of Americans had high blood pressure for the first time. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving.

That day the American College of Cardiology (ACC), working with the American Heart Association (AHA), released new guidelines regarding what constitutes high blood pressure. Since 2003, a reading below 140/90 was considered normal. Now, any blood pressure over 120/90 is considered hypertension.

These changes mean nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, a considerable increase from about 30 percent under the old guidelines. If hypertension rates before these changes were described as an epidemic and a silent killer, the new rates will likely replace the silence with alarm and calls to action.

The FDA Cannot Hire Staff with Starting Salaries of $160,000

Would a starting salary of just above $160,000 turn you off? Well, maybe if you had a scientific PhD and had to wait four months before the employer could decide whether to hire you or not, you would find a spot elsewhere.

This is the situation the Food and Drug Administration finds itself in, according to the Washington Post:

The Food and Drug Administration has more than 700 job vacancies in its division that approves new drugs, and top officials say the agency is struggling to hire and retain staff because pharmaceutical companies lure them away.

“They can pay them roughly twice as much as we can,” Janet Woodcock, who directs the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said at a rare-diseases summit recently in Arlington, Va.

(Sidney Lupkin & Sarah Jane Tribble, “Despite ramped-up hiring, FDA continues to grapple with hundreds of vacancies,” Washington Post, November 1, 2016.)