FDA to Evaluate Homeopathy Regulatory Framework

Reuters reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a public hearing seeking information and comments on the use of homeopathic products, as well as the agency’s framework for such products:

The hearing, scheduled for April 20-21, will discuss prescription drugs, biological products, and over-the-counter drugs labeled homeopathic, a market that has expanded to become a multimillion dollar industry in the United States.

The agency is set to evaluate its regulatory framework for homeopathic products after a quarter century.

You can read the FDA’s announcement here.

Homeopathy Not Effective for Treating Any Condition, Australian Report Finds

Melissa Davey reports in The Guardian on the results of an extensive review of existing studies on homeopathy:

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a “memory” of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body.

These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the NationalHealth and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement, released on Wednesday.

“Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective,” the report concluded.

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”

An independent company also reviewed the studies and appraised the evidence to prevent bias.

Keep reading here.

Poll: Majority of Americans Want Vaccines to Be Required as Measles Outbreak Grows

Nearly 8 of 10 Americans believe parents should be required to vaccinate their healthy children against preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio, according to a new CNN/ORC poll shows. Furthermore, if the children are not vaccinated, most agree the child should not be allowed to attend public school or day care.

Read more about the results here.

Why Media Coverage of Alternative Cancer Cures is Dangerous

In The Guardian, Michael Marshall discusses a new report from Mirror Online that focuses on a breast cancer patient who has refused the surgery and chemotherapy her doctors advised, electing instead to try and treat her condition with an intense regime of raw food and supplements:

… there’s no shortage of voices within the the so-called alternative movement advising seriously ill cancer patients to abandon proven medicine for the latest rumoured natural cancer cure.

Although most of the treatments promoted by well-meaning but ultimately ill-informed alternative cancer activists merely offer no benefit, some can be actively dangerous in their own right.

You can read the full article here.

With More Americans Turning To Alternative Medicine, Time To Assess Its Effectiveness

On ThinkProgress, Sam P.K. Collins writes that, troublingly, “an increasing number of people are turning to alternative forms of medicine to reduce stress, relieve chronic pain, and treat other ailments, according to two studies from the National Institutes of Health.”

Researchers at NIH surveyed more than 89,000 adults and more than 17,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17 about their health habits. Their findings, released in the National Health Statistics Report earlier this month, showed that nearly one out of three people in the United States seek alternative forms of medicine, including fish oil, probiotics, melatonin, chiropractic medicine and yoga. For five percent of respondents in that group, the nontraditional methods — primarily fish oil and melatonin — served as their sole form of medication.

“While the National Center for Health Statistics study does not assess why shifts in use occur, some of the trends are in line with published research on the efficacy of natural products,” Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, said in a press statement. ”For example, the use of melatonin, shown in studies to have some benefits for sleep issues, has risen dramatically. Conversely, the use of Echinacea has fallen, which may reflect conflicting results from studies on whether it’s helpful for colds. This reaffirms why it is important for NIH to study these products and to provide that information to the public.”

The increasing popularity of alternative medicine — defined as methods of treatment that are not a part of conventional medical training — has taken place amid growing skepticism about the medical industry. Recent surveys have shown that Americans are increasingly distrustful of doctors, which falls in line with the public’s general distrust of institutions.

Keep reading here.

NPR Host Diane Rehm Emerges as Key Force in the Right-to-Die Debate

Michael S. Rosenwald writes in The Washington Post on an emerging leader in the debate  over end-of-life care:

Diane Rehm and her husband John had a pact: When the time came, they would help each other die.

John’s time came last year. He could not use his hands. He could not feed himself or bathe himself or even use the toilet. Parkinson’s had ravaged his body and exhausted his desire to live.

“I am ready to die,” he told his Maryland doctor. “Will you help me?”

The doctor said no, that assisting suicide is illegal in Maryland. Diane remembers him specifically warning her, because she is so well known as an NPR talk show host, not to help. No medication. No pillow over his head. John had only one option, the doctor said: Stop eating, stop drinking.

So that’s what he did. Ten days later, he died.

For Rehm, the inability of the dying to get legal medical help to end their lives has been a recurring topic on her show. But her husband’s slow death was a devastating episode that helped compel her to enter the contentious right-to-die debate.

“I feel the way that John had to die was just totally inexcusable,” Rehm said in a long interview in her office. “It was not right.”

Keep reading here.

Obama Administration Is Quietly Racking Up Court Victories For Birth Control, Despite Hobby Lobby

Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress reports on a series of promising developments regarding the birth control rule:

On Wednesday, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld federal rules intended to ensure access to birth control, over a claim that employers who object to following those rules on religious groups should be exempt from them. With that, the Third Circuit became the fourth federal appeals court to reach a similar conclusion in a challenge brought by an employer who objects to some or all forms of birth control, despite concerns that the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby would impede access to contraceptive care.

You can read the full article here.

Canada’s High Court Rules Doctors Can Help Ill Patients Die

Breaking news from the Associated Press:

Canada’s highest court struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for mentally competent patients with terminal illnesses Friday, declaring that outlawing that option deprives dying people of their dignity and autonomy.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision reverses its own decision two decades ago and gives Parliament and provincial legislators a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives. The current ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then.

The judgment said the ban infringes on the life, liberty and security of individuals under Canada’s constitution. It had been illegal in Canada to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, an offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

You can read more about the decision here.

Show Your Support for Vaccinations with a FREE “Vaccinate” Sticker

Measles is back. The virus was considered eradicated from the United States in the year 2000, but now that disproven theories of a link between vaccines and autism, and baseless fears about “toxins” have run rampant—spread by celebrity conspiracy theorists and irresponsible media—we now see the highest number of measles cases in two decades, with 644 cases in 2014 and over 100 new cases since the start of 2015 alone. Even diseases like whooping cough are at their highest level in over 50 years.

It’s not even safe to take your kids to Disneyland anymore!

Here’s your chance to show your support for science-based medicine, and to help stop the spread of preventable diseases by spreading the truth about vaccines. As part of our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign we’re offering free campaign stickers  that say, simply and proudly:

Protect Yourself. Protect Others. Vaccinate.

And we want to send you two of them. One for you, and one you can give to a friend.

Vaccinating isn’t merely about a “personal choice” as some politicians have recently suggested. It’s about confronting the reality of being a human being living among other humans. Getting yourself and your children vaccinated against preventable diseases means that others who can’t get vaccinated—because they’re too young, pregnant, sick, or elderly—are also protected.

When we vaccinate we’re not only doing something good for our own health, but for our familys, our children’s, and our neighbor’s health too.

So help make the case! Let’s get the word out that all of us who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. And let’s see if we can make this crucial fact…contagious.

Sign up now: you’ll get updates and advocacy emails from CFI’s Office of Public Policy—and get both of your free stickers too!(Maybe it will go viral! Okay, sorry.)

Due to your overwhelming support for this cause we have run out of stickers! Please check back soon for more information about how to acquire a “VACCINATE” sticker.

Sign up for email from CFI >

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Keep Health Care Safe and Secular is a campaign by the Center for Inquiry in support of health policies that are based on evidence and scientific principles, rather than superstition, magical thinking, religious beliefs, or conspiracy theories. The campaign aims to educate the public, the media, and policy makers about the threat to our health care posed by misinformation, dogma, and quackery, whether it comes in the form of science-rejecting “faith healing” or dubious alternative and “natural” medicine. Learn more at SafeandSecular.org.

California’s Democratic Senators Want to End Most Vaccine Exemptions

Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics reports that U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both of California, today released a letter that they sent to the state’s secretary for health and human services, calling for a change in personal exemptions to vaccines:

“California’s current law allows two options for parents to opt out of vaccine requirements for school and daycare. … They must either make this decision with the aid of a health professional, or they can simply check a box claiming that they have religious objections to medical care. We think both options are flawed, and oppose even the notion of a medical professional assisting to waive a vaccine requirement unless there is a medical reason, such as an immune deficiency.”

Read the full article here.

A Center for Inquiry Campaign