Center for Inquiry Testifies at FDA Hearing on Regulation of Homeopathy

From the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) was invited and today delivered oral testimony at the Food and Drug Administration’s first review of its policies regarding the regulation of homeopathic products in more than 25 years.

Michael De Dora, director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, delivered CFI’s testimony during on the first of a two-day public hearing at the FDA’s White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, MD. His testimony, however, was presented not only behalf of CFI, “but also on behalf of dozens of doctors and scientists associated with CFI and its affiliate program, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, with whom we work on these matters.”

In his testimony, De Dora briefly reviewed the scientific evidence on homeopathy, illustrated the harm caused by homeopathy, and proposed actions the FDA should take to hold homeopathic products to the same standards as non-homeopathic drugs in order to fulfill its mandate to protect the American public.

You can read more, including the full testimony, here.

Despite Anti-Vaxxer Deluge, CA Senate Health Committee Forwards Bill to End “Personal Belief” Vaccine Exemptions

SB277, the proposed California bill that would end “personal belief” exemptions from vaccination in the state, moved closer toward a full Senate vote after the Senate Health Committee voted 6-2 to approve it.

The bill next faces votes in the Senate Education, Judiciary, and Appropriations committees. California residents can send a message to their senators in seconds using our pre-made action alert here.

The Senate Health Committee’s approval of the bill is all the more heartening because it came, apparently, in the face of the usual horde of anti-vaccine protestors:

For more than 11/2 hours, an extraordinary wave of parents and children from across the state crept one by one to a microphone to implore the Senate Health Committee to kill the legislation they insist violates parents’ rights and puts their children at risk.

[…]

Chanting “My Child, My Choice” and carrying signs that read “Force my veggies, not vaccines,” and “Protect the Children, Not Big Pharma — No on SB277,” the crowd listened as one speaker after another addressed both the harm they said vaccines have caused their children and the threat of an arrogant state government that is seeking to make health care decisions on their behalf.

Although the bill’s supporters were few in number at the demonstrations, aside from the clear science proving vaccines safe and effective, they had the recent history of measles and whooping cough outbreaks in California on their side.

Misinformed Dissent Against Medical Advice on Immunizations

William Keener, a resident of North Carolina and member of the state chapter of the Secular Coalition for America, writes on a “modest” new bill that would enact stricter immunization requirements in the state:

We can only hope that this proposed legislation leads to a more rational, evidence-based public discussion about the true risks and benefits of vaccinations and better informed consent conversations between doctors and patients. Enacting stricter immunization requirements is necessary but not sufficient to save us from misinformed dissent against our best medical advice on immunizations.

Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg), Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) and Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) should be applauded for introducing this bill and starting an important conversation about immunizations and public health in North Carolina.

The HPV vaccine and the “home school loophole” still need to be addressed, but we should do so and pass a bill as quickly as possible based on the best medical knowledge and evidence – not on our fears.

When it comes to vaccinations, we’re all in the same herd and share in the responsibility for public health.

You can read the full article here.

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.

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